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Two very personal stories – two very different reactions from the readers…

11 Jan

A very moving, deeply personal story was told by an adult transracial international adoptee in the Washington Post this week, Please don’t tell me I was lucky to be adopted.  The reaction to her story was a fiasco of comments along the expected themes.  Comments from within the adoption community and outside.  The stereotypical comments we all expect to hear if we don’t have the preferred story of a magically almost Disney story of being adopted.  As I write this there are almost three hundred comments.  Comments that are mean-spirited, such as:

From Katy-David: While I can understand that many adoptees must feel a sense of loss, you are exhibiting sense of entitlement that is very off-putting to others. Do you have any idea of what life can be like for girls in India – when they survive, even? How many little girls are missing due to cultural preferences for boys? Little girls who don’t have enough to eat? You should really process your feelings in therapy, armed with some real-world facts on what your life could have been life if things had gone a different way.

MaryMaryQuiteContrary starts off a long diatribe with this paragraph: I feel for the family that raised this woman. I wonder how they feel when they read her self loathing and self absorbed perspective on life. Be grateful you have life for many don’t even get that far as they are aborted or die before being born.   

PeterTribe chimes in with gem that states what really is important:  The Post shouldn’t have allowed this piece to be printed, because it implies that an intact natural family is the best environment for children. That could be dangerous for single-parent, LGBT, polyamorous, and trans rights. Studies have shown alternate family structures to be equivalent, and in some ways superior, to “traditional” families.

Some comments are better, others are worse, far worse, and cover both the orphanage and abortion red-herrings, the you should be grateful, and you are so damn lucky get over yourself.  I’m appalled at the negative comments made by adoptive parents. I’m appalled by the inhumanity of strangers who can’t stop and consider what it would be like in her shoes, in her life.  The societal belief about the savior white adoptive parents is almost unbearable.  It’s that saintly belief that is held about adoptive parents in society whether they are the best of the best, or the lowest of the low, and both exist in adoption.  Being adopted can be hard.  Being a transracial adoptee adds more layers onto just being adopted.  Being a transracial adoptee from another country, adds yet another immense layer.  Then add growing up where you don’t see yourself reflected back, and I can’t imagine having all those additional layers added.  I just can’t, being adopted was hard enough.

Now to the other very personal story posted in the same Washington Post Lifestyle section. 

A personal story about Scott Stossel’s secret: The comments are by a large majority, empathetic, many are about also suffering severe anxiety and panic attacks.  I saw three comments out of seventy-five comments that took him to task  to varying degrees – all had others taking the commenter to task.  None of them that I read asked him if he would rather have been…fill in the blanks…none.  None that told him that other people had problems and he should just suck it up and be grateful to be alive and living in this country, nor that he had first-world problems.

In reality, the tone was different in the Scott Stossel comment section.  People assumed he had sought, and tried, all the different therapies.  People assumed the best of him, and that he was telling his story to help others.  In Shaaren’s story the tone was attacking her personally, as a person.  Almost one of disbelief that it really could have been that bad.  The reality is that even with openness in adoption today, it’s not going to fix the pain that an adoptee may feel.  Can it help?  Yes, but, it doesn’t fix everything, and at the end of the day – your family still didn’t keep you, fight for you.

I deliberately went looking for another article on the same website, and category in an attempt to find out if it was the type of commenters, or the subject.  I have my answer.  Thoughts? 

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52 Comments

Posted by on January 11, 2015 in Adoption, adoptive parents

 

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52 responses to “Two very personal stories – two very different reactions from the readers…

  1. christycanuck

    January 11, 2015 at 11:15 pm

    That comment section was a perfect case study in how natural grief over adoption loss is one of the ultimate types of disenfranchised grief.

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    • TAO

      January 11, 2015 at 11:28 pm

      Exactly my thoughts Christy and why I went to find a similar story on the same website to compare… nice to see you commenting again.

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    • Adoptee46

      January 14, 2015 at 1:33 am

      Amen!!!

