Sunday, November 13, 2016

For Adoptees, the Fight Continues

This month has been difficult for many. In the adoptee community, November is usually spent spotlighting adoptee voices for National Adoption Awareness Month, but for many of us our attention has been turned towards an American presidential election that has turned more unbelievable at every turn. Many of us watched the results in horror and disbelief thinking, maybe the country isn’t as progressive as we thought it was.

It made me think about attitudes towards adoption and adoptees - are things really changing?

On September 13th, I received an email from Al Jazeera about participating in their online show, The Stream. They were searching for transracial adoptees who had decided to move back to their countries of birth. Although I didn’t fit the exact profile they were looking for, they still asked me to submit a video comment. I did, and I tuned in on Thursday, September 29 to watch the show.

Tadesse speaking out on Al Jazeera's The Stream
The show featured three adoptees: Heran Tadesse an Ethiopian adoptee from the Netherlands, Caspar Erickson, a Korean adoptee from Denmark, and Holly McGinnis, a Korean Adoptee from the United States. The three adoptees were also joined by Elizabeth Bartholet, an adoptive mom and the director of the child advocacy program at Harvard Law School.

The host, Femi Oke asked the adoptees a few questions about their experiences growing up, which lead to a discussion about identity. Tadesse said she lost her traditional culture and she had to relearn her language, which is why she moved back to Ethiopia.

Oke then asked Bartholet, the adoptive mom of two, how her children dealt with their identity growing up. Bartholet she said that all children struggle with identity, and she did not that think there were “major traumatizing psychological issues build into the idea of being adopted.” Bartholet went on to say “that are way worse things that kids go through.”

Whoa, I thought to myself. I know that she doesn't represent all adoptive parents, but she was sharing the same platform with adoptees to spout such potentially damaging rhetoric. How many others had consulted with her because they viewed her as an adoption expert? How many adoptive parents had gone to her with their questions?

Later on in the show, I tweeted in and I suggested that parents take the fees from adoption agencies (which can be upwards of $50,000) and spend it on supporting families. Potential adopters (or anyone, really) can support mothers by supporting organizations like Haitian Families First so mothers are not pressured into relinquishing their children in exchange for medical care or a chance at an education.

Bartolett scoffed at the suggestion and said that “it’s not going to happen.” Why? Because it’s not how the adoption system works.The widespread belief is that children living in poverty need new families. For adoptees, biology gets pushed down on the list of priorities, but having your basic needs met and knowing your family history are both important in the development of a healthy child.

As an adoptee who has benefitted greatly from my circumstances. I have never shied away from acknowledging and appreciating everything I have gained through my adoption. But I also won't shy away from lamenting the things I have lost. I can express both of these feelings at the same time. And people still don’t understand that. I try not to read the negative comments on news websites and blogs, but I have been called an “ungrateful bitch” because I went back to search for my family in Haiti. I’ve been told to go back to my “shit hole” of a country if I was so unhappy. I’ve been accused of being a “spoiled little brat” because I wanted to know more about my history. Because I’ve expressed how hard it was to grow up not really knowing who I was. And while these comments are from people able to hide behind the anonymity of the internet, these sentiments reflect the general attitude towards adoptees speaking out - "You're lucky, so be quiet."

With adoptee centered blogs, books, conferences, and documentaries, it seems that we are making progress with how we view adoption, right? Sometimes I’m not so sure.

Like many Americans who felt disappointed and angry with the results of the election, their feelings were rooted in their previous perception that things were changing. But here we are. Still fighting an uphill battle it seems.

Adoptees are still fighting to change the conversation about adoption. We fight it every time we speak up, write a book, host a podcast, film an interview. We challenge the idea that adoptees must stay silent or only express their gratitude. Instead, adoptees should be allowed to express a wide range of emotions when it comes to their adoption experience. And it’s going to take adoptees speaking out and continuing to fight to change the adoption narrative so the next generation of adoptees will benefit.

