The silencing of the adoptee voice.

I recently received a “cease and desist” letter from an adoptive parent who had posted an entry basically stating that she was sick of IA criticism. Her blog was open to comments, and I commented, but apparently the blog is only open to some comments. I think the letter itself is interesting, because it really gives us some insight into what we often bring up in our discussions here:

  1. There is a dominant discourse which does not wish to hear resistant voices;
  2. Resistant voices will be dismissed, attacked, maligned;
  3. Those resisting will be attacked personally in terms of mental well-being, upbringing, etc.;
  4. The dominant voice will be portrayed as the victim;
  5. The dominant voice will attempt to co-opt or subsume the resistant voice.

To examine is the letter itself (is there a template for this kind of thing?):

Dear Sir,

I respect your right to differ with my opinions on adoption however *I hereby request that you no longer comment on my blog*. My blog is clearly pro adoption and will certainly provide you with nothing but angst and frustration, angst and frustration that can be wholly avoided by simple not visiting my site. (To be fair I have never offered comment on your site(s), attempted to provoke you, or directly confronted you amongst your peers.) Your comments and participation in the discussions on my site are no longer welcome. Should you choose to continue to comment or provoke others to similarly comment I will simply delete your messages. It appears you have no shortage of outlets for your message however I kindly request my blog no longer be one of them.

I thank you in advance for your civil cooperation. God bless you and the children we both love so passionately.

Sincerely,

[signed]

I replied:

We both share this world, and perhaps we see it in different ways, but this topic brings us to a common discussion. It is certainly not your blog that frustrates me; you should not give yourself so much credit. It is the pretense of a dialogue that is most bothersome. You prefer to keep a separation between yourself and those you don’t want to deal with, both in the real world (the families and communities of these children you claim to care so much about) as well as in the virtual one; I do no such thing. I have no problem with anyone posting anything on my site; I have never in the 16 years my site has been online deleted anyone’s post. Ever. And so welcome, come post–even with the curses that were posted to your benefit in reply to my review. Furthermore, I have returned to my land of birth, and I know the damage both economic and political that is a result of, that is directly tied to, conversations that take place on your blog and others like it. It is this passivist mindset as represented by your words that results in the injustice you then post about.

To understand, if only for the benefit of the children currently in your care, is that I have spent my life being silenced due to adoption, and I am no longer silent. I will not be silent in the face of such gross injustice. Feel free to do as you will and as you wish, to block me, or delete my posts, or–God forbid–actually engage in a dialectic, a discussion. By hosting a public blog on the Internet with access to comments, you are setting the parameters that allow others to post. You can block me as much as you want; this is what you all do anyway, in an attempt at maintaining inequality of dialogue. But I will not voluntarily keep quiet. I will not willfully play your game according to your rules. You do not own this conversation. And you should be ashamed of asking such a thing of anyone. When (not if) those children in your care say something similar, will you send them a letter like this one? Will you silence them as well? I pray for them and their well-being. Because I know what they are in for.

I think it is imperative that we realize that given the dominant mode, this is not an equivalent discussion. This blog’s posts are the received wisdom; the current way of thinking; the given. It is not possible for us to censor the dominant discourse.

What I would like to do in this item is to list as extensively as possible all of the places that censor, silence, malign, or disparage the adoptee voice. I think we should cite the offending blog or forum as well as the circumstances, and we will post all comments from all adoptees that fit the parameters of the topic.

The blog described above can be found at:
Five of My Own

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15 thoughts on “The silencing of the adoptee voice.

  1. Recent gems from a comment at one of my blogs meant for adoptees, categorized per Daniel’s excellent itemized list:

    2. Resistant voices will be dismissed, attacked, maligned
    and
    5. The dominant voice will attempt to co-opt or subsume the resistant voice.

    Yes, one day my adopted children will have issues to deal with. As I had. As you had. As my neighbour had…I am not trying to trivialise this – it will be a tremendous challenge to overcome. The situation is all but perfect. But we do not live in a perfect world.

    3. Those resisting will be attacked personally in terms of mental well-being, upbringing, etc.;
    and
    5. The dominant voice will attempt to co-opt or subsume the resistant voice.

    I will aim to equip them with what they need to be more successful in dealing with this than girl4708. Sorry to hear things did not work out for her. They did not for me either. I had a terrible childhood.

