Friday, October 24, 2014

Why Adoptive Parents need to stop blogging about adoptees



My adoptive mom Edie didn't blog about me. They didn't do blogs back then.

OK, it’s a free world wide web. No one can control who blogs. But if you are an adoptive parent (abbreviated: APs), you may have missed the memo: Don’t post photos and stories about your adopting a child and raising your child since your adopted child has a legal right to privacy.


WHAT? I’m sure some of you reading this blog will say that’s ridiculous but according to a panel at MIT, at the International Adoption Conference I attended in 2010, it could cause APs (moral and legal) issues down the road. One panel I attended was Secrecy, Openness and Other Ethical Issues for Adoptive Parents and Writing and Publishing about Adoption.


Now I know this post is going to upset some people.  But remember adoptees are too young to even know what a blog is or how their adoptive parents have blogged personal photos, details, etc. - the experts say that is not cool.  In fact, the panel said there should be legislation to end it once and for all! One of the big topics at MIT was privacy - the adoptee will grow up and find blogs by their APs - in essence the panel said it should stop immediately - there is no legitimate excuse to violate an adoptee's privacy. (It was noted that many adoptive parents use blogs to solicit money to adopt again - using their first experience to raise funds to do it again.) (Not ethical or moral either.)


As an adoptee, I do have my voice now and I do blog about ME but it took several years to lift the FOG - the smoke cleared as I went into reunion. If I had found a blog with my baby photos, and notes about my childhood (she’s crabby, a monster, a hand-full, a darling child), how they adopted me from Catholic Charities, details of my personal psychology, I’d have blown my top. 

“HOW DARE YOU!” I never said that’s OK to share my personal information.  I was a MINOR! Who or what gave you the right? (Those comments would have come out of me)


Adoptees need protecting, not publicity. But that’s just my opinion.


And honestly, I realize there are a few APs like Rachel Garlinghouse (http://www.whitesugarbrownsugar.com/) who make a living off adopting black kids then blogging about it as an “expert.”


Really? Really.  She even was on TV: http://www.msnbc.com/melissa-harris-perry/watch/when-your-children-are-black-but-youre-not-41691715574 (and she has a book out about adopting three kids.)


Obviously for her, adopting is an $$$-making industry and loads of free publicity!


Then you have APs like Tina Traster, the author of the memoir Rescuing Julia Twice, who writes about her AP status in national newspapers: http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/05/18/youre-not-my-real-mother/  (I can’t comment since I am too perplexed.)


###


I asked some of my writer friends on Lost Daughters to send me links about this topic and why Adoptive Parents need to stop blogging about their adopted children. 

Amanda's Blog:



** A comment on Amanda’s post:

Your post is so insightful. The narratives and definitions of "best interests" in adoption are being defined by adoptive parents and brokers who profit or professionals who are contracted with those who profit from adoption.  Adoptee's voices are pathologized from the time they are young, and because of sealed records laws, they continue to be disenfranchised into adulthood.



IS IT MY STORY OR YOURS??



The Fine Line
http://mothermade.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-fine-line.html

And lastly, here’s an adoptee answering an AP who writes about their adoptee.


What I would like to tell adoptive parents:





One last thing, APs.  If you must blog, blog for your family only - send them a link to your blog but keep it private, not public. Adjust the settings or delete the blog entirely. The web is wide open to everyone, including pedophiles, in case you forgot.  You are not protecting a child by blogging their personal information and photos. In fact, you crossed the line by violating their privacy! Blogging about us adoptees is not in our best interest, or yours.




Trace Hentz (formerly DeMeyer) is a Split Feather-American Indian-transracial adoptee, journalist and the author of One Small Sacrifice: A Memoir, Two Worlds and Called Home: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects. She blogs at Lara and American Indian Adoptees

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Lost Daughters Presenting at American Adoption Congress Conference

We are excited to announce that a number of our contributors here at Lost Daughters will be conducting a panel discussion workshop at next year's American Adoption Congress conference. In the spirit of our popular roundtable posts, we will discuss "Diverse Narratives within the Collective Adoptee Voice," including the perspectives of many different adoption experiences.

The conference will be held in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from March 25-29. Stay tuned over the next few months for more details, including our specific workshop date and time as well as the line up of Lost Daughters contributors who will be participating in the panel discussion.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The White Saviors

I had an affair with a strapping young white man. It was beautiful but then fell into ruin. He used me and ignored me. I can see his bright, blonde hair and his sea blue eyes. I remember the hurt as he left me with a destroyed family life.

