“Are you not afraid that your adoption activism will stigmatize your child? What if she grows up and hates the fact that you are so outspoken about this, while she’d rather people not know she’s adopted?”
A close (and pro-adoption) friend asked me this the other day, in the context of a longer conversation, and our discussion about it prompted this post. His concern was based on society’s view of adoption, and the fact that when my daughter grows up, she may not want the world to know she is adopted, yet thanks to my being outspoken about it, the world knows she is adopted!
First off, I did not intend to be outspoken about this at the start. In fact, some of my extended family do not know that my child is adopted, I do not talk about it much offline. My original strategy was to speak about it to people who needed to know, and let the rest of the world assume that my daughter is biological. It is the common and safe way to do things.It is also important to note that once she’s of age, I intend to have a conversation about this with her, and should she express discomfort at my being outspoken, I will take down these posts, or move them to an anonymous platform because her well-being and happiness are the most important thing to me at all times.
That said, I hope to never get to the point where I have to keep quiet about this because I am purposeful about my home being an “adoption-positive” home. See, I hope to raise her to be proud of the fact that she is adopted. I want her to find reassurance in the fact that her being here was not an accident: I chose her, and I chose to love her totally and completely. I want to raise a child that is so comfortable in who she is, that she can confidently speak to her peers about adoption and change their views. In my home, adoption is not an inferior option, it is the first option and something we are totally proud of. Kids pick up cues on what to be proud of and what to be ashamed of from parents (at an early age), and I realized that if I tried to pretend that we are a “normal family”, she would grow up feeling different and odd because she has to pretend and hide her parentage.
As I considered the kind of home I wanted to raise my child in, I realized that I was bringing her up in a world that views adoption as an inferior way to be a parent (and a child), and as something that should be covered up. We still live in a world where we want to pretend adoptions do not happen, or where they happened, it was because the parents could not have biological children. Because of this view, many adopted (and sometimes step-children) grow up having to conceal the fact that their parent(s) are not their biological parents, which can be confusing and uncomfortable for a child. Why should a child be ashamed of their parentage, in an environment where everyone is proud of their parents and origin?
At some point in this journey, I realized that even if I do not talk about it, the world will know that my Little One is adopted, and when they do, there is a good chance they will pity her and assume all sorts of things about her parentage and what she feels about it. So although I will have raised her in a bias free environment, I will have unknowingly taught her that adoption is something she should not talk about because our society is uncomfortable about it.
By not being open about it, I realized I am teaching my child that she is in some way inferior because she is adopted. By pretending she is my biological child (which is what most people want to do), I would be communicating to her and to the world that adoption is inferior, and that we are not a complete family.I realized that if adoptive parents do not speak about adoption, then the narrative that carries the day is that adopted children are flawed in some way, and that they should be hidden, pitied, and shamed.
Finally, I realized that my desire to adopt a child was as a result of someone out there who chose to be open about the fact that they had adopted a child and when I got to know about it I started thinking of doing the same.The above realization and reasons make me want to be outspoken, and that is why I speak out.
I speak out because I want us to stop shaming adopted children. We shame adopted children by assuming weird, bigoted and clearly uninformed views about adopted children.We shame adoption when we ask adoptive parents weird questions like whether they intend to have “their own” children, implying that biological children are in some way superior to adopted children.We shame adopted children when we look at them with pity and sadness in our eyes, while really they are no different from us.As we close the year, let us introspect on why the idea of adoption makes us so uncomfortable, and resolve to speak openly even about uncomfortable topics.