Thursday, November 13, 2014

ROUND TABLE: What Are the Rules of an Adoptee-Centric Space? (part one)

At Lost Daughters, we struggle to re-contextualize our content within an "adoptee-centric" space. This becomes necessary when our voices reach beyond fellow adult adoptees--our intended audience. Our conversations are halted to explain to guests what for many adoptees goes without saying, for example, that companioning each other through adoption-related grief does not mean we had "unhappy childhoods." Unaccustomed to adoption-related content designed to serve an adoptee audience, some commenters have even critiqued us for not writing from the perspective of other adoption constellation members.

Granted, we are doing something new by existing and co-existing alongside of other adoptee-centric spaces. We are balancing the discourse by providing dialogue that values adoptee voices. We are providing universality to fellow adoptees who may feel underserved in mainstream adoption spaces. We are respecting the adoptees who went before us whose silence was demanded by a culture of adoption that favored secrecy. We are carving a path for the adopted youth who will walk in our shoes to be welcomed warmly into public discourse. And maybe it is time, at least at Lost Daughters, to discuss what an adoptee-centric space is and what it means for a space to center on the idea that adoptees are important.

Amanda @AmandaTDA: Ok sisters, what does "adoptee-centric" mean to you and what are the rules for an adoptee-centric space?

Karen B. @Kbela50: A place/forum that supports the adoptee voice(s) by allowing each individual experience to be appreciated for its uniqueness where other adoptees can listen and feel camaraderie as well as hear varying view points from other adoptees. And, at the same time give adoptees the ability to lend valuable insight to those who would not be able to truly comprehend the impact adoption has had in and on our lives. I think all the mods and everyone at LD do a brilliant job making sure that authors, contributors, and commentators are respected.

Jenn: It's a place where I can feel what I need to feel without being told what that is. It's a place where I'm free to be myself and be respected for it instead of trying to fit into an "adoptee" role. It's where my voice is the important one. In an adoptee-centric place I don't have to temper my views for natural parents or adoptive parents. I am valued for my insights and what I bring to the table as an adoptee.

Karen P. @Karen_Pickell: To me it’s a space where what adoptees have to say about adoption takes priority over what others have to say about adoption. It’s a space that operates under the assumption that adoptees are the best authorities on adoption. And it’s a space where each adoptee respects how every other adoptee feels about her own adoption and adoption in general, even if there is disagreement between them. An adoptee-centric space is one in which adoptees’ viewpoints about adoption are respected by all who enter that space.

Deanna @DeannaShrodes: Centered on adoptees.

Cathy @CathyHeslin: Where the adoptees voice can be heard and takes precedence. A place where the adoptee is in control of the content, atmosphere and they set the rules As the ones who didn't have any choice in our lives, we get to control this very important piece and creates a space where all adoptees in all phases of their journey are heard and supported by others who can understand in a deeper way than most.

Von @eagoodlife: All the above and a space defined by adoptees where they make the rules. If open non-adoptees must abide by those rules or leave, or a closed space where only adoptees are admitted.

Joy: If there is an adoptive parent is at the table, then there needs to be an adoptee there too. If there is a program that is about how adoption is spoken about, handled, promoted, created, programmed, there needs to be at 2 adoptees at the table. I say two because I feel that we are better at speaking varied perspectives and willing to challenge each other and those outside far more readily. It has been the reason I love our community and at times makes me crazed but would have not no way else.

Amanda @AmandaTDA: How have others helped you feel respected in spaces meant to predominantly or exclusively serve adoptees?

Deanna @DeannaShrodes: What I long for is probably not the true definition of an "adoptee-centric" space. But here's what my heart cries for...While it feels so comforting to be in a space that is adoptees only, if we don't dialogue with others who are not adoptees, no change will ever come. A place that is "adoptees only" is a comforting echo chamber. We preach to the choir and have a perpetual pep-rally of sorts, talking about all we believe and what needs to change. But nothing does, if we don't reach others. However, when we invite others into the conversation, adult adoptee abuse often happens. What I long for in an adoptee- centric space is not one that is exclusively adoptees but one where they do dominate. They are the final word. They are the expert -- because they are the ones who are actually adopted. In an adoptee centric space, people no longer see the adoptive parents or the adoption agency as experts. They see the adopted ones as the experts, because they have lived it. Adoptee-centric to me means that no adoptee abuse (dismissing experience, invalidating, name calling, etc.) is allowed. When that happens, commenters are immediately called out on it, and stopped. As adoptees dominate the table, they rise up to quickly and fiercely defend the adoptee voice whenever the occasion calls for it. I have felt most respected when others do this for me in such a space.