Then, I woke. I had this nightmare a week ago. It spoke to me as symbolic of the way in which I felt the white world sees me … to use until I am no longer of use.


Bill O’Reilly knows how to use me. The mere fact that he uses my race, “Asian,” as a means of discounting white privilege illustrates something. He is actually using his white privilege to perpetuate the stereotypes that pit me against my black sisters.

You see, I have a history. I was white in Appalachia. But not. The words “colored” and “negro” and “nigger” were commonplace in the community where I grew up. In school, I never spoke up about the prejudice I witnessed for fear of the tables turning.

Surprisingly, my family did not use these words. Obviously, we were often more likely to be called names since my father spoke in a very thick Spanish-influenced accent. My first friend in Tennessee was a young black girl. My daughter is named after her, and she moved away shortly after I moved into the community.

After she left, I had fewer black friends. Often, my tormenters were blacks. I understood that this was a case of “Shit rolls downhill.” There were few Asians to come to my rescue. But when I cycled over to the whites, I faced more bullying because I was reminded that I was not white.

When I went to college, I received a full scholarship to Austin Peay State University. That was my ticket out. The whites in my small community taunted me saying, “That’s a black school.” Their view of APSU was painted by college sports. The basketball team, predominately black, offered their only exposure to the college where one-fifth of the student population was black.

Over the years, my confidence has grown as I matured and formed my identity. I have friends of all colors. But the ones I hold closely now are my mothers of color. We fear for our children. The bullying and the profiling, the needless deaths … I hear their stories and my own son’s.

Since our President began his tenure in 2008 with fanfare and a renewed optimism, I have instead witnessed the old guard of racism rear its head. I am frightened for our sons and daughters.

Law enforcement scares me. Amidst all this fear, I also hold hope that there will be more dialogue … and I see the likes of Jon Stewart and Megyn Kelly coming to save us.

It takes those with privilege to open the doors and introduce us.


Feminist columnist, Rosita is a transracial, Korean-American adoptee. She is married to a Brit who refers to himself as an Anglo-American and is a mother to two multiracial children. Rosita was adopted in 1968 at the age of one through Holt International. Her road has been speckled with Puerto Rican and Appalachian relatives and her multiracial sister, the natural child of her adoptive parents. While quite content with her role as a “Tennerican,” her curiosity has grown recently as her children explore their own ethnic identities. She considers herself a lost daughter, not only because of the loss of her birth family, but also because of the loss of her adopted mother, who died in 2001 as she became a first time mother. Rosita has recently started her search for her natural family. With the help of G.O.A.’L., she visited Korea in August 2014. When she is not supporting her children on their individual paths, Rosita spends her time as an art educator, ceramicist and an art photographer. She also shares her adventures as an adoptee and parent on her blog, mothermade.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Anniversary: A Guest Post by Karen Goldner

It was ten years ago this past March when I got the call that my sister had died. It was relatively early in the morning, around 7:00 am. That was my first indication that it was bad news. Nobody ever calls at 7:00 am with good news.

“Are you sitting down? You had better sit down, “ my sister-in-law Jenifer said. “There’s been an accident. Cristi is dead.”

I was shocked and confused to hear my sister, who was 14 months younger than me, was dead.  I was very upset to hear this news, but the predominant emotion I felt was confusion.  Cristi was my full biological sister, but I had only known her for about 15 years. I was adopted as an infant in a traditional closed era adoption in 1966.  I met Cristi during my reunion with my birth family in 1988. I did not know how I was supposed to feel about her death.  In my head, I thought, “I should  be really sad about this,” so I pretended I was. Don’t get me wrong, on one level, I was sad. She was young, she had two young children, it was a tragedy. But she wasn’t really my sister. She was someone I met 15 years ago. I had little in common with her, except genes. We were not close at all.

Like most adoptees, I had spent an entire lifetime denying my feelings. When you are adopted you have to deny your feelings in order to survive. It becomes a way of life. You deny your feelings, repress you feelings, stuff your feelings, medicate your feelings. You do whatever you can to try and make them go away. You learn that expressing your feelings, or actually feeling your feelings, can destroy you.

When you are told you should be grateful, and that you are lucky for having been adopted, you tend to doubt everything.  In your heart, in your gut, you know something unspeakably terrible has happened to you. But no one will say it. No one ever says,  “I’m so sorry you couldn’t stay with your mother. There is nothing worse that could ever happen to you.”  Instead, you are told that she loved you, that you were chosen and you are special.  You are told you should be glad.   Listening to your feelings gets you in a lot of trouble. If you listen to your feelings, you will come apart.

