Your experience is not valid…

01 Feb

Apparently, I just can’t stop this bad habit of reading the comments in an article about adoptees.  I try, I really try, and eventually I go back and read the comments.  Each time I do, I feel compelled to do a post on it.  Hopefully, this post will spark some conversations, it is sadly needed in some circles.

The first line of this woman’s comment in response to the article 3 Black Adoptees on Racial Identity After Growing Up in White Homes her words were sadly a predictor of things to come…but this line is what sparked this post…”First, you have to remember that these three people were adopted in the 70’s, a lot has changed since then”.

I’d like to challenge you to dig deep into your own past, did you have the ability to speak to something really hard at twenty?  Would you even be mature enough to think that deeply then?  How about thirty?  Maybe some of you did.  Forty?  Now more of you probably would speak up if you saw a need.  If the challenges you went through then, didn’t still exist today there wouldn’t be anything to speak up about, and you wouldn’t feel the need.  If you thought that what you experienced then, was, and is still part of the landscape today, you’d speak up too.  How would you feel when you did, and someone responded:

“First, you have to remember that these three people were adopted in the 70’s, a lot has changed since then.”

I’m guessing that you’d feel dismissed, perhaps even a little angry.  That is what anyone, even an adopted person can feel, whether it is speaking about the transracial adoptee experience, or any adoptee experience.  Your lived experience that could have been made easier with more awareness has just been invalidated with ‘we know better now’ attitude.  Sure, you might have learned from the knowledge gained from adoptees of the past, but just because you read a book, or two, and took classes, doesn’t mean you know it, or even believe it, let alone put it into practice in your daily life.

These adoptees have looked around, talked to adoptive parents today, and likely, also had adoptive parents seek them out.  I’d guess that what they found was that just like when they were growing up there were parents who got it, tried really hard, and parents who didn’t.

I look around today, and it’s really easy to see clueless adoptive parents, and those that get it, or at least want to get it.  If you as an adoptive parent gets it, it doesn’t mean that every other adoptive parent get it too.  Even if you get it, a refresher course never hurts, you may find you missed or forgot something really important that could make a difference for your child…


Posted by on February 1, 2015 in Adoption, adoptive parents


Tags: , , ,

24 responses to “Your experience is not valid…

  1. TAO

    February 1, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    Very sorry if you got more than one notification – new wordpress editor is very confusing and originally published this when I wrote the first draft – not when I finished it….strange, my apologies.


  2. yan

    February 1, 2015 at 11:03 pm

    I’m not loving the new post layout, either. It’s harder to save drafts.

    The one big thing that makes me angry within the wide world of adoption is that so little has changed since the ’70s. Anyone who can say that race is less of an issue today in the US than it was in the 1970s is living under a rock in a remote part of Siberia. And it seems to me that adoption has gotten more complicated, but not really “better.”

    Now, I only know about adoption today from reading and hearing other people’s stories, but I’m at the point where its my peers who are the adoptive parents, and I’m hearing the same BS from some of them that my aparents were told. It makes me want to weep for their children. Until we can accept, as a larger society, that adoption begins with LOSS AND TRAUMA, there is no way to make it better.


    • TAO

      February 2, 2015 at 1:16 am

      New post layout is driving me batty – I don’t do change well…

      Racism is thriving from what I see and I’m white so how much don’t I see that is obvious?

      Sadly, I agree with you that I’m not seeing the change everyone speaks of. I think I’m lucky that my parents didn’t go the agency route and lived in a rural area and just figured stuff out…no preconceived stuff…


      • belleinblue

        February 2, 2015 at 3:11 am

        I laugh every time I read that adoption has changed for the better. Until open records are universal, families are encouraged to parent, genetic relationships aren’t maligned we are living in the same Crap it is just prettied up with word open.


        • Anon again

          February 5, 2015 at 10:59 am

          Truly said, Belleinblue.


