No-one Will Ever Define Me!

An adoptee writes at the conclusion of her article on the birth of her sister’s baby – “One thing’s for certain: No one else’s reaction to “It’s a girl!” will ever define me again. That’s my job — to show the world who I am and what I can accomplish.” Inspiring words!

To which a mother-of- loss tweets – Only 15 but has a strong voice. Listen!

My query is –  What does ‘only 15’ mean? Isn’t that demeaning of a young person? The MOL somehow seemed to think it a compliment, as ‘so many take longer to come out of the fog’! Words are so powerful and need to be used so carefully. It would appear that the whole message of the article was lost, even though the intentions were surely good ones.We each take our own time, let’s not judge, put a time scale on our progress and above all, let’s not allow non-adoptees to keep telling us how to live adoption. Let’s not sit back and be silent when others are patronising and not flipping the script at all. Perhaps that’s why the movement #flipthescript is for adoptees and why it began last November and grew so fast. This may appear to some as a small thing, a quibble even, but small drops of water released continuously, steadily and for a long time are torturous, eroding, not to be endured. So it is with words and the ideas behind them. Even those with the best of intentions need to think so very carefully about their choices. We have endured the commentary on what we do and how we do it for long enough and it’s time we stopped allowing others to define us.

Last weekend I gave my beloved Daughter a copy of the new book  “The Adoptee Survival Guide”. She did us all the honour of spending a night in this week to read it through so that she could give swift feedback. I value this more than anything, because I know it comes from true love, honesty and genuine intention. She truly ‘gets it’ and has picked up on things that might have passed others by in my piece. Mainly an underlying and ‘justified anger’. She is dumbfounded by the division between Australian adoptees and the Australian mothers-of-loss. This gave me a welcome opportunity to explain it to her more fully and to demonstrate that while I dearly love many mothers and value their support, views and work, there exists here in Australia a group of mothers who have worked hard to get what they want and long ago developed a narrative about adoption and adoptees. At the time of the Inquiry into forced adoption instead of encouraging adoptees to find their voices, they banished us, using ridicule, abuse, harassment and others tactics which were despicable, but showed their fear and the depth of their trauma. While we adoptees understood that, it was a difficult and painful time to be so dismissed and rejected. We learned to live with it, to walk away and to find ways to express ourselves, to speak a new language of adoption, to define ourselves. We took part in the Inquiry and on the last count there were more adoptee Submissions than others. We were not supported by other adoptee groups or individuals in other parts of the world who did make submissions in support of mothers. We were wonderfully supported by other adoptees individually and will never forget that!  We did not solicit for Submissions but did try to support each other through what was a very difficult process for many. When the first adoptee Facebook Group was set up, one MOL described it as a place where adoptees would be  ‘wallowing in misery’. It took us a time to get through the difficulties, some never did and were damaged by the events. Others came out of it determined to engage with survival and use the opportunity to leave victimhood behind. The whole process divided the adoptee community, if it could be described as such, and those rifts have not healed nor ever will.

My horror of being misrepresented and misunderstood was fully engaged. It has existed as long as I can remember and is triggered by remarks such as the one at the beginning of this post. I have never fully understood why adoptees continue to have the script written for them. Perhaps the view of us as ‘blank slates’ is as difficult to get rid of as shit off a shovel. Maybe the way others view us as second-class, second-rate and second-hand, informs their attitude and behaviour. Perhaps we really are still seen as ‘illegitimate’,  because legitimacy has not been bestowed upon us and perhaps never will be in some places by some groups and some people. When I see young adoptees expressing themselves as above, I have hope that change will continue and that eventually we will define ourselves and others will listen and drop the myths, the misconceptions and the false beliefs. In these days of fast connection, swiftness in the spread of information, no-one, no group or organisation or government can get away with the lies, deceits or trickery of the past. For instance, we adoptees share information about everything in adoption in groups and forums, through blogs and videos etc and falsehoods are so easily revealed and compared. Those who thought they were alone find they are part of a group, sometimes a large one, in which all share a common falsehood or piece of trickery. Non adoptees get quite upset when they are informed, for instance,  that not all mothers ‘loved and wanted’ their babies. I have known mothers to inform an unknown adoptee that she was loved and wanted, when the mother can have no idea about the truth of that and could be setting the adoptee up for more loss, disappointment and heartbreak. Words intended to comfort, but careless and applied without thought for the consequences.   Normalizing? Wanting it to be simple, not so hard and certainly less painful. Who doesn’t?  But it is not the truth or our reality.

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