It was shortly after the IKAA Gathering in 2010 that I "retired" this blog, and here it is, three years later and another IKAA conference has just wrapped up. On facebook, I "like" all my friends' photos and statuses posted of their trip. I haven't been to Korea since 2007. I can't believe it's been six years. At the time of the 2010 Gathering I wrote a sad and sobering post about the mixed feelings the Gatherings evoke for me.
As wonderful as they are, there is always a part of me that is irritated that there is the necessity for these spaces. Our lives are lived so much on the binaries of the world that these spaces for adult adoptees only often serve as the only "safe" spaces.
Yet in reality they're not safe. Because the feelings and emotions that crop up easily put us in turmoil. The Gatherings and in other adult-adoptee only spaces are the only times in my life where I feel both simultaneous joy and sorrow. Joy to be with others that have shared my experiences; sorrow that we've felt so much marginalization in our lives that the spaces are even necessary.
I feel as if we are on the edge of a huge shift. I see it in my job – working with adoption professionals. I see it in the community work I'm part of – the launch of Gazillion Voices magazine, the formation of groups such as the Adoptee Policy and Reform Collaborative (APRC), the Society for Adoptee Professionals in Adoption (SAPA), the shift over the past 5-7 years from adoption conferences led by non-adoptee scholars and professionals to ones where adoptee scholars and professionals have leadership roles on committees and boards. Adoptees are now on boards of adoption agencies and hold high-level positions and are doing incredible art. It almost makes me giddy thinking about it all.
I've also noticed that with this growth comes some tensions and, let's be honest, some pushback from those who have traditionally held the power in the adoption realm, namely adoptive parents and adoption agency professionals. This is a natural and expected tension, and one that can be fraught with a lot of anger and accusations and finger pointing. But in the end it is all productive, even when really, really difficult. We must learn that power must be shared.
I recently wrote in the forward to Amanda H.L. Transue-Woolston's (from the Declassified Adoptee blog) upcoming book that we've pretended for a long time that there was this adoption "triad" – and that in most conceptualizations of this, the image was that of an equilateral triangle.
But we know that this is false; the triangle has always in truth been more of a scalene triangle, one in which there are no equal sides. And honestly, the adopted individual and the birth family – have never been the longest side.
So now that birth families and adoptees are demanding – not asking permission – for more say and decision making power, will that "triangle" begin to look more equal? My guess is that no, it won't. Because many of us (including adoptive parent allies) are actually working to dismantle the triangle all together. Because this (adoption) isn't a closed system, a closed family system that chooses who is in/out, represented/excluded – the thought of an adoption constellation (see for example Michael Grand's book or Adoption Mosaic) makes much more sense…the exponential possiblities for the many ways families can look and be.