  3. Raven

    February 2, 2015 at 7:45 am

    TAO, I never thought I’d live to see the day that I’d say this, but I have to come to realize that the world of adoption is even worse than it was back during the Baby Scoop Era. I have never seen so many potential adoptive parents feeling so entitled to another woman’s baby. No thought at all is being given to that future child’s needs – they just keep saying that “adoption is beautiful.” If I try to gently encourage them to listen to the voices of adults who were adopted as infants…and to the mothers who surrendered them in the belief their children would have better lives…I’m called angry, bitter, a nutcase – you name it, I’ve been called it in recent days. It’s making me feel very ill on many levels.


    • TAO

      February 3, 2015 at 6:00 pm

      Raven – I’m convinced there will never be a generation of adoptees where all adoptive parents get it…


  4. Beth

    February 2, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    I find some of the things said and attitudes about “old” and “new” adoption are very similar to the things said and the attitudes about “old” and “new” racism.

    I’ve also noticed when someone who is highly educated on either subject and has personal experience and a long history of it to pull from as well – people tend to dismiss the person in a way due to their knowledge. I don’t know how to type what I am trying to say, need more coffee!
    Like they have over studied, or have fallen for the BS, the biased BS, or the “liberal” BS that is taught at college and in many homes, especially those of mixed race. Like you’ve spent too much time on this not to be biased.
    I don’t think I am explaining this so well…

    I think it often ends up with the “you’re just angry” dismissal. You’re just angry, resentful, that’s why you know (and “enjoy” talking and studying about) so much about THIS part of the subject of adoption or racism…

    Things have changed since then, things are different now, it’s not like that anymore – because we want it to be different than then, whether it really is or not.

    It’s magic blinders. Whatever you do, don’t look to the side, or back, you might see something scary, something that will spook you, keep looking straight ahead only and you will get to where you want to go, without issue.


    • TAO

      February 3, 2015 at 6:03 pm

      if the narrative isn’t what is wanted to be heard it is dismissed – I think every group in adoption is like that to a certain extent…I can’t explain why…we all can’t have our own experiences. If I could get one thing across the entire spectrum – it’s that an adoptee can be perfectly fine with being adopted and their personal experience – and still be critical of “adoption” as in how it is practiced. It’s not an either or thing…


  5. Jess

    February 2, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    So what about the film? Has anyone seen it? Honestly, it sounds awful. Insightful review here:


    • TAO

      February 3, 2015 at 6:03 pm

      Haven’t seen it and probably won’t even when it comes on TV…


    • Anon again

      February 5, 2015 at 11:04 am

      Oh dear, yes it does. Another one not to see.


  6. Tiffany

    February 2, 2015 at 6:22 pm

    I cannot tell you how many times people who are completely and totally unconnected to adoption have gotten upset when I have talked about the negative aspects. I have actually lost friends (not close ones, but still people who I connected with) over it all.

    To the last person it happened with, I said something to the effect of: “How can you deny my personal experience as an adoptive mother and tell me I am wrong? I am so angry that my daughter, as an adoptee, will someday grow up and have to deal with this- this attitude of ‘I know so much better than you even though I haven’t lived it.’ That is what gets to me the most. That she will deal with this. I can handle it, but the fact that she will have to endure being told what to think about her own life experience infuriates me.”

    I got unfriended after that and ended up leaving a private mom group for a while; I only came back because of the moms who are adopted themselves who kept in touch with me and asked me to come back. I appreciated that they respected what I said, which was basically that adoption is predicated on a loss and should not be the first option for a woman in a crisis pregnancy. I urged a fellow mother whose sister was in that situation to avoid certain groups because they were highly focused on adoption and would be biased. I offered some options which would be more inclined to offer help for her to keep the baby if that was her decision. I infuriated half a dozen mothers, not a single one connected to adoption in any way, because that shook the “adoption is so beautiful” foundation on which they based their pro-life opinions. The sister wasn’t even considering abortion, and they still were absolutely furious with me to the point where I had horrible things said to me. When they started talking about saving babies and how horrible teen mothers are, that was the line for me- I won’t have terrible things said about my daughter and her mother, especially not in order to protect the adoption is beautiful crap from people who don’t have a clue.

