After reading TAO’s recent post, where she talked about triggers, I suppose you could say, it triggered me. Here I am, the less vocal one, once again speaking up. In her post, TAO spoke of how the term “real” can be a trigger for some adoptive parents. It is a word that also seems to be a trigger for many adoptees, and others in the triad as well. Oh, the stories I could tell, the explanations I could give, not to mention, discussing my own personal feelings on that particular word in adoption, could keep me typing for days. I have so, so many, “real” adoption experiences of my own with that word, it would, undoubtedly, be a post unto itself. I, really, don’t want to go there today, but?
After almost half a century of experience with adoption, and the use of that particular word in adoption, frankly, I’ve found if a person, seriously, cannot see just why “real” is such a degrading, and insulting word to “everyone” in the triad, not to mention, another one of the lies of adoption, and needs me to explain it, it’s probably not going to end well for anyone involved in the discussion but me. I find it a bit funny, now that I’m thinking about it. As a child, I, on more than one occasion, had my mouth washed out with soap, and found myself in trouble for using four letter words. “Real” wasn’t one of them, but maybe, it should have been. (Disclaimer, and in defense of my adoptive parents, because that’s what a good adoptee does: In my childhood days, washing a child’s mouth out with soap was a perfectly acceptable punishment, as was many other things that horrify people today.)
For an adoptee, that, one, stupid, meaningless, little four letter word sure can cause a lot of pain. The fact that, still, today, so many people in the triad need to use it to feel validation, well, it just speaks for itself, in my opinion. Let me see, ”real” children, “real” parents, “real” birth certificates? Really? People don’t get it?
Isn’t it interesting how one, simple, little word like “real”, used in a post on this blog, could trigger some feelings in me, and send me off on a little tangent, yet TAO’s post wasn’t even about the word “real”. Her post was about the words illegitimate and bastard. In my, almost, half century of experience as an adoptee, I’ve had many encounters and experiences with those two words as well. The shame of being an illegitimate, bastard, has certainly caused me some very deep pain. I can tell you many stories of how the shame has hurt me, and others, even before I was ever old enough to understand the role it played in my life, and subsequent adoption. Isn’t it ironic how adoption was supposed to protect adoptees, and their parents, all four of them, from the shame, but never did, never could, and never would? I can explain in explicit detail how that shame cut like a knife, not just me, but, both my adoptive, and birth parents; just one more lie told in the ”real” world of adoption.
That shame still haunts my families today. We did not escape it. We never will. We try our best to ignore it. Yes, almost 50 years after the fact, the shame still has the power to hurt all of us. I suppose it always will.
Adoption was supposed to be the solution to the problem. That’s what my birth parents believed. It’s what my adoptive parents believed. It was obvious to me, even before I could understand, that it was a load of crap. As an adoptee, I felt it, the looks, the whispers, and the comments, just like all of my parents felt it. We will live with it for the rest of our lives. WE will never discuss it, because it hurts us too much. How could it not? Believing the lie that adoption could take away the shame, who wouldn’t want to believe that? We will just go on ignoring it, it’s easier that way. What else can we do? We can’t change it, no matter how we try.
Though I can search my memory for stories and experiences of the shame of illegitimacy, being a bastard, and find many, I cannot, however, seem to find one memory, or one story of how those actual, particular words ever hurt me, or ever triggered any feelings in me. Being called those things doesn’t, and didn’t bother me. I heard them used as a child, as a teen, as a young adult, and even today. Why not use them? The fact is I am a bastard, by definition, and I am illegitimate by definition. They are words that describe the situation I was born into. Big deal. They are facts, not a lie adoption uses to cover up the truth. They are “real” words describing a “real” situation.
Frankly, it amuses me, when I’ve been defined as illegitimate, or called a bastard, how the people who are not illegitimate, or a bastard seem to me, to be the ones who get most offended, and defensive. They stand up ready to defend, “How dare anyone use those horrible words“, but as long as those words are never actually, verbalized, out loud? That’s a bit different. Isn’t it? How many will speak up then?
I would rather someone call me a bastard or illegitimate then deal with the unspoken silence of the lie adoption tells everyone. The truth, and fact, that I was the child of an unwed mother, never hurt or made me feel that I was unworthy, less than, or angry. If I felt those things, it was brought about by those, who think it, and would never, dare, say it out loud. They are who, and what, makes me angry. It is those that think it, and can’t admit it, even to themselves, that irritate me. It is those that pretend to treat you as equal, yet their actions condescend and imply that adoption, somehow, saved everyone, that is what cuts me like a knife.
As an adoptee, it isn’t the words that hurt so much. It’s what people would never dare say out loud, but think inside, and how that makes you feel that causes so much pain. Call me an illegitimate, bastard anytime, any day, but don’t look at me like you think that’s what I am. Don’t treat me like a shameful bastard by keeping secrets in the silence of denial, the avoidance of the truth, the knowledge of who I came from with sealed records, or by continuing to ignore the lies in adoption. It’s what isn’t spoken that hurts. I do not have a problem with the fact that I am illegitimate, or a bastard. My problem is with those who treat me like there is a problem with it. It is that feeling, brought about by the lies of adoption, that can damn sure piss me off.
Side note to Adoptive parents and others: All adopted children grow up to become adopted adults, do you really believe them when they keep calling us “adopted children”? Like that’s what we would be forever? Children? “Real”ly?
“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough”
― Walt Whitman
Oct 2014: You may speak freely, but please try to use words that everyone can hear about your individual story or view. If you don't, those who can actually benefit won't hear it, I want to see change in my lifetime. I may refuse to approve certain comments.
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