As a child, this ability to deny your feelings benefits you. It helps you survive a situation that is completely out of control. But when you get older, it becomes a hindrance.  It makes it virtually impossible to know yourself, to know what your truly feel. Your feelings are still there, but so mixed up in a murky, camouflaged morass, they are indistinguishable.

So I went to the funeral  home and pretended I was devastated.  I cried, I hugged people who were genuinely devastated, and pretended like I was one of them. That part was fairly easy.  Since my reunion with my birth family 15 years earlier, I had plenty of experience pretending like I was one of them. I sat around a table at the funeral home with my birth mother, my brother, and Cristi’s husband trying to help decide what the obituary should say.  All the while thinking to myself, “what the hell am I doing here?  Why am I being included in this?  I don’t belong here. I hardly knew her.”  But I never said that out loud.  I ignored my feelings in order to fit in. Part of me felt so grateful to be included in the process.  It felt like a privilege to finally be part of this family I had been banished from decades earlier.

Three days later, when I returned home from Cristi’s funeral, my then-husband met me at the door and said, “You had better sit down. Your brother just called. Your father died.”   My adoptive father, whom I had just been to Arizona to visit two weeks earlier, had dropped dead from a stroke at the age of 79.  

The feelings came fast and hard this time.   There was clarity, and it tore through me. There was no ambiguity.  I dropped to the floor and sobbed.

The truth is, I was not close to my adoptive father, either. He was a good person, well-liked, but not a very good father. He was aloof, distant, unengaged,  and often seemed uncaring. But the pain I felt was real, it was genuine, and I didn’t have to pretend.

 Ironically, one of the things that I remember most clearly about his funeral was my adoptive mother telling me not to cry.  I was getting ready to leave, saying goodbye to her before getting on a plane for Michigan. I couldn’t stop crying and was worried about leaving her there alone, without my father.  She patted me on the shoulder and said “Oh now, don’t cry.”

I thought ‘Jesus Christ, if I am not even allowed to cry now, when my father has died, will there ever be a time when it is ok for me to cry?’  But guess what?   Just like every other time in my life when she told me to stop crying, I did. Good little adoptee that I was, I denied my feelings and I stopped crying.

That time in my life was pivotal. It was very complicated and many things were changing, but most of all me. I had two young daughters, and my marriage was disintegrating. I was trying to leave my agency job and start a private practice as a clinical social worker. But it was just a year or two after that when I decided to stop having contact with my birth family.  I was tired of pretending I fit in when I didn’t.  I had already spent a lifetime doing that with my adoptive family, and it was too much to bear. Seeing them altogether with their shared memories, and their genetic bond I could never be privy to.  I couldn’t take it. It was excruciating.   I always felt so sad after being with them for holidays and birthdays.  The guilt and shame that erupted in me after these visits were crippling.  After one visit in particular, my husband asked, “If you were not biologically related to these people, would you have anything to do with them?”

“Absolutely not,” I replied with certainty.

“Then don’t, “ he said.  

“That’s really an option?”  I asked.

“Of course it is.”

 In my mind, choosing who was in my family had never been an option.  When you are adopted, the right to choose who you call family is stripped from you.  You take what you get, and pretend to be grateful. The luxury of choosing who is in your family, and who is not, was reserved for birth parents and adoptive parents, not for the children jettisoned in between them.

Those beliefs have changed too. As part of my adoption journey, I had an epiphany last year. I read a post someone had written on one of the online adoptee support groups I participate in. It basically said; I did not ask to be adopted, nor did I want to be adopted.  The whole thing did not work out very well for me at all.  I do not owe anybody anything.

Wow.

It was as though my blinders had been removed. I suddenly realized that I no longer had to try and painfully navigate my very complicated relationship with my adoptive mother. I have always felt like I owed her something because she took me in and raised me. I had no choice but to put up with her narcissism and callousness. I had to tolerate her cold self-centeredness, her manipulation and emotional  abuse. All my life I have desperately struggled to try and fit with her, and beaten the hell out of myself because I didn’t.  I would never have chosen to have a casual friendship with a person like my adoptive mother, much less chosen her to parent me. I don’t even like her.

If I had been given a choice, I would have chosen to stay with my real mother, with my real father, with my real family, my clan. Who wouldn’t choose that?   I had no choice at the time, but I do have a choice now.

