Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Needs, Rights, and My OBC

I have been following some interesting debate over on FMF about whether people have a universal "need" to know who they are. My sense is that all people will eventually ask about the birds and the bees, but many won't care about their family trees, or whose blood runs in their veins. I care deeply. My aparents love genealogy. I was dragged to many cemeteries in my youth. Doing rubbings of headstones was an interesting diversion, even when it wasn't my ancestors.

Anyway, back at FMF I found myself agreeing with someone who said that people should have "a universal right to find out family history if one wants to." Seems reasonable to me. It's a "right" then, not a "need."

A "right" is something that is agreed upon by society a large, or the majority, or elected officials in a democracy representing that majority. A "need" is a personal want that might become a "right" but is not necessarily a "right," unless it is so agreed upon by the aforementioned majority.

I noticed in the discussions at FMF that "equality" was of course important, and certainly I would like to be considered equal under the law and don't feel so as I do not have access to my original birth certificate (OBC), as non-adopted individuals do. In some states in this fine country, some adoptees can access their OBCs if they are of a certain age, or if they are born between certain dates, etc. Adoption is a matter of states' rights, not federal jurisdiction, so there is great difference between states in how things are handled. Not that I think we'd have a great chance of getting our OBCs released to us if we could be heard in front of the current Supreme Court, but then again, I am a Poor Innocent Dismissed Diseased cynic with little faith in the conservative patriarchal system in place. I wouldn't bet much on the chances of trying to persuade Justices Alito or Scalia, who would have the Catholic Church and the adoption industry lobbyists yipping in their ears to preserve the "rights" of the poor closeted mothers being tormented by us uncouth adoptees with our separate-but-equal amended birth certificates. We'd be told that our place at the back of the bus is quite good enough, what is to be gained by all of this nonsense? Go home, children!

Separate is NOT equal. Did we not learn that? We CANNOT separate the emotional content from the rational part of of the argument, however much we dream we can, because we are human. The people men making decisions about this, about us, are human, too. They are prejudiced by THEIR emotions, however much they claim they are not. It's a farce. Humans do best by ourselves by being honest about our motivations and prejudices. And these people, by and large, are APs, or PAPs, or have friends who are APs or PAPs. Where does the power lie? With the APs and the industry. Not with us, and usually not with our natural families.


I have been thinking a great deal also about what Daniel Ibn Zayd has said about the impossibility of true discourse in adoption related to inequality of power. When adoptees are told to "play nice," and treat first parents or APs or PAPs respectfully so that we can all "get along," we are immediately hamstrung. There is no free give and take. When we make comments and are immediately labeled as "angry" or "angsty" or "poor innocent dismissed" or some other tasteless, demeaning pet name du jour, it's hardly the sign of well meaning, let's-get-on-with-it, reform-minded camaraderie. Because it's not about working together. It's a fucking war zone with Bigfoot and alien sightings and grenade launchings and petty dictatorships at every corner.

People cannot see past their noses; they rarely look at the big picture; they revel in offending others for sport; PAPs and APs speak of natural families and adoptees as if they're paper towels. Some natural mothers are downright rude to adoptees. It's disgusting. Why be polite? These people aren't polite. They're aggressive, self-centered people of the worst sort.

On the one hand, it reminds me of that great quote of Gandhi's, who when asked what he thought about Western civilization, replied, "I think it would be a good idea." On the other hand, it drives me to read Frantz Fanon and feel less like Gandhi. I am sick of being treated like an object, spoken for, infantilized; I am sick of watching children being taken from countries abroad and stripped of their cultures and worse. I don't want to be told to be grateful anymore. Why do people think they know what I feel? Why do they think it's their prerogative to *say* what they think I should feel?

Oh yes, the power thing.

And the cycle starts over, because there is no constellation or mosaic or triad or whatever silly thing it is called on Tuesdays. We're not even in it. Because it's not about us, the commodity.

And because we're nonentities, forever children, if we even can be considered children, we cannot have our OBCs. Our mother's rights come first, because she must be protected at all cost, even to that poor last woman in the closet.

Except that we *are* people, and we should have our OBCs, and my favorite people are organizing a protest to convince state legislators that we are people with both needs *and* rights. Please support the Adoptee Rights Coalition (donate!) and contact your state representatives. If you know and love an adoptee, please, please do this! We deserve our OBCs! Just like the real people we are.

Love to you all.  


Von said...

Spot on Mrs M!!

sostinkinhappy said...

You likened this to a "war zone with Bigfoot and alien sightings and grenade launchings and petty dictatorships at every corner."

Absolutely, positively brilliant. This entire post simply amazing.

Unknown said...

Right on! Very well written and relevant with the ADR next month. I am glad you are letting your voice be heard! You rock!

Unknown said...

Yes, well said.

Elle said...

If you mean Birth Mothers Forum by BMF which I suppose you do (if it's wrong then please disregard this comment)...

I think I was one of the people over there that said that it should be all adoptees rights to know where they came from. But I'd like to add to that comment I made adding that it should be considered an option to adoptees if they would like to know about their birth parents or birth family. I say that because I know many international adoptees that don't have the slightest interest in it. That should be allright, because sometimes people (generally speaking) seems to forget that adoptees are real people with different and distinct personalities.

As for US domestic adoption I know that many US states has closed or revised birth certificates for adoptees. You would think that development should have progressed further but it doesnt seem that way. I can't imagine what it would have felt like to know nothing about your birth family.

This post is very wellwritten and spot on !

elizabeth said...

Absolutely! And don't forget some of us have been called "woundies" for daring to feel a connection to our own mothers.

Love to you too xoxo