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  2. Julie

    January 11, 2015 at 11:18 pm

    I wonder, of the commenters on the adoptee’s article, how many have ever voiced a difficulty/challenge in their lives and been told to just shut up and be grateful THEY weren’t aborted, or that THEY don’t live in India.

    Bunch of sanctimonious, thoughtless jerks.

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    • TAO

      January 11, 2015 at 11:29 pm

      Completely agree Julie – it’s time it stopped. Thanks for commenting – only the first comment goes to moderation.

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  3. belleinblue

    January 12, 2015 at 1:11 am

    So very typical. Get back in your place perpetual child while we tell you what is best, sigh.

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    • TAO

      January 12, 2015 at 1:54 am

      Pretty much…

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    • Adoptee46

      January 14, 2015 at 1:34 am

      Agree, sigh.

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  4. L4R

    January 12, 2015 at 1:44 am

    I loved what she said. It was so well written, yet people still found fault with what it.

    How can we begin to poke holes into the dominant narrative of adoption when people aren’t even willing to take a breath before responding?

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    • TAO

      January 12, 2015 at 1:53 am

      I don’t know L4R – I’ve been trying for years and feel like I’m still hitting a headwind for even the simplest of concepts…hoping the younger adoptees find a way.

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  5. Heather

    January 12, 2015 at 2:10 am

    Just reading your post hurts my heart. I don’t think I can read the comments on the original article. Where is the understanding, the compassion?

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    • TAO

      January 12, 2015 at 4:10 am

      There isn’t any because “adoption is wonderful” and even though adoption can be good – that attitude creates a bias against anything that says it isn’t always good for the individual…the dominant ideal must be right…

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      • Heather

        January 12, 2015 at 4:16 am

        We seem to be able to accept that “things aren’t always black & while” in so many situations these days. Why can’t that be seen in adoption? I feel we are stuck in the dark ages of thinking.

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        • TAO

          January 12, 2015 at 4:23 am

          I agree with you Heather and why I think other adoptees were brilliant in creating the #flipthescript. Sadly though, it won’t be enough to change the dominant view the public has of adoption. Go back in history and see where the theme began with how they actually treated illegitimate people (not just the kids) the adults as well. Adoption was a redemption which turned us into regular legitimate folks and that was the beginning of the narrative of adoption as it is believed today. The lesser were raised up and they damn well better be grateful…even though most, if not all of the laws that allowed others to legally discriminate against a person who was illegitimate disappeared off the books in 70’s – the redemption and good people who took us theme didn’t disappear. Sad but it won’t change very easily – if it ever does…rambling so I’ll stop.

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      • Adoptee46

        January 14, 2015 at 1:46 am

        It’s as if we say how we feel and it makes others uncomfortable we are told we are ungrateful and to be quiet. No one wants to hear that adult adoptees have complex feelings about adoption and unless we have the courage to speak out those coming up behind us will still be contending with the single story and that one sided myopic view told by the adoptive parents sends a dangerous message.

        Only adopted people know how it feels to be adopted yet it’s like we are expected to only have feelings that are approved by the industry. It’s just so sad and frustrating.

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        • Scott

          January 15, 2015 at 5:42 am

          I totally agree, we must do it for the ones that come behind

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  6. yan

    January 12, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    I read the original essay, but, to borrow a phrase from elsewhere on the internet, decided I didn’t have the “sanity points” for the day to read any comments.

    I do wonder if the Stossel article had been written by a woman if the comments would have been different. The personal attacks that anyone writing while openly female receive on the internet are not specific to adoption, which is one reason I’d love to see more male adoptees writing.

    I also hate that there is no room for grey at all in debate anymore, but particularly in adoption. Why can I not acknowledge the loss of my family and heritage — and I didn’t even lose a country and culture — and not bash my well-meaning and loving adoptive parents at the same time? The people who raised me ARE my family, and while they aren’t perfect, they also aren’t/weren’t monsters. But that doesn’t change what I lost, either.

