adoption people: take a deep breath

believe it or not, we want the same thing (happiness)

When I first decided to write publicly about adoption, I didn’t realize an active community was already teeming with anger, hope, and disappointment. So many others out there like me, searching for something — usually answers — but more often validation.

Somewhere along the line, identities got tangled up with activism and opinions; our experiences, after all, define us (only if we let them, of course!). Vicious attacks on adoptees, adoptive parents, and birth families follow comments expressing deeply-rooted desires for recognition. It is impossible to know everything about a topic, but somehow this conversation requires unrealistic expert status.

I’m a pretty focused person. I like what I do — bringing articles to you when I can, improving my skills and knowledge — but I know that a healthy life requires a healthy balance of perspectives. And time. I cannot, for the sake of mental fitness, dedicate every.waking.hour to adoption-related topics. They are emotionally draining, complicated, and prone to causing unintentional offense.

Throughout this process, I’ve connected with some truly amazing people. Individuals who, because of their own adoption relationship, developed well-informed perspectives and dedicate their free time to activism. Even if I don’t agree with these people, I respect them.

But I’m not sure why there’s this tension making its way through blog posts, tweets, and Facebook comments. Actually, I do know why, but what I’m really describing is a difficult thing to address: human conviction. We fear each post we make, thinking that unless we fall within a pro- or anti-adoption camp, our words will be used as weapons against us, proving adoptees are angry, birth parents are prone to self-victimization, and adoptive parents are evil.

The truth is, we are all of that and none of that.

There will always be someone more knowledgeable than us, or you, or them. Someone will be better informed, someone will have done more research. This is a fact and it shouldn’t be weaponized.

Here are some of the stickier adoption arguments and what I think they really mean. Note: I am not an expert. I will never be an expert. In fact, I fear anyone who describes themselves as an expert since it implies you know it all, which is impossible. It also denotes a lack of willingness to keep learning. I don’t trust self-proclaimed experts.

“My adoptive parents were great — get help.”
Pathologizes an opinion; invalidates. Said by armchair Facebook psychologists who may have read a WebMD article or visited a therapist. Once.

“You don’t like one particular adoption story? You must hate all positive/negative outcomes.”
Overgeneralization. Also, you can dislike a thing without hating all of the things.

“But XYZ didn’t feel that way!”
Okay, great — good for them. But adoptees, adopters, and birth parents are all individuals with unique experiences, tied up in emotions and the feels. Don’t forget that.

“Adoption is a gift for parents/me/birth family, etc.”
Maybe. But try saying that to a parent of a suicidal/deported adoptee, or a birth mother who was coerced into adoption. Or trafficked adoptees.

“This is the TRUTH!!! about adoption.”
Truths must be rooted in facts, at least to me. It might be your truth, but it isn’t “the” truth.

“Be thankful/I’m thankful. Gratitude is the best attitude.”
Gag. Just post a fluffy, oversimplifying, and self-motivating meme and move on. The damage is the same. Go tell an abuse victim that they should be thankful they’re alive; I’m sure it won’t be pretty.

“Adoption is just a money-making scheme.”
This one is the closest to the truth. Or at least it can be proven with numbers. Still, it’s a debatable statement.

All of these are opinions. They are rooted in facts, I’m sure, but there is no benefit to speaking in absolutes about such a complicated topic. This entire article is an opinion and I’d never masquerade it as a truth.

And me, someone who craves academic research and data and line charts, knows that nothing is indisputable. Research suggests many things but it isn’t representative of the individual puzzle pieces who are floating around in the world, feeling lost.

We are all unique, yet we are all the same. It’s like a version of a sonder that applies to those affected by adoption, yet remains unacknowledged. My experience is no better or worse than someone else’s. We actually might mirror each other quite well.

But infighting is the worst thing we’re doing to each other. It isn’t a competition to get the most likes, the most retweets, the most shares. It isn’t a quest to insult someone’s life choices (or lack thereof). It’s a desire elevate our experiences and make the public care. Yes, the “bad” adoption stories need the most attention; on that point, I will stay firm. I hate, hate, hate the attention adoption gets when it “goes right;” it does nothing to inspire public action.

However, denigrating each other just makes us look silly and sends us backward. We don’t have to be friends, but we have to #JustListen to each other. Even the people we don’t like.


Sunny writes about transracial adoption, race, and the American family. She also contributes to Intercountry Adoptee Voices, an adoptee-led site supporting research by intercountry adoptees. Her first creative non-fiction piece, “the lucky ones,” will be released by Thirty West Publishing House in March 2018. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Can you help me out? I’m trying to understand who transracial adoptees pick as partners. If you or anyone you know can contribute, feel free to write, share, and/or respond!