26 January 2014

Faith in Adoption

I am not faithless. I just need to split my faith on the two things that have made me the person I am today.

These two things while different are often paired. They have common goals of love and compassion. They are both based on trust.

Yet, they are used to destroy single mothers, single fathers, children and families.

In the beginning, I was innocent and comfortable. I sang the songs and recited the rules. I told the gleeful stories I was told to tell. My trust was blind.

As time went on and I grew up, I began to learn the truths behind these institutions of faith. I questioned the stories. I questioned the bureaucracy. I questioned myself.

I have learned to trust only those people I have taken the time to know. There are many in these institutions who represent the love and compassion that brought me to them. Then again, there are those who abuse the faith by using it to their own benefit … parsing words to confuse.

My faiths run parallel, but the institutions force them to intersect.

My first faith … faith in God and Jesus Christ.
While I grew up in a Christian home, my adoption did not come out of that faith. My parents did not adopt to add to the Christ counter. I am comfortable and confident in this faith, but oftentimes, you wouldn’t know this about me.

For example, an Atheist friend contacted me to see if I would be willing to participate in an ad campaign for Atheism. (They were looking to show a more racially diverse population.) I politely declined and let her know that I was a Christian. This came as a surprise to her. Rightly so, I do not post Christian posts, Bible verses or Christian memes.

There are many Christians who have failed my faith in keeping children and their biological parents apart, like the story of Philomena Lee. While American readers may think that Philomena’s story is only an overseas Catholic story, they are incorrect.

My fellow Lost Daughters sister had a similar instance with Catholic Charities in Connecticut. While she and her original father tried desperately to find one another, Catholic Charities continued to withhold information from her. Her father went to Catholic Charities and granted permission so that if his daughter came to find him, they could give her his contact information, but when she approached them to ask, they revealed nothing. She and her father later found one another through International Soundex Reunion Registry (ISRR).

This of course, leads me to my second faith.

My second faith … faith in adoption.
This faith is far more complicated for me. My childhood was wonderful, and I was well-loved by my adoptive family. If you have read my blog from the beginning, you know that in terms of my personal adoption narrative with my family, I feel blessed. My life from the time I was 13 months of age has given me experiences that I will treasure until I expire.

This faith has also given me a third family of adoptees, in which I have found joy and sorrow. They have opened my eyes to the many injustices around the world that continue to use children as pawns in the game of religious chess. In the minds of proselytizing Christians, these pawns represent the “irresponsible, sinful mothers,” the “lives that abortion would otherwise snuff,” and the “poverty that no child should suffer.” If the pawns make it across the board to the other side, they will become a revived “queen.”

But the queen is left wandering an empty board, wondering what her purpose is and who she was before. Is she the example of how a lost soul was saved by the promise of a better life? This is the tale told by the churches in Korea as they continue to build more baby boxes. Again, the people of the faith are tarnishing adoption.

These children with no record of their past will soon grow up and recognize the feeling. I liken it to the moment when Giselle in the movie Enchanted realizes her anger for the first time. That feeling of being alive without blinders.

13 January 2014

Our Voices

We speak to educate. We listen to learn.

I love NPR, as most know. I listen to all sorts of podcasts. Today, I was listening to Weekend Edition’s Sunday story about transracial adoption. My degrees in journalism tell me I should have heard two sides. But shockingly, there was only one voice … the adoptive parent.

I listen to adoptive parents. This weekend, I attended an adoptive parent workshop to mostly sit quietly and listen. For many years, my comments about adoption have been, as the facilitator of the workshop called, “The Gold Standard.” The room was packed. I felt comforted that these parents cared so much about their children that they were spending their Saturday morning here.

What an experience! The facilitator handed out small slips of paper. On each, a quote from a young transracial teenaged adoptee. Their voices were being heard one by one, out loud and anonymously. It was moving, powerful. As some parent said, “It was as though these children were in the room.”

Then, the facilitator asked, “How many of you know what adoption loyalty is?” Sadly, only five  hands floated upward. Here, parents were hearing for the first time, things their children most likely would never feel comfortable telling them. Out of loyalty and love, these children and I have kept these feelings and thoughts to ourselves. I never wanted to hurt my mother or father with the worries and confusion of being so racially different from them.

After hearing the very raw, young voices of these contemporary adoptees, I felt the need to speak for them and allow them to be heard.

Matthew Salesses blogged today about the need to air adoptee voices:
“Even in the current adoption climate, the adoptee is caught between, spoken for, treated as a purpose, or a context, as a way to improve the adoptive parent or agency, as something to be learned from or ignored, as less an individual with her own agency and more a contribution to the agency of someone else. … But valuing adoptees means actually valuing adoptees’ voices, letting them talk for themselves and not interpreting what they say for one’s own purpose. It’s like this: sometimes I read these articles by adoptive parents talking about their kids as blessings, as gifts, and saying what they have done for their kids, taking them back to their homeland and how good that’s been for them, for the kids and for themselves. So often, this is all second hand, all the parent’s account. Sometimes the parent talks about what she has learned about her child’s original culture, how having an adopted child has opened eyes to Asia or so forth. It’s unbearably parent-centric—all aimed at what the parent can (or rather, learned. And when an article is actually about the adoptee and yet written as if the adoptive parent what is going on in the adoptee’s head, how do I believe that? How does that parent believe that? I can write an entire book about denial, and even if I knew exactly how I felt, I would not have wanted to make my parents pity me, or feel confused about me, or, worse, try to explain or to fix me. I suspect it’s like that for others, though of course I am loathe to do what I am arguing against: to put words in other adoptees’ mouths, no matter how I think I understand.”
I needed to comment on the NPR transcript of the show. I wondered how other parents would react to one parent’s viewpoint. And if NPR wanted to do a show on transracial adoption, wouldn’t a transracial adult adoptee be a good interview to include?

The comments exploded. Adoptees and other parents of transracial adoptees questioned the one-sidedness. Two commenters felt it necessary to joke about the emergence of the word “trans-racial” by comparing the term to “trans-fat.” This only made me feel invisible and unimportant. Was that the purpose of this story?

Then, the NPR story’s adoptive parent, Rachel Garlinghouse, posted a blog post of her own about the comments. She quoted a friend that comforted her by saying, “It didn’t do much to silence critics.  No matter how many times you put one in her place, two more pop up with more crazy.”

First, this pulled me back to the time when I was a child, and maybe did need to be “put in my place,” but I am a grown up. My comments did not mention or attack Garlinghouse. I merely wrote about the one-sidedness of the article. Garlinghouse didn’t at all acknowledge in her blog post the horrible comments made about the term “trans-racial.” I was outraged at the comment that criticized my use of the word bi-racial (for my own children) and said, “There’s the umbrella-effect, of recategorizing a disadvantaged group so you can maximize its number, as well as amplify your tolerance and solidarity by calling it out, or joining it.” Well yes, how about this term … marginalizing.

I feel marginalized as an adult transracial adoptee, until I am among other adult adoptees. We talk and listen. We are hungry for validation. We are our own village, and we want to help those youngsters who will grow up to be a part of this village. The important thing for a child is her sense of belonging.

I would love to mentor young transracial adoptees … listen, reassure and validate their feelings of being one person with her feet in two worlds.

UPDATE: There was a voice, and it was hers to be heard, but NPR chose not to air it. Why?

More blogs that address being unheard: