I like a good adoption reunion story as much as anyone else. People post the stories (myself included) on their blogs, facebook pages, twitter, with words like heartwarming, beautiful, wonderful. One of the current ones making the rounds that is accepted by everyone in the adoption community; fifty years later siblings meet each other. The other story is about twins separated at birth (unknown to them) – finding each other twenty some years later. That one is also universally accepted because of that instinctive feelings of repugnance at the thought of separating twins.
If you have read here for a while you know I observe people, groups, how they interact, where the common ground is, and where it seldom is. I’ve watched people’s reactions to adoption reunions over the years, and the ones that seem to get the warmest reactions (acceptance) from all groups in adoption, are the ones that happen many decades down the road. There are different reasons for that, but the primary one seems to be that the adoptive parents have most likely already passed away, so it is acceptable for the adoptee to finally know her other family. There is no chance of the adoptive family being usurped by the family of birth, no parent being replaced. Just older people being able to get to know each other, and if it’s only siblings, even better.
Unconscious or hidden biases are hard to dispel, and even if you think you have, they may still exist no matter how much you have grown in adoption understanding. The unconscious bias in adoption reunions is shown in many ways, the positive adoption language eschews the term “reunion” and changes it to “makes contact with”. The dismissal of the genetic connection is still common place within the adoption community with clever slogans, and sayings that diss the bond of shared DNA. That tells me people are still not confident enough to hold their families as equal, when they try to elevate themselves, by dismissing others. Yet when it comes right down to it, the unconscious bias of shared DNA pokes through even the most ardent supporter in adoption – with the mere thought of separating twins, sometimes with siblings, but those feelings are easier to ignore if they too aren’t available to be adopted.
The other unconscious bias is in the response to adoption reunion stories both within and outside of adoption. Some don’t seem to see the loss to the parties for all the years apart when they read an adoption reunion story. You see the lack of recognition of the loss two ways – overall acceptance of stories that happen so many decades later as good, combined with only words of how wonderful, or in the case of the Time story on the twins with this ending comment of: “It’s like a real live version of The Parent Trap“. I don’t think reunion makes that loss felt all those years go away. At best, I think reunion is bittersweet because you know then exactly what you lost, it’s tangible, real, and sometimes, that loss overwhelms your soul to the point that your only option is to shut down.
I didn’t write this post with the intent that everyone should suddenly change their words of how wonderful, I’m happy for you – to reunion stories posted. I think they are beautiful. I’m glad they are shared. I wish they never had to have happened in the first place. I hope everyone looking, finds who they are looking for. I just think we need to pay attention to the unconscious biases we all have, and recognition that reunion doesn’t fix everything…
“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.
Elvis Presley ( 1960 ) Elvis Presley completes his two-year stint is discharged from the US Army. Bank Holiday to Save Banks 5th March ( 1933 ) : To help stop the run on US banks U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced a four-day "bank holiday" . All U.S. banks would close effective March 6 to help stop Americans from withdrawing their money […]