I am becoming very careful about who is part of my family. It is a select and exclusive few. The requirements for membership are simple. You must truly love, appreciate and unconditionally accept me for exactly who I am, not who you need me to be.  Authenticity and genuineness are required.  Trust is a must.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Xenopbia or Patriotism

I am well aware of that this place that I have come to love so much is supposed to be our place. A place were there is no need to censor, restrain or filter ourselves, our thoughts, experiences or opinions. Since I not only am a Woman of colour since I am an Asian adoptee I also am the only European adoptee. Even though I do not like to discuss politics since the Swedish election (which happens every fourth year) was just completed. I thought I would use this post to discuss the recent developments in Europe. (This will also be the only post were I will discuss politics.) I would also like to stress that Lostdaughters does not support or believe in xenopbia. We believe that people should be treated equally and with respect people's ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation should not matter. 



The last election ended with a major win for the Swedish Democratic party an traditionally extremist right wing party that now will be the third biggest party in the Swedish government. Sorry that clip is entirely in Swedish. This was the election commercial for the Swedish Libralist Party, who wants to restrict migration and instead help people in war torn countries with aid while they stay inside the nation. This commercial is remarkable since you clearly can see that the man and woman in the clip is not ethnic Swedes. Yet they support a party who does not approve of immigrants like them. Please rewind the clip to 20 secs- that is when it gets interesting.(Sorry that it's not subtitled). Also I do not support this party's politics I choose to include it because I find it interesting that an extremist party decides to use imigrants as a way to improve their reputation. Not to mention that the girl is a Korean adoptee like me and the guy is an adoptee to- from Sri Lanka.






Sweden has the Swedish Liberal Party and a smaller even more extremist party called the Swedes. Norway is no different they have the Progressive Party, Denmark has the Danish People's Party and many other European nations have at least one extremist liberal party. Britain, France, and Belgium has it to even Germany even though it has banned extremist liberal parties by law (due to the World Wars). Besides these countries Italy, Greece, Spain, Hungary and Austria has it to. 

All of these political parties has one thing in common they want to restrict migration and favor cultural adjustments for the refugees and immigrants that eventually are accepted. It is upsetting to me as a woman of colour and immigrant background to see that fellow adoptees have joined a liberal extremist party like this. 

With these new liberal extremist parties I believe many of the supporters and believers are not really a true supporters. In lack of other options or as a protest against increased migration, lack of housing and employment it has been possible for parties the Swedish Democratic party to gain followers like the more liberal Swedes party. (In the previous election from 2010 the Swedish Liberal Party was a one question political party wanting to restrict and regulate migration.) For the last election their party policy was more general than previously. The political situation in Sweden is not unique many other countries is already dealing with this situation. Norway, Denmark, France, Italy, Germany, Greece, Hungary and Spain are already having a liberal extremist party in their goverments. They all have one thing in common-they want to heavly restrict and regulate migration and protect their own values and their culture. 

Can you even call yourself a non racist when the core values of a party is to restrict migration?


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Adoptee Identity and the Fear of Losing Connections

Photo by La Citta Vita via Flickr
I have been thinking a lot about connectedness. This is different than belonging, which is fitting, like the stone in the center of a peach. Connectedness does not require the perfect environment. It is more like a house in a yard on a street with a park at the end; these things touch each other and may, to some, be considered part of a whole, though they each exist independently and might exist equally well someplace else.

I’ve long understood that I don’t belong in my adoptive family the way other people I know belong in the families they grew up in. I am a very different kind of person than most of my adoptive relatives. I don’t value the same things they do. I don’t communicate in the same way. I don’t enjoy the same activities.

Yet, I am connected to them. For a long time, they were my only foundation. As many adoptees do, I have often hidden parts of myself from them, and I realize now that this is because I’m afraid of losing my connection to them.

What would losing that connection mean? What would it feel like to no longer be connected to the only family I knew for all of my formative years? When I try to imagine this, I feel like I’m about to fall off of a very high cliff into a great abyss with no discernible bottom. And I don’t like heights.

More and more, I’m in conflict with myself. I’m afraid to go to the extreme of being all me, all of the time. And I’m afraid of never being able to be all me, all of the time. This is the way I have lived my entire life, and it hasn’t worked. It’s resulted in my becoming emotionally, psychologically, and physically drained. I realize that the more I allow my true essence to escape into the world, the more at peace I feel. I know that to live a fully satisfying life, I must be all me, all of the time. I’m afraid that I’ll live the rest of my life as a prisoner of my fear of falling into the abyss of losing my connection to my past.