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    • TAO

      January 12, 2015 at 2:27 pm

      Good point about the gender making a difference in the tone of the comments. Public perception of adoption is the biggest problem facing anyone who wants to speak about the duality of emotions in being adoption…

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    • Heather

      January 13, 2015 at 4:52 am

      Well said yan.

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    • Adoptee46

      January 14, 2015 at 1:48 am

      Totally agree.

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  7. Jo Swanson

    January 12, 2015 at 3:50 pm

    I started to reply to a couple of the nasty comments early on, but had to give up. The ones that bugged me the most were the “I have two adopted children who….” or “I have an adopted niece who” or “The ‘real’ parents are the ones who….”

    Years ago when I was a court-appointed CI, I met an adoptive mom who expressed with some relief that her twin daughters had no interest whatsoever in “searching.” It wasn’t long after that encounter that one of her daughters contracted with the court for my intermediary services.

    As for the “happy adoptees” who commented about not identifying with any of the author’s feelings, I was reminded of a scene from a workshop I did at an AAC conference on codependency in adoption. Before I began, a spritely young woman came bouncing up to the front row of the room, chatting with those seated near her about how she didn’t know why she chose this particular workshop; she was “perfectly happy” etc. etc. So I got started with my presentation and had barely reached the analogy of ‘the elephant in the living room’ when she began to crumble. In minutes she was crying pitifully, being comforted by the woman next to her. I couldn’t help but feel responsible for her discomfort – can you believe that? I had made her aware of her issues, and I wondered whether she’d have been better off continuing down the Yellow Brick Road. Then I felt anger that adoptees are put into the position of having to deal with all their damaging adoption-related issues on their own!

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    • TAO

      January 12, 2015 at 4:02 pm

      Thanks for commenting Jo…

      I think there are many adoptee’s like the one you mentioned that have felt so many of the same things but have never connected the dots / teased out why…

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    • Scott

      January 15, 2015 at 5:45 am

      Jo, I totally agree. I have born again Christian friends that pray I “find peace” about being adopted. And all I was doing was NOT cheerleading the ENTIRE experience in our conversation…so to them, and probably most, it seems like I am the angry unhappy adoptee who isn’t always 100% grateful every moment. Barf, Ack…

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  8. Brent Snavely

    January 12, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    What struck me about the negative comments regarding adoption was the vitriol, the degree of malice involved. While there may be a gender bias involved, I suggest a fair degree of American nationalism is involved. Had the author been of European descent by way of phenotype, and had Also been born in the US of A, I suggest a greater amount of sympathy would have been expressed – it seemed clear to me that India was held in low regard by those making the nastier comments.

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    • TAO

      January 12, 2015 at 6:06 pm

      Very good point Brent – another strike against Shaaren. The whole thing just disgusts me that people can be so vile…

      Here’s a question to people lurking – why would anyone want to adopt and subject their child to this type of vileness by the public? Your child will be subject to it regardless if they write about it publicly or just live a quiet life…you can’t escape it….half a century and I still get it…in my personal real life.

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      • Jess

        January 13, 2015 at 3:37 pm

        I’ve really never encountered this in real life from anyone. It’s the Internet that brings out the loons.

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        • Brent Snavely

          January 13, 2015 at 5:09 pm

          Jess, I’ve heard this bile a number of times, primarily voiced by 1. “White” individuals who 2. are (or claim to be) Christian or so well educated as to be above Christians and either 3. Adoptive parents themselves or parents who know adoptive parents.

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          • Jess

            January 14, 2015 at 2:44 am

            I don’t live around too many annoying Christians! I hate that you have to hear this stuff as an adult adoptee. I would be mortified if anyone voiced these ideas to my child, also adopted.

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      • flrpwll

        January 14, 2015 at 2:38 am

        They don’t *want* to, they just don’t think about it. Or they think they’ll be the exception, and love will be enough. Or they just want a baby, and ones from further away are less likely to be able to find their family.

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  9. Tiffany

    January 12, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    Goodness, people sure are sensitive!! I couldn’t handle many of the comments when i read the story a few days ago, and I tried again and didn’t get far. I did leave a comment of my own this time though.

    I am consistently tired of seeing an article wherein someone describes a hardship and then the inevitable comments shaming that person by listing all the ways in which so many others have it worse off then they do. Or asking why they cannot be grateful for what they have. Or telling them that they are wrong and selfish for feeling how they do. This applies across the board- not to just adoptees. It really angers me because I can guarantee those commenters moan about issues in their lives as well. We all do. And we could all be worse off. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t entitled to your feelings in the moment. I’m sure Shaaren realizes she could be worse off- she even says she is grateful for the life she had. But that doesn’t make every other feeling all perfect. If she wasn’t an adoptee, and something terrible had happened to her in her otherwise perfect life, such as cancer, I’m sure the comments would have been more sympathetic. But, hell no, we can’t have an adoptee complaining about their adoption impacting them negatively! That’s not allowed.

    I hope that my daughter is one of those to whom handling all the adoption related baggage comes easily. I know a couple adoptees like that. But I know far more who have, at different points in their lives, struggled with pieces of their adoption. They are still grateful people, appreciative of living in a free country, of having a roof over their heads and food on the table, of having grown up in a relatively ok family. But feelings are feelings, and no one should have to justify them so strongly to anyone else as Shaaren and other adoptees have to do when talking about the losses related to being adopted. I suspect my daughter will be more like that- relatively ok, but still struggling with aspects of it all, just because that seems to be the majority of adoptees. And I’ll not only be ok and understanding of that, but supportive. Because everyone is entitled to process their lives in the way they choose.

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    • TAO

      January 12, 2015 at 6:48 pm

      Thanks Tiffany – glad to see your comment.

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      • TAO

        January 12, 2015 at 8:42 pm

        Good comments on the article Tiffany.

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    • Adoptee46

      January 14, 2015 at 1:54 am

      Thank you Tiffany.

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    • Scott

      January 15, 2015 at 6:00 am

      Almost all of my adopted parent friends who have adopted children have never heard of books like “20 Things your adopted child wish you knew” They go into this SO blind emotionally-they literally have no idea about any of these issues. The industry, I am sad to say, is happy they are not prepared-better to leave out the complications and paint the rosy picture so the deal will go through. I am doing my part in my own little world, planting seeds here and there-raising awareness if ever so slightly. I had excellent parents who did a fantastic job, but there are certain things they could not give me. They were incapable of relating to the genetic interests I inherited from my genetic parents. So much of what I was interested in was lost on them. They could have used to introspection also, it would have made my experience easier to deal with later as I got older.

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      • Tiffany

        January 15, 2015 at 8:54 pm

        Thanks for sharing that Tom- lots to remind me to think about as my daughter grows. I know I can’t be a perfect parent- it’s just not possible. I do try very hard to make conscious parenting decisions, and with the adoption factors, I read a lot written by adoptees to try to understand better what I can never know from firsthand experience. I also have a good friend who is an adoptee who parents very similarly to me in other aspects, so I rely a lot on her for advice.

        I will say my husband and I really embrace our daughter’s different heritage. We speak often of her traits and skills that are unique to her, and we speak about where that came from. “Such good rhythm with your drums, baby girl! You definitely get that from your other dad!” (My husband couldn’t hold a beat for 30 seconds if you waved a hundred dollar bill in his face as a bet!) She has a different ethnic background from us (not an international adoption, just different backgrounds), and I have been working on incorporating different holidays and such to recognize that. I actually really value knowing my heritage; my great grandfather traced my paternal genetic line to our first ancestor and compiled it in a book. So I value that for my daughter, and I’m sad that she is removed from that tangible connection to her history. I encourage both my daughters in their interests, and most of them are not my own, but I value their intrinsic skills and traits. Thank you for the reminder that this is really important for me to make sure I continue to support and embrace those qualities. It’s really something that one can’t emphasize often enough.

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        • Tiffany

          January 15, 2015 at 8:55 pm

          I meant Scott, not Tom!!! So sorry! There was a Toms shoe ad popping up, and that must be where that came from. I apologize.