Mariette Williams (@mariettewrites) is a transracial adoptee born in Jeremie, Haiti. She was adopted at the age of three and grew up near Vancouver, B.C., Canada. She founded Haitian Adoptees, a Facebook group that serves to connect and offer support to other Haitian adoptees. In July of 2015, she reunited with her birth mother and several members of her birth family. She lives in South Florida with her husband and two children. In addition to being a Journalism and literature teacher, she is a published author and supporter of international adoption reform.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Motherly Rejection

I have been rejected twice in my short life, it all begun when I was born or even before my actual birth. My maternal grandmother rejected me decided that I was not know my blood relatives. She thought that six young daughters was enough, a married woman with no son was worth next to nothing. The husband had reason to divorce his wife should she fail to give birth to a son. It was told to me years later that since my birthmother was dying they all feared she would not survive.

Karen Grassle aka Mrs Ingalls and daughters in Little House on the Prarie 

At the time of my birth social workers and adoption agencies fully covered the birth mother's medical bill for her treatment and it is a fact that my birth parents were empoverished when I was born so I suspect they needed the money more than another mouth to feed. Easy solution I get a better life and my birth mother gets treatment and can focus on the daughters' that she has.

They say Korea is hierarchial society and that may be true, but a woman who has given birth to eight children is the matriarch in her family. I learned this just recently after my second trip back, my mother has advised everyone to give me a cold shoulder, I longed for her love and confrimation yet now when we have met she is choosing to dishonor me. Perhaps I was not what she imagined, maybe she believed I was more like her and less Western. Fact is that I was raised in a Western country and people generally believe Europe and Scandinavia is an affluent part of the world, and supposedly it did not help that my birthfamily already was familiar with the Western world since one of their daugthers married a European, settled in Europe and raised a family.

Eleanor Parker as Baroness von Schraeder in Sound of Music 
Unconciously, I believe that they assumed I was the female equivalent of my older brother-in-law, it is true that I may have had something similar to material wealth but my APs were never rich. Yes, it does cost a lot of many to adopt and my parents did it twice. But my APs belong to the middle class not even upper middle class. Both mum and dad have since long retired and me and my (adoptive) brother still struggle with trying to finish our upper studies.

My birth father was a warm, generous, caring but timid man. It hurts me to think that my father might suffer and secretly still want to maintain in contact. All of because of my birth mother and his wife, we cannot.I realize now that I have always missed the unconditional love from my first father, and even though my birth mother made sure that her opinion was the final one.  She has deprived me of my birth father, intially when I first initated the birth family search all I could think of was my birth mother. Since I failed to keep my end of the bargain I'm of no use to her.

I know I am fortunate for being able to locate and meet my supposed birth parents. I located my birth parents in 2004, eventually I reunited with them in 2010. Meet them again in 2011 and by 2012 the Special Adoption law was ratified to protect birth parents identites from being given to adoptees. Instead it seems like some adoptees are able to be reunite with their birth families much thanks to DNA.

When I located my supposed birth parents the scientific research was not developed for that purpose yet. Unless I have scientific proof for something I tend to disbelief it. Mom especially wants me to stop second guessing that my birth parents aren't actually my burth parents. The reason for that is that my birth involves exraordinary circumstances just as my birth mother's health has similiar extraprdinary circumstances.

Fortunately, science is availble for adoptees and birth families. However it is only recently available so the highest likelihood of getting a DNA match is if you have a birth parent with another ethnicity. Koreans rarely relies in DNA, secondly adoption is still considered a huge stigma. Statistically perhaps only a couple thousand adoptees will find blood relative from DNA.

The truth is this, I blame my adoptive mother for my adoption separation. I would have been content and happy living with my peasant birth family even if they were- and still is poor. Why do I blame my adoptive mother then? The reason why my APs decided to pursue adoption is because my A mom was infertile. My A mom reminds me of the mother that I lost and never got a chance to know as a child. My A dad would have been able to father his own natural children if it had not been for my A mom. Perhaps my dad actually has older biological children out there...

That's at least technically possible.

I really wish my AP's wouldn't feel like their decision to adopt me through intercountry adoption as an infant was justified. They still consider that they saved me from a difficult life in poverty without any chance of a proper education or a decent life,

Even though I most likely would have been poor, I would still have my birthparents and older siblings in my life. That's not insignificant and the importance of blood or biological ties should not be underestimated. I was legally removed from my birthparents and instead placed with strangers.