One of the reasons I fear losing my connection to my adoptive family is because I want my own children to be connected to an extended family group. But when I visualize this connection, I imagine family relationships that I have never actually had. I fantasize about celebrating holidays and important life events with people who talk about the things my children and I talk about and who want to do the kinds of things my children and I like to do. I imagine enjoying the company of these people. This isn’t the family I have. So, I’m holding tight to relationships that have never really worked for me, in the hopes that they might somehow work better now that I have children. I want for my kids what I never had. Maybe I’ve been trying to have it with the wrong people.

It sucks to not have a basis from which to create the kind of extended family relationships I want my children to have. I must somehow create this situation for them on my own, via other groups outside of my adoptive family.

Let’s say the worst case scenario actually happens: I decide to be my authentic self around my adoptive family, and as a result, they decide they’d rather not be a part of my life. When I think about it, I realize I’ve been through this before. I’ve made friends and lost friends. I’ve been in love relationships that have ended. I was connected to these people and now I’m not.

But waitit’s not really the case that we’re no longer connected. I have history with all of those people, therefore that shared history continues to connect us even though we no longer interact. If my interaction with my adoptive family members decreased or even ended completely, I would still be connected to them. I grew up with them. They will always be my family, no matter how our relationships change. They will always be part of my history and the history of my children.

History, though, is about looking back. And I need to move forward.















Wednesday, October 1, 2014

INFORMATION IS A PRIVILEGE


 Arriving in Canada on February 23rd, 1987


After much thought and a few unexpected events, I have decided to search. Searching has always seemed next to impossible to me, given the lack of information I have about my birth family. 

I was born in late 1985 in the northern part of Ethiopia, an area heavily affected by famine and civil war. I don’t have a birth record and what I know about my birth family is only through word of mouth. In fact, my official documents were produced a few months after my birth with the sole purpose of legalizing my adoption. I understand that it might not have been possible to fully document all relevant information about my birth and birth family given the chaotic circumstances and lack of resources, but I have many questions as to why so much information was unavailable. 

Growing up without such information has been “normal” but at the same time, very disconcerting. As I’ve written in Gazillion Voices, I think the lack of information I have about my background contributed to me ignoring my adoption for most of my life. I rarely thought about my birth family, perhaps because I had what I needed—a happy childhood, a loving family and friends. I only realized that I had identity issues when I was in my late teens. Deep down, I knew that the only way to have some peace of mind would be to search for my birth family, but I wondered how I could embark on a search without proper documentation. 

Here I am, "ready" to search almost ten years later. For me, searching means confronting one of the biggest injustices associated with being adopted—fighting to access one’s personal information...or in my case, hiring someone to search for my undocumented information. I’m nervous and unhappy (to put it politely) about having to go through this hassle. It’s not just about finding the time and money to search; it’s also about trusting someone to work with such a limited amount of information. This search could take days, weeks, months or years and the outcome is uncertain. I might find my birth family or I might not. I might find out why I was relinquished or I might not find anything at all.

Besides wanting to know the truth about my past, I strongly believe that it’s my right to have this information. In my view, searches are about a human rights issue—having the right to access one’s personal information. Deciding to search has made me realize to what extent knowing or having access to information about one’s birth and birth family is a privilege. It may seem strange to think that a person is privileged if they were born in a country that has the institutional capacity to accurately document and safeguard their birth information. Yet, he or she is even more privileged if they have access to this information.

Unfortunately, many transnational adoptees like me lack information about our births and family backgrounds. The reasons for this can be traced back to political or structural reasons. However, if you dig deeper into this issue by reading adoptee narratives, it appears that the reasons behind "lost" or purposely omitted information from documents is also due to more subjective reasons. Birth families tend to relinquish children because they cannot adequately provide for them. For instance, families are usually experiencing economic difficulties, death, illness, rape or stigma due to single or unwed mothers. Relinquishing a child is an act of desperation and sometimes birth parents may want to remain anonymous out of shame or fear. Yet whatever the reasons for relinquishment, this information should not go undocumented. Individuals, agencies and governmental institutions involved in adoption and orphan care need to be held accountable for documenting all information pertinent to children's births and family backgrounds. Furthermore, I don't believe that this information should be kept a secret in order to protect a child from a harsh reality nor to cover up a parent's shame. Adopted children grow up to be adopted adults. Sooner or later, they will ask questions such as why knowing who gave birth to them and knowing their ancestry is privileged information that they cannot have.

The benefits of having this information for adoptees' emotional, psychological and mental well-being should not be overlooked nor underestimated. While I've had a positive adoption experience, there's a part of me that has always felt lost and out of place as a result of being adopted. Having this information may not give me peace of mind, but I believe that it will give me closure.