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  10. dmdezigns

    January 12, 2015 at 6:31 pm

    I’m always amazed as an AP what gets other APs defensive. I see nothing in her article that should make me feel defensive at all. I see nothing to criticize. I don’t see why anyone needs to shut down her conversation, but if I read the comments I see so many people obviously feeling defensive and thinking she shouldn’t be speaking. It makes me sad for my kids. My kids are “lucky” only in that I and their first family are doing our best to maintain connections for them to have when they want to take them over. But that doesn’t even remove the loss. Nothing I can do will change the fact that they lost their first family. They aren’t living with their other siblings. There are 4 more siblings they won’t grow up with. I can’t change that. And I shouldn’t feel bad, insecure, or judged if they at some point feel sad about that. I should understand it.

    I think so many people struggle with understanding any type of dichotomy. They want the world to be black and white with not grey. They want everything to have been “God’s will” so that they can feel better, or less insecure,less judged, less vulnerable, less challenged. I don’t have to question the rightness of a system if the end result of that system is “God’s will.” I don’t have to take responsbility. I don’t have to have empathy. I don’t have to feel. I can stay in my comfortable spot and take pot shots because after all, “God” decided to make it this way.

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    • TAO

      January 12, 2015 at 6:50 pm

      Good comment! I didn’t see anything to be defensive about either…

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    • patay13

      January 13, 2015 at 3:50 am

      dmdezigns – I love your post, and can’t help but wish that more AP’s could have your level of compassion towards adoptees (I’m an adult adoptee). Just curious, what were you told when you decided to adopt? Were you given the usual “you’ll be saving this child” story? Just thinking that this seems to be one place where AP’s start down the “I’m a hero and this child should be grateful” (to paint with a super broad brush) path. And if so, how did you come to reject it?

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      • dmdezigns

        January 13, 2015 at 8:57 pm

        I was never told or felt that I was saving a child. I was told that this mom wouldn’t/couldn’t raise this child. It was never a question of either of them growing up in their bio family. If I hadn’t adopted them, they would be in other families, maybe together, maybe not. I know that I’m the only AP who adopted 2 of the siblings. There are 2 more siblings in 2 other families who were placed previously.

        I’m a step parent adoptee who wasn’t allowed contact with my dad or his family until late high school. I understand wanting to know your ancestry, your history, where you came from. I understand that those feelings I had didn’t have anything to do with my new dad. I felt the missing even while AD was still in my life. I talked about that side of the family on the playground to my friends. I knew I was separated from important people. I was 8 when I did that. I also, because of being shuffled around family for 4 years, understand that it’s not only possible but easy to love two women as mom and that neither is diminished by the other. The heart expands to love . It’s not like we have a finite capacity to love. The only limit to how much /how many people I love is me.

        I hope my kids are thankful for the things they have in their life, the blessings that they have but to me that is vastly different than expecting someone to be grateful. Just like a bio parent who gave birth made a commitment to provide for, love, cherish, and nurture the child they had, I made the same commitment. I didn’t make a conditional promise – I’ll love you as long as you do this. I said I’ll love you no matter what.

        My dad’s dad told me when I was 2 and 3 before he wasn’t allowed to see me anymore to always remember 1 thing – that he loved me. I always remembered that. I’m passing that on with a small change – I tell my kids to always remember and never forget that I love them no matter what. I hope that they can forgive the choices their first parents have made and are making and that as they grow they want to know them (and no I’m not sharing those choices and yes they need to be forgiven). I’m 1 of their moms. They have another who loves them even if her choices have made it impossible for her to be there for them. I forgave my mom for her choices that left me with family and then caused me additional harm later. I want the same for them. That means I have to be compassionate towards their first family. I have to maintain a relationship not only so that it’s available for them later but so that they see I don’t judge, hold a grudge, or condemn them.

        I guess that was a long way to say that my life experiences put me in a different place. And that’s probably a lot of the difference.

