We will not be silenced

I’m hosting a space for those adoptees (or allies) who wanted to respond to the New York Times series, "Relative Choices" but were censored. Unfortunately, I did not save my comment, as I assumed it would be published. Note to self: Next time when dealing with any traditional paper with a history of squelching adult adoptee voices, save EVERYthing.

Basically, here is what I mentioned: That despite the "humor" and "glibness" of TJ’s piece, I found it insensitive. I mentioned that dismissing the real feelings and opinions of transracial adoptees as a choice comparable to being a vegetarian was demeaning. I also sent a shout out to her daughter, stating that the more than 140,000 Asian adoptees in the US would be there for her some day and welcome her. Then, I sealed my fate. I stated that using the term "Mongolian" to describe Asian features went out of fashion the year her book was published (yes, that was perhaps what the NYT calls "mean" and fyi, that date is 1989. I know my late 80’s pop culture and I remember what a big deal her book was back then too.)

So Monday night, around 9 pm. I see that a new post is up on the Relative Choices blog. Not even 5 minutes after I’d sent my response, several friends online are talking about this piece. Three of us have sent responses. You know what happened next – none of them made it on line.

I’d offered to post the other responses here. These folks are actually smart enough to save their work.

First up, is Sarah. This is the comment she sent:

“Well, you know, if you were still in China you would be working in a factory for 14 hours a day with only limited bathroom breaks!”

This is the type of emotional blackmail that so many transnational adoptees have to deal with, and it is the source of a lot of pain and guilt. Parents who make this kind of statement do two things: 1) reinforce the “savior” myth by showing how bad & dirty the Third World is and how lucky the adoptee is to not live there and 2) guilt the adoptee into being “grateful” for being adopted.

Another thing that transnational and transracial adoptees often have to deal with is being perpetually characterized and dismissed as petulant adolescents, forever “bitter” and “complaining” as this blogger characterizes a recent anthology by some “Midwestern Asian Adoptees.” Being critical of our experiences as adoptees and also being critical of the systems that make up adoption does not necessarily mean that one hates one’s parents. There is tremendous loss (as well as gain) in any adoption, and acknowledging this loss does not mean that all of these adult adoptees resent their adoptive parents. Many of us wonder about our biological parents–who even though we may not have met them (or may never meet them), are very much real in that they exist, or at one time existed, on this planet.

But Sarah took it one step further. She writes a really wonderful post here. Many of the sentiments in this letter to "Willow" were similar to the ones I outlined in my comment (only Sarah was a lot nicer). My favorite part is this:

So yes, Willow, I agree with your mother in that I do think you should write everything down.  Girl, write all of this shit down. So not only can you tell your therapist (there is no shame in therapy!!!), you can tell the other adult adoptees that I hope you will one day meet. Because there are a lot of us. In fact, there is a global community of us. We are out there (even though by reading the NYT one wouldn’t think so), and we have voices, and we support one another. And we would support you. The whole “biological” vs. “real” competition is a farce. Our birth mothers were and are real. I wrote that they were real because they existed on the planet—and I meant to also add that they’re real because they exist in our hearts. And no matter what kind of sarcastic trumpeting your adoptive mother writes about how she is so for real, it’s ok for you to know that our first mothers loved us, too. My Korean mother died six months before my first trip back to Seoul. But I know–I KNOW–that she loved me. Our first mothers loved us, and it’s ok for us to love them back. It has absolutely nothing to do with the love you have for your adoptive mom. It doesn’t make that love any less, even if she worries it will. Because it is different, and being an adopted child is different than not being an adopted child.

So write it all down, because it’s not about holding onto grudges, it’s about processing. Catharsis. We can laugh together at the misplaced humor, at the bullshit. Because this is some bullshit. And you can one day forgive (or not forgive) your mother, as I have come to terms with and forgiven my parents, for their unintentional ignorance, and be happy in yourself and your life as a whole person.

But I do not forget.  Forgive, yes.  Forget, no.  Because if we forget, then we are silenced.

Can’t wait to hear what you have to say one day, Willow.

And next, is Shannon Gibney’s piece.

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New York Times aka “the Adoption Police?”

Not everyone agrees with me that the New York Times post by Tama Janowitz was offensive. Some adoptees found it funny; I didn’t but I don’t speak as the representative of all adoptees.