    2. Resistant voices will be dismissed, attacked, maligned

    Although I appreciate her views, they tend to have lost some of their initial sting with her vengeful later attacks…

    3. Those resisting will be attacked personally in terms of mental well-being, upbringing, etc.;

    …which I think hint at some deeper issues not directly related to her having been adopted.

    I’d like to add that I have been very intrepid in my exploration of my own issues, and that few people would characterize me or my writing as vengeful in any way. Though the journey has not been without road-bumps, in general I am quite proud of coming out of this with some grace; my humanity and humor intact.

    It’s a shame my truth is so threatening to others, but mostly I am sorry for their children who must live sheltered by defensive parents. They are welcome to join us here when they are able (and free) to communicate from their hearts.

  2. And on we go…does it ever end? My particular concern at the moment is the assumptions of mothers about adult adoptees and how adoptees are blamed for what happens or doesn’t happen in reunion.Is it so hard to see or acknowledge that when you abandon someone love and trust are damaged, sometimes forever?

  3. I always really feel for the children in their care. How hard to imagine that these words might not come from those children’s mouths? To add to the above list perhaps is the skewed emotional spectrum: One side is allowed to be self-righteously indignant, one side is allowed to consider the “hole” in their lives, one side is allowed to talk about the exceedingly personal without fear of reprisal, one side is allowed to make medical, psychological, and sociological accusations.

    One of the key aspects of reframing the discussion and allowing our voice to be heard is to not speak in the defensive. Since this is expected, even in the question-and-answer format, speaking up and out without necessarily answering anyone becomes very important. Beyond that, i think it is necessary to use all of the emotions and rhetorical devices that are normally disallowed us in the “polite” context of our adopted culture (this is perhaps worth another topic….)

  4. The censoring site that made me angriest has to be Canada Adopts. I came across an article there on adoption from Egypt; the couple adopting were charged in Egypt for attempting to adopt from that country, but the discussion online, and much of the media attention (which we are seeing a lot more of in these Islamophobic times) were focused on the “backwards” and “uncivilized” Muslim country that would not allow its children to be adopted. I won’t get into this now, but I replied on their boards, as you can read here:

    http://www.canadaadopts.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic&f=14&t=000580

    One of the most revealing quotes from someone there was this:

    “Please understand that you are attacking our belief system as well.”

    This is close; i was more attacking their class position and sense of entitlement. But the weird way in which they kept looking for the loophole to allow the adoption was very troubling.

    I didn’t get kicked off for this exchange; later I posted a topic to discuss a member of parliament who voted to approve the NATO bombing in the Balkans, and who later also sponsored legislation to adopt children post-destruction. I guess this was too much for the Canadians to handle.

  5. This is very recent, and paints a damning portrait of what we are describing. It is from adoptionblogs.com, on the Guatemala boards.

    The original URL:
    http://guatemala.adoptionblogs.com/weblogs/but-we-thought-she-was-ours

    The online cached page:
    https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:bsg9naMfl8QJ:guatemala.adoptionblogs.com/weblogs/but-we-thought-she-was-ours+http://guatemala.adoption+blogs.com/weblogs/but-we-thought-she-was-ours&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a

    The title says it all:
    “But We Thought She Was Ours.”

    Here’s a choice quote:

    I keep wondering what is in the best interest of the little girl. I realize she was kidnapped at the age of two. But, she has been in the US for five years. She has a family that loves her. If she was returned to a birth mother she probably doesn’t remember, she would be taken away from her family, to a country where she probably doesn’t speak the language. What effect would that have on her development? On her emotional health? Would it destroy her?

    It would destroy me. It would destroy my six year old.

    The comments get the usual browbeating for “attacking” the original blogger, and then I posted this response:

    A few points to make. First, the administrative use of the term “attack” is invalid. The entire discourse concerning adoption agrees with this blogger, and to challenge this in any way is not an attack. Furthermore, I could argue that this blog post is, in and of itself, yet another attack against the people of Guatemala, going back to the 1954 CIA-led coup, in the name of the United Fruit Company, against the democratically elected government of Jacobo Arbenz Guzman. That anyone today would advocate anything that in any way brings back the power differential of the days of the banana republics in Central and South America is, in and of itself, an attack. An attack against human dignity.