    I liken this to how white people talk about racial issues- we really don’t have a clue and can only respect and listen to the voices of those living it. But so many white people talk about race and racism as if they could possibly know firsthand what it’s like. The same goes for adoption. For me, it is upsetting because I don’t want my daughter to have to deal with this ignorance. It’s infuriating to have people tell adoptees they have no right to their own personal narrative and feelings.


    • TAO

      February 3, 2015 at 6:08 pm

      Tiffany – you made a penny drop for me – yeah. ‘Adoption’ is treated like it is a religion, not a specific religion but one that is universal across all religions – if that made sense. You can’t criticise adoption because you are criticising their belief system…


  7. christycanuck

    February 3, 2015 at 1:57 am

    TAO, all the “things are so much better now” talk (and just the other day I saw this on a big Chinese adoption site) drives me bananas. I now believe that the majority of APs of Ethiopian children in Canada are not part of the online or bricks and mortar adoption communities and have no interest in culture keeping whatsoever. APs living completely off the adoption grid aren’t just some sort of urban legend.

    And, IMO, this makes this generation of APs far, far more culpable for the neglect of — and damage being done to — the adopted people they are raising. It reminds me of this blogpost from a young adult Chinese adoptee:


    • Jess

      February 3, 2015 at 3:11 am

      Christy, about the adoptee’s statement in the post you linked to. She said “But they allowed my environment to raise me rather than them.” This was after they moved to California to live in a more diverse environment.

      Actually, this is one of my pet peeves: I don’t think it’s so bad if APs turn over part of the job of raising the adoptee to a “friendly environment,” provided the community the family lives in is truly diverse and accepting.

      I stepped back totally once I realized that our high school (about 15 white kids in a student population of 1200) was offering my child so many friendships across the Asian and Southeast Asian community. These were connections to culture I could never provide–young women who, by virtue of heritage, could explain the details of daughterhood, dating, marriage, children, career, and other aspects of culture in Korea, China, Nepal, Bengal, the Philippines . . . the list goes on–in a way my daughter would not only be able to absorb but also begin to put into context as a child born in China being raised by a Canadian single mother.

      She embraced this network with her whole heart. I know she never expected “Mom” to provide these things but she knows I can’t, and I provide other things . . . so I don’t really get the point of expecting your white parents to do that job well in the first place. Your job, as a white parent of an adoptee of color is to connect them with the people who can step into these vital roles and to remain open to anything your child needs to talk about. If you can do that actively within your community, so much the better. Don’t leave it all to the adoptee to discover on their own.


      • Beth

        February 3, 2015 at 2:17 pm

        “Don’t leave it all to the adoptee to discover on their own.”

        Love this comment. It’s been so true to me with all of the kids in my charge. Whether it’s a race and/or culture thing, a separation from family, an adoption thing, I was born to work on diesel trucks and my mother doesn’t know how, I’m a growing artist and my parents are not, I need a male role model, I want to learn from my musical peers…
        Parents can’t leave it all to the child in their charge, it’s not very nice IMO when they do.
        Especially when they say or project things like…. oh billy you don’t want to be a mechanic, believe me, there are better opportunities for you. Art, music is not so important to me, it’s boring, it won’t kill you if you aren’t the best guitar player in town, there are other more important things. You don’t live in China anymore, what do you need to know about it? Google it, you’re part of an American family now…. Black History? puulllease, that isn’t how it is now. Adoption History, puullease, that isn’t how it is now, why bother yourself?