But my big gripe is that when I and several other people I know went to comment, we were censored. I’m estimating that based on all the emails I’ve received that at least a good 20 people have not have their comments published and I’d guess it’s a lot more than that considering me and my compadres are a small little group of people over here. I have to wonder what the editors of the New York Times are afraid of. This is not the first time they’ve censored adult adoptees in their paper or online. I think that the bias here falls squarely on the shoulders of the editors – namely, one editor (whose sister had just adopted internationally) re-wrote an article that was published last year that was to have prominently featured adult TRA’s and reduced us down to one singular quote, despite a several-hours-long interview with six fairly well known adult transracial adoptees, two of whom work in the adoption field (and yes, I was one of them) – and now, with an adoptive parent as gatekeeper of the "Relative Choices" blog. 

And now, strangely, several of us have noticed that some comments are "appearing" out of order (and so my numbers following this are now going to be screwed up). I think maybe they’ve "reassessed" some previously withheld comments.

Anyhoo – I also noticed that none of these "new" comments were from the more than dozen adult Asian adoptees who contacted me, also saying their comments never made it online.

I’ve noticed a few adult adoptees were able to comment, and hmmm, some of these comments seem very similar to what people have shared with me. Especially #80 which I swear I didn’t see earlier (and it makes me wonder, as DIASL queried, whether it had been "added in" later):

While I can see the humor in this article, I can’t help but feel a bit offended by it too. As an adult adoptee from Korea, I find it offensive that you are essentially telling your daughter you rescued her from a stereotypically awful life in China. To an adult, maybe that’s humorous, but to a child that could be really hurtful and damaging to her self-esteem. Communicating the idea that she comes from an awful country and that she’s lucky to have been rescued by you is not helpful to the development of a positive self-image. I think a better approach in general would be to try to encourage your daughter to learn about the positive aspects of her birth country and telling her you adopted her because you wanted her to be your daughter, not out of pity, but out of love. Also, I think it’s a shame that you’re so quick to dismiss the “bitter complaining” of adult adoptees because after all, those are their own experiences and adoptive parents and the international adoption community in general could maybe learn from our experiences. Adoption agencies have certainly evolved from encouraging parents to make their children conform into mainstream culture to encouraging them to incorporate elements of their child’s birth culture so there must be something to the “angry adoptees’” complaints, no?

In any case, I’m glad that this series is running so that we can all engage in a discussion of adoption issues. And I certainly do appreciate the larger point of this article. Thanks for sharing your point of view with us.

So why this post and not the others? What were the reasons that comments from several adult adoptees and a few adoptive parents were thrown in the trash bin? I will admit right now that my comment was not as mature as these examples I’ve posted here. I responded on the snarky side since I was just following the tome of the original post (interesting that one famous author known for her sarcasm can dish out but can’t take it – maybe it was because I called her out on the term "Mongolian" as a dated descriptor?)

Despite my poor attempt at articulating in a more mature way, however, I’ve read what some of the other banned comments were and I am left scratching my head at why they were left out. Must have been the editor wanted to include more "high fives" for Ms. Janowitz and these lovely gems where we’re basically told to get over ourselves, like #66 who writes:

Tama, I have 3 little boys from another country who are my “real” (really adopted, I mean!) sons. Yeah, I’ve told them if they think I’m as nice, sweet and permissive — I mean, overlooking the drug addictions and alcoholism, that is — as their “real” mothers then I’m not doing my job very well and I need to toughen up! When they think I’m that nice, then I can be sure I’m heading in the wrong direction. [what a thoughtless and demeaning way to talk about your children’s first parents.]

The biggest belly laughs I get are from those well meaning, but misinformed helping professionals who lecture condescendingly about the correct attitude/answers for adoptive parents. [Yipes, I think she’s talking about people like moi!]

Or this one by #57:

I have never understood why they don’t appear to take into account that most of the problems they have are universal. [maybe it’s because last time I checked, losing your birth parents wasn’t something that every child in the world has experienced? In other words, this comment is telling us to "get over it."]

Or, as #82 scolded us:

I’d say to these adoptees be grateful to your loving parents, and consider adopting your kids as I have done. [There it is again, the G word.]

Thank goodness a few other voices were heard too.

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