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        • Heather

          January 14, 2015 at 1:55 am

          Your words are so beautiful. Full of compassion and understanding. Thank you for sharing dmdezigns.

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    • Jess

      January 13, 2015 at 3:39 pm

      And I got the feeling that some of the defensive comments might not have even come from APs–just run of the mill shoot your mouth off at stuff you don’t know squat about types.

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      • Scott

        January 15, 2015 at 6:06 am

        I agree, in the pre-internet days, these people were holed up in mental hospitals, now these people can sound off anywhere. There have been some REALLY horrible mentally ill trolls over the years in adoption forums.

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  11. Daniel Ibn Zayd

    January 12, 2015 at 7:31 pm

    What we need to come to terms with I think is that the adoptee, historically speaking, and sharing a similar abject status with others displaced, dispossessed, and disinherited, is a “non-person”. It’s no coincidence that pet adoption and human adoption share the same language; adoptees are not seen as valid human beings in the greater game of societal existence. Once we come to terms with this, then we might stop begging such acknowledgment from those whose very status as “existing” is, in fact, premised on us not existing.

    We might find a more valid “sharing of the burden” among those who are also viewed in this way. This has been my experience here in Lebanon, where I have little or nothing to do with the bourgeoisie that kidnapped me and trafficked/adopted me out of the country. I don’t care what they think, and I won’t beg for their recognition. They are a tiny minority after all, and even though they own the media and most means of communication, I have found other ways of being heard, among others whose opinion is in no way as judgmental. This greater Voice to me has much more potential to shift how we are seen.

    Because it’s not a hashtag that is going to change our situation, framed as it is within a dominant medium, a dominant paradigm, a dominant framework. Demanding parity of existence is going to be physical and laborious. Are we ready to demand this? To question our alloted place, and the terms of our alloted existence therein?

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    • TAO

      January 12, 2015 at 8:00 pm

      Thanks Daniel…lots to think through.

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  12. TAO

    January 12, 2015 at 8:32 pm

    I wish someone had told me I had the first link wrong – assuming most already read it (hope so). Don’t be shy in telling me I screwed up – I do.

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    • teddy1975

      January 13, 2015 at 6:06 am

      Google to find it is least work than telling you.

      Daniel, while searching for information about an adopted character (Mariska Gill-Hendriks) from the detective novels by Ivans and the movie based on one of them, I found a request for translation about what was said to be the title pages Lebanese publication of the pulp character “Lord Lister” AKA “Raffles”, could you help with that?
      https://sites.google.com/site/verenigingfumanchu/nog-gezochte-afbeeldingen/wie-weet-hier-meer-van, Scroll down to the heading: “Lord Lister”, the drawing of the head indicates a tie to the Dutch #500/600 or much more likely, the French version starting in 1924.
      That said: wouldn’t demanding the fundamental right to leave your allotted place, to reclaim your birthrights be the first thing to do? It would

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      • teddy1975

        January 13, 2015 at 10:54 pm

        Being in a hurry seems to have rather a disastrous effect on my spelling. In case you ever like it, I can explain what kind of character Mariska actually is. Lord Lister has been described here, though an orphan, all he has in common with really many real life adoptees are conflicting origin stories and possibly stolen birthrights… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raffles_(Lord_Lister).

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  13. eagoodlife

    January 12, 2015 at 10:11 pm

    Reblogged this on The Life Of Von and commented:
    All the usual prejudice, beliefs and myths about adoption and adoptees…..

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  14. Lorraine Dusky

    January 18, 2015 at 3:24 am

    Thanks for writing this piece. Adoptees and first mother being told how they should feel are a sad reflection of society’s attitude towards adoption, being adopted and the women who have the babies. Comments are so often critical, as you point out. I hope a lot of people read the piece.

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  15. Anastasia Vitsky

    March 12, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    Is there any way to contact her? I have looked for her email, Twitter, etc. but have not found anything. Thank you!

    Like

     
    • TAO

      March 12, 2015 at 2:30 pm

      No, I don’t have a way to contact her.

      Like

       

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