    This brings up the second problematic of this post, which is the notion of the “triad”. We need to question this. The triad is not a given, although some treat it as such. The triad is an attempt to equalize all the “players” in the adoption discourse as if they are of the same weight. They are not. The adopter has all the power, all of the means, all of the ability; the adoptee has none, the true mother has none. But this leaves out, as we are seeing here, the missing aspect of this notion which is the extended family, the community, the people, and the country from which an adopted child has been taken, and who has every right to reclaim that child, using every means available at their disposal.

    Finally, this brings me to the third point, which is to seriously question the idea that anyone knows best what this child wants or needs, what indeed is best for your child. To say that repatriation would “destroy” your child is an invalid projection. I can tell you, as an interracially adopted child who, at a very late stage in my life, has returned to my country of birth, that I would give anything that this had been done at such an early age. At least then I would have had a chance to truly reintegrate with my people, my language, my culture, my life as it was meant to be. Looking back, I can re-evaluate my emotions at such a young age, and understand what I was longing for then that I wasn’t able to put into words. I wanted to go home.

    I mean no disrespect from this post. I understand that adoptive parents believe they have something to say on the subject. I would humbly submit, however, that in many ways it is time for them to listen. First, to their children. Second, to the people their children come from. There is a growing anger in this world, witnessed by the revolutions currently taking place worldwide, directed at those in the First World who, for centuries now, have considered it their luxury and privilege to do as they wish and as they will to lands that are not theirs; with people they know little about; with lives they care not a whit for. The Voice we need to listen to now is theirs, the missing entity from your “triad”. And if we truly, TRULY believed that we want to do what is best for a child, we would seriously consider the idea of repatriation, as painful as it might be for you to think about.

    Amazingly, the post lasted a few days, and then was deleted. I posted it again with the question asking why there was no rebuttal or reason given for the deletion, and now the whole post is taken down.

    It’s like someone privileged in the center of a room has a spotlight and bodyguards protecting their house of cards; everyone in the room is forced to hold their breath with their backs pressed up against the wall lest they change the atmosphere of the display room. Just how long do they expect this to remain a valid situation?

  6. An email from Adoptive Families Circle:

    In regards to your recent post in the Adoption News Group on Adoptive Families Circle, your account has been deleted/banned from the site. Back in May you had received one warning about following the site’s guidelines, and failing to follow them again (hateful language) we chose to delete your account.

    Thank you,

    Danielle I. Pennel
    Adoptive Families Circle Community Moderator

    My reply:

    You are a hypocritical organization. Please for the love of God define “hateful”. 99% of what is posted on your web site could be considered “hateful” to adoptees, but because we are not valid in your mind as voices, you attack us in order to preserve your economic base. How vile, how disgusting. My article has received support from more enlightened adoptive parents who see in it the common cause I am trying to make with them. You continue to do the world a great injustice with your actions and with your very presence as a magazine, and one day this will be made known to you.

    • Daniel, as you know, they banned me back in May also, after pre-adoptive and adoptive parents complained that my language was hateful and attacking. They cannot stand to hear the truth from an adoptee who is all grown up and not cute anymore. Also, when my dumb-ass sisters shhowed up to bring in their delusions, that’s when AFC banned me. Little do they know I am back under a different name. Make slightly less to the point comments, but nontheless, I am back at AFC. They cannot continue to shut down the voices of adoptees who know what is in store for the cute infants and toddlers they possess now. In Open Adoptions. Still adoptions. If they cared so much for the expectant moms they wouldn’t be expecting them to give them their babies.

  7. This is charming. It comes after I started a topic on “censorship of adoptee voices”, itself coming after an entire item was removed and cleansed of my comments as well as references to them:

    ***************
    Dear Daniel Ibn Zayd,

    You have received an infraction at City-Data Forum.

    Reason: Trolling
    ——-
    Your political agenda is not suited for this forum.
    ——-

    This infraction is worth 10 point(s) and may result in restricted access until it expires. Serious infractions will never expire.

    All the best,
    City-Data Forum
    ***************

    I don’t think I have ever seen anything worse than what is posted on this forum. It is a how-to guide to steal, traffic, kidnap children. The racist overtones are horrifying, and not of this century (“his posture is a function of his culture”), and the missionary zeal is palpable. A scary place full of very sad, very frightened people.