Karen B. @Kbela50: I could more easily answer what I don't find respectful and perhaps that will lead to a conclusion about what should be respectful in adoptee centric spaces. I have been out of adoptee groups now for about two years except writing groups for a reason first off it's personal I didn't have the energy, time, or strength for it that's my issue. Second, just what has happened again since I joined back into a very large group. Two days in it became a huge train wreck between "anti" and "pro" adoption experiences "good" vs. "bad" and I ever LEFT the group still getting notifications every minute or two on two different threads each with nearly 300 comments apiece (sigh). Seems to be that the fringes of each can't accept each other's extreme experiences and opinions. It ruins it for those of use willing to listen and be accepting even if we differ in our opinions. Birth/first/natural moms are there, the extremists, and the happy-dappy adoptees who deny those of us more damaged (notice I say "more") the fact that adoption has anything to do with who and what we are mentally and emotionally. IT'S SO FRUSTRATING. However, the good news for me since I am old lol is that at least now these discussions are going on. Certainly, there needs to be mods and many times referees but standing firm about bullying and abuse is absolutely a necessity if we ever stand a chance of getting to the point where adoptees are not only respect but really and truly "heard". From the feedback I get from the adoption community is that Lost Daughters does a TREMENDOUS job in that, and I think that's what we have to continue to remember even through the stress of being negated, undermined, and judged.

JennI know for me, others just being supportive has been wonderful. Suzy Adoptee doesn't have to agree with what I write, but her telling me that she appreciates that I took the time to write my story or feelings out has been invaluable. I also feel supported when non-adoptees speak up, not to condemn or lecture, but to thank me for writing, or asking thoughtful questions. I want to be heard and thoughtful, non-judgmental questions are a great way to follow up.

julie j: To me, adoptee-centric means our material is written by adoptees to provide insight, support, and validation for ourselves & for other adoptees. The primary purpose is not necessarily to please or to educate a non-adoptee audience. When that happens in the process, then it's secondary to our primary purpose of being adoptee-centric first.

Where our voices can stand alone; they need not be "balanced" by the thoughts of the other parties in adoption. They need not be directed by non-adoptees either.

Karen P. @Karen_Pickell: First and foremost, I feel respected when the other adoptees in adoptee-centric spaces allow me to speak freely about my own experience and the conclusions I’ve derived from it without trying to convince me to feel differently or view my experience in some other way. This is not to say that I don’t want to be challenged to consider other viewpoints on adoption. I’ve learned a great deal through conversations and debates with adoptees whose thoughts about adoption are different than mine. My own viewpoint has evolved as a result of these respectful conversations. But no learning takes place when someone tries to coerce me into their mindset. On the contrary—when I feel belittled or attacked for how I express my views on adoption, I’m not inclined at all to listen to another side of the story.

The same goes for guests in adoptee-centric spaces, whether they be birth family members, adoptive family members, or others with an interest in adoption issues. Besides communicating respectfully, these guests must also keep in mind that adoptee-centric spaces do not exist to serve their needs. I think of it this way: An adoptee-centric space is like my home. I invite non-adopted people into my home because I want to talk with them about adoption. However, as guests in my home, I expect them to behave with the appropriate decorum, similar to how they would behave if they were invited into my actual, physical home. I wouldn’t stand for a guest in my home denigrating me or any member of my family, and I won’t stand for it in my adoptee-centric space either.

Elle: To me it is a space where I can share my views and values without being judged. There is no expectations of me (us) to think or be a certain way-that way society deems and expects us to be. An adoptee is not a phenomenon we are humans that actually age and eventually start our own family.

Pam: Adoptee-centric to me means Only From The Perspective Of The Adoptee.

Elle: Yes I second that, it is important that (we) adult adoptees have a space that are entirely our own. There are to few out there, most of the time these spaces are reserved for the adoption agencies and most often APs tend to dominate these discussions. Finding a space that is exclusively seen through the eyes of the adoptee has been invaluable to me.

Michelle @MichelleWPD: Adoptee-centric means the thoughts, experiences, needs, and interests of adoptees are prioritized. It means the adoptee voice is valued on its own merit, not just for what it can offer adoptive parents, those interested in adopting, or industry professionals. Adoptee-centric means freedom from having to always clarify and qualify and cater to those who hold other positions in the "triad."

Mila @yoonsblur: Michelle nailed it for me! I echo her exactly. I would also say that for me, adoptee-centric spaces are about correcting the power imbalance and the control of the narrative. There is often this tension between the positive versus complex (often called "negative') narrative about adoption. Although both narratives need to be acknowledged and respected, there is an imbalance that favors the "adoption is all good" narrative over the more complex narratives. And often what narrative is heard and considered is controlled by adoptive parents and adoption agencies. Adoptee-centric spaces are one of the only places that offer alternative perspectives and experiences. Hence, I view adoptee-centric spaces as crucial and necessary.

Trace @Trace15: So well said, everyone, I concur on all counts.

Julie S. @JulieStromberg: I would write something, but Michelle covered it.

Rosita @mothermade: I love what Michelle said. It is even more poignant for me that she is two parts of that triad.

Stay tuned tomorrow for part two.

Join the Round Table: let us know in the comments how you'd answer today's questions.


Lost Daughters truly is a sisterhood where our authors provide support and insight for each other in our own private space. Occasionally, we like to make these discussions available to our adoptee audience to benefit from and add to the discourse. 

So, grab a chair and have a seat as we lean in, put our elbows on the table, and tell you what we really feel.