It has been very interesting and informative to observe the reactions and backlash to #flipthescript, adoptees having their say about adoption, telling their stories during the month of November which seems to have been dominated by those who wish to advertise adoption and who believe in ‘the beauty of adoption’.
The “single story adoption narrative”, as Laura Dennis describes it, is not a truthful look at adoption, nor does it serve adoptees or adopters well, because it is sometimes pie in the sky, but is one-sided and therefore a limited view of adoption. Those views are of course valid and need to be heard, but as in all things, a complete picture cannot be gained if we only hear from one group of people. A relatively small group of people when you consider it, as there are many more adoptees in the world than there are adopters! Tracy De Whitt over at the blog lovin’adoptin’ says – “When the voices of adoptees sharing their negative (only referring to those negative ones, not all #flipthescript) is the only thing prospective adoptive parents hear, they may be scared from adoption. Hearing things like, you will never be their real family, my family is waiting for me in my country, I never felt at home with my adoptive family, doesn’t make people want to adopt. Those stories can be shared, there are truths that only adoptees can tell us adoptive parents, however a balanced perspective of adoption should be shared, as there are a plethora of both” Exactly the point! Adoptees have been unable, unwilling or discouraged from telling their truths in the past. Those times are over for many now and hopefully in time there will be a balance, our stories of the realities of adoption will not be seen as ‘negative’ but as part of the narrative.
You might like to check Laura’s blog for a growing list of books by adoptees on adoption.(http://www.laura-dennis.com/participate-flipthescript-support-adoptee-voices) This list is a tiny fraction of the works available. Some adoptees use theatre as their medium – Brian Stanton, Rock Wilk, Lucy Sheen for example. It is also fairly American-centric and hasn’t included the writings of the wonderful British author Jeanette Winterson (http://www.abc.net.au/tv/firsttuesday/s3512582.htm) and Australian comedienne Judith Lucy (http://www.judithlucy.com.au/judithlucy/)
Amanda writes – Having received another email (among many over 6 years) confused by my identities as an adoptee *and* a reproductive justice activist, I have to say something. I am so glad that people are challenging themselves by entering adoptee spaces to learn. However, it’s unrealistic to expect to never be uncomfortable in that space or that the space will never voice intersecting issues that you may disagree with. As Kevin Vollmers identified in his recent interview with Fox News (Minneapolis), adoptees bring forth a unique dialogue that intersects with other experiences (racism, feminism, LGBTQ, etc). Mainstream adoption discourse is devoid of this perspective and cannot move forward without it. Expect and accept intersectionality in adoptee spaces. Its necessity has little to do with your agreement with a given adoptee’s political stances.
Adoptee voices are needed
Challenging the zeitgeist, broadening the knowledge, improving the experiences adoptees have of adoption because adopters have listened, learned and acted.
This idea of ‘the beauty of adoption’ is the zeitgeist, according to some adopters, some mothers and those who promote or support adoption – the norm, “the dominant school of thought that typifies and influences the culture of a particular period in time” as defined by Wikipedia. It is just that, “a dominant school of thought” which has been allowed to proliferate since the time of the notorious Georgia Tann in America and Kate Cocks in South Australia, amongst many, many others who profited by adoption in ways too numerous to go into here. Adoptees and their mothers were named ‘the unfortunates’ by Kate Cocks, a stalwart Methodist, who set up the first Mother and Baby Home here in South Australia to take us all out of the gutter. Sadly for those who are comforted by the status quo and look to it as a security blanket, times have changed and social media has brought an openness, a sharing of facts and possibilities for adoptees that were once undreamed of. We no longer accept those small crumbs that fall from the table because we have access to the truth. It may take time to find, but anything is possible. For those who have relied on the vagueness of adoption details, the ability to change facts, to tell stories which are not the truth and the anonymity of adoption which was said to protect children but was really to protect adults, there is nowhere to hide. That must be scary and sometimes frightening and a very insecure place to be.
And another view of stories untold – http://www.becomingminimalist.com/our-stories/
As Tracy De Whitt says in her blog post on ‘giving negativity a noose’ (http://lovinadoptin.com/2014/01/10/give-negativity-a-noose)
and writing about young adoptees –
“Our negativity about our children affects:
◾The way we feel about them.
◾The expectations and hopes we have for them.
◾Our ability to empathize with them.
◾What we say to them.
◾What we say about them.”
Many adopters seem to struggle with the idea of regarding adult adoptees as adults with responsibilities, families, jobs, full rich lives in which we are part of communities, often at least two families sometimes four and in which we juggle all the things non-adoptees juggle, plus ‘the adopted life’ and all that implies. When we talk openly about some of the complexities we are told to get a life, to stop being selfish, ungrateful and bitter and to start telling our stories in such a way that will benefit others. It is a familiar script to those of us who blog and write and we despair for the young adoptees in the care of adopters who are so narrow-sighted and have such little understanding of adoption and it’s effects. The underlying message is so very often that we should keep quiet, be good and go along with the script as it was given us – blank slate, new identity, gratitude, delete the past, accept that our lives began on GotchaDay etc. Others insist that adoption is different now and not like it was when we were adopted, no matter what era that was and they seem able to ignore that we have detailed knowledge of adoption then and now. Nothing trumps insider information! Some adopters are just plain rude in telling us how to live, forget the past and follow the script of other adoptees they say they know. I vividly remember an exchange with a non-adoptee who insisted her adopted cousin was a happy adoptee with no ‘issues’. It came as a revelation to her that adoptees often do not share the deepest secrets of their heart, their most painful moments, their fears, traumas and painful losses. Because we don’t speak about it or share it, doesn’t mean it’s not there and it may mean we don’t have sufficient trust in you or we just don’t want to tell you!! Perhaps we are aware that you talk about us behind our backs or tell our stories without our permission and have no respect for our truth. We are so often treated as public property, commodities for public consumption. And you wonder why we get angry sometimes! Perhaps that negativity not only affects attitudes and behaviour towards young adoptees, but attitudes to older, adult adoptees as well.

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