  8. [Apologies to the poster—an adoptee as well as an AP—for the delay in posting.]

    That’s so sad to me. How can I, as an AP, help my kids be the best they can be if I don’t ever listen to any opinion but my own? How can I be prepared for what they might feel if I don’t listen to those who have already been in similar situations? And most importantly, how can they ever feel it’s okay to talk to me honestly about whatever they feel/need/think/want if I can only handle hearing my own opinion?

    Sometimes adoptees voice opinions that are hard for me to hear. They’re uncomfortable. But I’m not an ostrich. I’ve chosen a path that means sometimes I’m going to be uncomfortable. So I choose instead to force myself into these discussion just so I can hear those opinions now, while they’re little. So that maybe I can be a little better prepared, a little less defensive, and a lot more open to whoever they choose to be as they grow.

    • dmdezigns:

      In order to read your post with a degree of compassion, I elect have to annihilate the claim that you’ve “CHOSEN a path that will make you uncomfortable” &c. (It is the word “chosen” that I am reacting most strongly to). I will prefer to believe that your life-experience (however seemingly beneficial, or detrimental, or a combination of both) required an adaptation to it that left on the table adoption as a valid way of proceeding.

      I can also “cut some slack” by reminding myself that I don’t know the circumstances by which you adopted: when one’s sister dies, and another relative “adopts” that sister’s orphaned child, that’s an extremely different beast than buying a black baby from the Congo or whatnot.

      Even so, I feel moved to make hyperbolic comparisons. Like: I sexually assaulted someone, and I know that’s a path that will cause me some discomfort, but I’ve sought out others affected by sexual assault in order to become as sensitive as I can about it, so that when my children ask me why I sexually assaulted them, I’ll be ready with a response.

      The disadvantage of hyperbole: people feel they can dismiss it because of its extremity, even though the content remains analogous and accurate. To put it another way: my experience growing up as an adoptee resembles very much sexual assault, even though as best I can tell, I was not sexually assaulted. (This isn’t true for all adoptees, of course, especially girls.) So please don’t too quickly dismiss the example because it seems extreme; if anything, it understates my experience for want of proper language. Maybe it would help to understand that from age 7 to 18 the only reason I didn’t kill myself was being I couldn’t think of a painless way to do it but, also and worse, I was terrified of making the attempt but failing. I don’t think too many parents would be pleased to know that was the daily mental state of their child. I’m sure my parents would respond to something like this by saying (1) they did their best, or (2) maybe that’s how it is for other adopting parents, but not them.

      And worse would have been: what if I’d expressed myself to my parents and instead of “letting me go” (which is what I wanted), they did something else. At least I had the luxury of being merely lonely and completely miserable, but I could still hope maybe it would get better someday. Had I said anything to my parents and they didn’t do the right thing, I wouldn’t have even had hope then.

      So, I’m sorry if it is rude of me, but I would sooner not imagine that you “chose” (in the full ethical sense of the word) to adopt, and even less chose a path that inconveniences you (makes you feel “uncomfortable” rather than “howling shame” or “unutterable grief”). It insults your dignity to say that your actions are “simply” (or complexly) the working out of forces and discourses rather than “freely chosen” choices.

      I want to be clear that I speak only for myself, and my intention is not, in speaking, to “run you off.” And when you say you “force myself into these discussions,” I understand that you seek, as a kind of ally, to expose yourself to a discourse critical of your choices. And I also see the verb “force” and “force yourself into these discussions”–as in “on me” (or on “adoptees” in general). Whatever your status as an adoptee, when you speak simultaneously or also or only as an adopting parent without “asking me” (asking those you speak to) if that speaking is desired, welcome, okay at this time, or better postponed till later, that simply reprises the problematic power dynamics of parent/adopted child in the first place. I realize that is not your primary emphasis, but it strikes me as worrisome that the discourse you write does not acknowledge or take cognizance of the point.

      And you “force yourself” so that “maybe I can be a little better prepared, a little less defensive, and a lot more open to whoever they choose to be as they grow.” Again, I understand the face-value claim involved here, but notice also: you run the risk of reproducing (and, in fact your text does reproduce) the undesirable parent/adopted child dynamic; and why? Only to be “a little better prepared”. Only a little? Only “a little less defensive”.

