A while ago now I blogged this post, What does it mean to you? regarding what anti-adoption means to me and asking what it means to others. What came out of it was rather surprising (and encouraging) as it showed there is common ground out there between the various parties in adoption and also what damage labelling does.
Recently, with all the furore over the Circle of Moms fiasco, this term has again reared its ugly head.
Before writing this post, I did some Internet research on 'anti-adoption' and what it says to the majority of people out there.
It comes as a shock to many that there is any such thing as "anti" adoption. My reading led me to trawl through comment after comment regarding the so called "anti-adoptionists" and what they believe, what it makes them as people, how crazy they are etc.
Reading through pages of articles, comments, blogs etc has led me to realise it really is a matter of perspective. My own perspective has changed a lot over the years of my life.
I was not raised in a home that was "anti-adoption". In fact, at one point my mum and dad talked about adopting a baby boy from the Philippines whilst we were living there. I am not sure why it never came about but it didn't happen. I recall at the time (aged 10) being rather excited about it - that was until some family friends adopted a little girl and the first lot of questions about natural mothers started rearing their head. What happened to the mothers? Where did these children really come from?
Fast forward several years and by now I was talking about adopting when I was married. Watching story after story on orphanages, I wanted to go and adopt as many children as I could. It was something my best friend and I, at age 15, had spoken about several times as we walked along dusty roads in Cairo, Egypt. Adoption. We were going to save the world's orphans.
Again, fast forward further and I was introduced to the realities of adoption. How adoption has become about finding a child for couples rather than finding a home for a needy child. I discovered what happened to many mothers - the fact we just did not matter. We were disposable. How far this image of adoption was to the one I had learned growing up! Indeed, it completely changed my perspective and challenged every view I had ever held about adoption.
Not only did I learn about the way mothers were and are treated, I also learned about adoption from the perspective of those who were supposed to be at the heart of the matter: the adopted children, now adults. To be honest, in my previously held image, it was never something that crossed my mind. It was all about the good I could be doing for these children; I never stopped to think of the possible damage that could be done and how it might affect those children I was hoping to 'save'.
Through the years following my daughter's loss, I have learned much from the many adoptees who have had the courage and strength to speak out. What it means to be adopted, the fact adoptive parents are not saviours and are just the same as any other human. That adoption does not guarantee the perfect life, that adoption is not necessarily in the child's best interests and welfare. And I have also learned that there is so much more to my adoption experience than my own story. That my story is not necessarily my daughter's story.
So, back to the anti adoption label. Yes, I have used this label to describe myself. It was used in a forum once to attack me and I thought at the time, "if the shoe fits..." and yes, I have to say given my stance on adoption, I thought it apt.
However, what I have come to understand, is that labels are unhelpful. They are used as divisive means and are black and white in their sentiments. People use the term "anti-adoption" to label and box anyone who does not see adoption as a positive. Today I have read post after post and comment after comment that not only speaks about anyone anti-adoption but goes further than that to attack lifestyle, personalities, mental health etc of anyone they term as "anti-adoption". I don't see how this helps anyone. A person may feel one way about a particular issue but then can agree with you on many other issues. Boxing someone and labelling them as a whole means you can miss out on connecting with someone who can actually be quite awesome. I have learned this over the last few years and it is a lesson I treasure.
Although I don't find it easy, I spend alot of my 'blog viewing' time reading the blogs authored by those who have very contrasting views to mine - trying to understand the way they view adoption from their perspective. Although I don't agree with a lot of what I read, I can understand, at times where some are coming from. Because for a fleeting moment, I was there, hoping to rescue children I deemed in need of my defintion of rescue and loving them in what I deemed as the way to love them.
Adoptive parents and adopters (yes there is a difference) are not always my favourite people - I don't deny that. But I don't see them automatically as 'evil' or 'bad'. People are just people at the end of the day. What defines them is their actions and their words and even then, 'good' people can do some really terrible things.
Throughout this week, during the Circle of Mom's fiasco, a lot of walls came down and there has been healthy discussion between those who are 'positive' about adoption and those who see adoption a little (well a lot really) less positive. But then there have been those who are still sitting there throwing out the labels and boxing those who speak out against the adoption industry. Those who do not want to hear the views or thoughts from those who have been affected by adoption in a completely negative way. Instead, like the blog I read today and the ensuing comments, they allow themselves to be horrified at the fact there are people against adoption but they refuse to learn and be open to the why. Indeed many of the comments on this particular blog read today were some of the most closed minded I had read yet!
Speaking out against a system does not make a person anti adoption. Although not wishing to speak for others, my own take is those who do speak out are actually pro-reform of the current adoption system, pro family preservation where possible, against unethical and immoral adoption practises and pro putting children first. It is how I see myself. Yes, I am pretty much against adoption in most forms but until there is something in its stead, it is something I am willing to accept where it is necessary albeit grudgingly.
Labels do not help anyone. They only put up more walls. Create situations where hurtful statements are made which in turn creates more division and mistruths. One of adoptions biggest problems is with how people treat each other. In fact it is the root of the issue because adoption is all about people! The more we open ourselves up to others, regardless of our own views, and learn to listen without boxing each other, the more we can work towards a healthier system where children will hopefully be placed back in the centre.
Not saying we will all agree with each other because in adoption, there is always going to be pain, controversy and anger because, regardless of anyone's view, the fact of the matter is, adoption is about loss. But at the very least, we can learn to respect each other and quit the labels. Especially the anti-adoption label as it appears to be the most used and most divisive one in adoption.