        • Jess

          February 3, 2015 at 4:25 pm

          My kid’s so different from me in several important ways–it just gasses me. Luckily we also intersect on other levels. My only advantage is that I never fit into my own family and was only too familiar with the kind of ridiculous parent-speak you have referred to here.


          • Beth

            February 5, 2015 at 1:28 pm

            “My only advantage is that I never fit into my own family and was only too familiar with the kind of ridiculous parent-speak you have referred to here.”

            My parents taught me that too 🙂 those lessons made a great impression on me, I remember it well 4 decades later. Learning that really has been an advantage to me as a mother.


            • Beth

              February 5, 2015 at 1:48 pm

              It just dawned on me, this is the reason many young people came to live with us, especially the runaways. They all tend to blame leaving home on wanting freedom to do and think like they want to. If what they wanted was good non-self-harmful stuff, they were certainly free to go after it here, with support and help from others that could help.
              It’s the reason I left home to “make my fortune” in my own way, too.
              That and to explore “mother” and “family” further in my own adopted way
              Maybe I am projecting? arrgg

              The first thing I do with a new kid is set them up with as many people as I can, people that know about their thing of interest, people who can discuss, show and help them learn more about it.
              whew, too many kids to think on, my mind is spinning! It’s hard looking back sometimes. There were a lot of hard things to explore and learn. I need a nap now LOL I just got up.


      • christycanuck

        February 3, 2015 at 8:11 pm

        @Jess, first off, these are the adoptee’s feelings about her own experience. She owns her feelings and by questioning their validity, aren’t we doing exactly what TAO just blogged about? Or am I misunderstanding? Are you saying because her family did one [big] thing “right” that that makes her expression of loss about her Chinese culture and language and the opportunities to engage with her parents on the topics of adoption and race somehow less legitimate? I’ve had a few concussions, so if I’m misunderstanding, don’t hesitate to let me know. 😉

        On the topic of diverse environments, I’m in total agreement with you how important this is for any family that has adopted transracially. In fact, I’m not going to win any friends here, but I’ve come to a place with a child old enough now to join the choir of transracial adoptees singing about the importance of not being racially isolated, that I think very few White APs should ever be approved to adopt in all White areas.

        We live in an area of one of Canada’s major city that is about 40 percent people of colour. And this is absolutely key to our family. That being said, IMO I do need to be more intentional than just that. My kids need the opportunity to maintain — and, in one case, relearn — Amharic. This is key to them having many more options when they are older. They also need us to help ease a path to the Ethiopian diaspora community here so they have both friends and mentors within it. And they also need to feel comfortable navigating their home country from an early age so it never feels “foreign” or strange to them. To that end, we go as often as we can afford (darn it Canadian dollar, don’t go into a nosedive here.)

        While neighbourhood is so, so important, it’s simply not enough. My kids need activist parents until they are old enough to tell me to step back and let them lead me “because, Mom, I’ve got this now.”


        • Jess

          February 5, 2015 at 1:20 pm

          You did misunderstand me. I was neither holding up the APs as a model of anything, nor invalidating the adoptee’s experience. I was asking for more clarity around the subject of what an adoptive parent of a TRA can successfully do when it comes to culture. Facilitating the child’s immersion in community that *can* do these things is the issue. I absolutely let “the environment” do its job because it can do a better job than I can in specific situations. My kid’s off to university in less than a year and the last thing she’d want to hear from me is expert advice about her culture. At this point, I listen to and learn from her.


    • TAO

      February 3, 2015 at 6:10 pm

      Christy – I was CHEERING YOU ON reading a conversation you were in – and wanted to tell you so. One of the reasons I decided to go find this draft post and try to finish it – despite not being thrilled with the final product.


      • christycanuck

        February 3, 2015 at 7:49 pm

        TAO, that thread made me want to stick my fork in my eye. When some of us couldn’t get past the validity of Klunder’s tattoo representing HER feelings about her OWN experience, I must admit I threw up my hands in despair. Sorry if I let you down by giving up early!



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