      If I am going to be asked to confront the “justifications” or “motivations” of adopting parents (adopted or not), then I want the outcome of that confrontation to be massive, epochal, enormous. The (potential) harm of the encounter must be offset (I hope) by a commensurately enormous potential for good. If all you want is “a little” I would think some few gestures of stepping down from parental privileges (of an adopted child or non-adopted child) would be more than enough. Recognize that, as an adult, you have chosen an extremely dubious path–I mean as a parent to a child, not simply a parent to an adopted child. Ethically speaking, it is a grotesque affront to “force” another human being to exist in the world, whether that world is just or not. Unless we subscribe to certain hypotheses of reincarnation, no human “chooses” to exist. And once we make that choice for someone else, we’d best acknowledge our utter obligation to them–and not that assimilationist propaganda “honour thy father and mother”. No: honour your obligations to the person you brought into the world against their will. Recognize the phenomenal selfishness involved in doing that, and then act accordingly (beginning first of all with not pretending that such an act is “good” or “selfless” or moral).

      Parents commit the most profound immorality against the most helpless creatures in the world, and what we call “childhood” is the process whereby the child is taught to blame herself for the parents’ misbehaviour. This is true whether one adopts or not. And so, in that context, where the most element choice (to exist) has been denied to the child, to then speak of what that child might “choose to be” growing up seems extremely ironic.

      In any case, there are some discomforting remarks, I imagine. But I don’t think you needed to hear them from me if the aim is only to be “a little” better prepared.

      • I’m an adoptee who was abused by my adoptive father – not sexually, but still abused. It’s interesting that you chose to pick specific words. It feels as though in my attempt to not be harsh, that you missed what I was attempting to say.

        My son was born exposed to cocaine. He was not going home with his birthparents. That doesn’t mean they won’t be important to him. I maintain that contact until he’s ready to say yes or no. I don’t want him to have to search, I don’t want him to feel he can’t have relationship. I have kept every scrap of information,even though with the knowledge I have now, some of it makes me look suspect (ie the whole adoption process, the fees paid etc). It is his story to do with as he chooses, even if that choice later is to reject me. My dad has been back in my life since I was 15. If that’s what my son wants (even if it’s earlier), that’s what will happen. I hope that the drug use currently in his birth family is either gone or less prevalent then. But if it isn’t, it won’t mean no contact.

        As for my choices of words, whenever we do something that is out of our comfort zone, we have to push ourselves to do it. It’s much easier to stay with the status quo. Hence, my use of the word force. And I think that in making changes we take baby steps, hence the use of the word little. Sweeping changes don’t come overnight. They take time, small steps towards a different persepective. With regards to choosing – when we started the adoption process I was naive and uneducated like many PAPs. When I say I chose an uncomfortable path, I mean that I’ve begun the process of education, learning and that path is uncomfortable at times. It causes introspection. And I will try to refrain from commenting here except from my persepective as an adoptee. My intent was only agreeing with the post, not to start any kind of argument or to trigger anything in someone else.

  9. Those adoptive parents of IA are the audience we need to reach but they are holding their hands over their eyes – they do not wish to see the truth or hear the truth. They don’t want anyone to break their illusion. In their minds, adoption is perfect. They did good. No surprise.

  10. Mediation replaces reality. For those immersed in this mediation, distanced from such reality, then maintaining this illusion becomes paramount. On some level, participating in the “mediation”, and complaining about unfair mediation, seems more and more to me to be running a hamster wheel….

  11. I joined the facebook group titled, “Families with adopted children from Nanjing SWI, China.” On that page, like any other adoption group at the time, the video “If You Wouldn’t Say it about a Boob Job” was circulated. I have some serious problems with this video and decided that, as one of the only adoptees in the group, I couldn’t let my voice go unheard. I responded to the post with only a few words and the link to the Lost Daughter’s roundtable discussion on the video. Instead of provoking an insightful discussion on the video or adoption rhetoric at large, my status as an adoptee was questioned, my comment deleted, and my presence in the group removed.

Adoptees, what do you think? We welcome your replies!

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