Veronica Brown is an adoptee. Already her voice is being dismissed by those referring to her as “Baby Veronica.” Maybe she will get used to it. Many adoptees are accustomed to dismissive remarks when we tell our story, bring attention to unethical adoptions and speak out about adoption reform.
I can imagine a few short years down the road, adoption advocates saying, “Sorry you had a bad experience, “Baby Veronica,” but adoption is so much better today than it was fifteen years ago when you were adopted.” And with those few short words, her experience will be dismissed and they will try to silence her voice too.
Dismissive statements come in many forms. You can pick almost any adoptee on social media who actively speaks for adoption reform, and you will see dismissive statements in response to what he or she says.
Just for fun, let’s list some dismissive statements and look at the intent.
Have you looked at it from your adoptive parent’s / birth parent’s perspective?
I’m just challenging you to see the other side.
These statements or questions imply that we are selfish to advocate for the adoptee. It tells us that our viewpoint (as children) does not matter and that we are responsible for the interpretation of our experience as negative or positive rather than looking at the facts. In reality, adoptees have spent lifetimes protecting the feelings of others. If the adoptee is sharing his or her feelings, show respect for the individual experience – the adoptee.
Our adoption is completely open.
This statement is usually from an adoptive parent. It claims that, if the AP is happy, all is well. If you are an adoptive parent, you may think all is well, but if you take time to read adoptee or birth parent blogs and really listen, you may find that line of thinking challenged.
Instead of complaining, how are you working for change?
This immediately dismisses what an adoptee is saying in the moment and places the adoptee in the position of defensiveness. It’s a ‘stop chasing that, and go chase this’ distraction. Adoptees work tirelessly for change. We are involved in adoptee rights campaigns, we write, we debate, we raise awareness, we publish articles, we create movies, we provide support, we answer questions and we interact with those that despise us. Trust me, adoptees are working for change.
It seems I’m hearing from females more than male adoptees.
If we aren’t being legitimized by males, it’s just a bunch of females bitching, right?
Seriously though, in general there are three reasons males may not speak out as often. First, ingrained loyalty to their adoptive family. Second, males have an expectation of being strong and not showing emotion. Last, males carry their adoptive family last name and the loyalty expectation becomes even more intense with that responsibility.
Don’t you think some adoptions work out well?
This is a “look on the bright side” type statement that is dismissive of the feelings I am sharing with you in the moment. It’s difficult for adoptees to be vulnerable and share their raw feelings. It’s like opening a wound. When they do this, they are trusting that you will not pour salt in the wound. Just listen. If you don’t know of anything else to say, just say “I hear you.” It may be the first time to feel validated for many.
Maybe you feel this way because you came from a closed adoption.
Maybe you feel this way because you had a bad adoption experience.
If any of us looked back and thought we had been through an isolated experience, we wouldn’t be advocating for changes now. We still see problems within the adoption industry, today. It’s not about a one time, one person event. Yes, we share our story. We want to let others in. We want you to see the effects. Do not try to shame us for that.
We’ve all had pain and suffering in life.
Pain is not a competition. Yes, we have all experienced pain. If you speak out on an injustice done to an entire group of people, I am sure you would want others to pay attention. We are doing the same thing. We want others to listen, learn and change. It’s about education. You can understand my reasoning even if you cannot understand my exact experience.
Love in the home conquers all.
There is a documentary called Girl, Adopted about a girl adopted from Ethiopia. As I watched it, my heart broke for the girl that was adopted. Not because she wasn’t loved by her adoptive parents, but because of the complex emotional turmoil she goes through. Her adoptive parents loved her, but do not deceive yourself into thinking that love will conquer adoption issues.
You are an angry adoptee.
This statement is meant to shame me into shutting up. It won’t work. We have had this label applied to us so often, we’re almost immune to it. Yes, we are angry. We are angry about many things. Thus the reason we speak out. We will continue to speak out as long as we are angry.
We’re all adopted by the Lord.
Aren’t you glad you weren’t aborted?
Raising up a child in the ways of the Lord will help him to adjust.
Who better to respond to these statements than a pastor who is also an adoptee? Deanna Shrodes has written about these statements at her site, Adoptee Restoration, much more eloquently than I could ever hope to, so please click HERE or HERE to read more!
And now, the most popular and most used dismissive statements:
Not all adoptees feel that way.
You don’t speak for all adoptees.
Your story isn’t every adoptee’s story.
These statements are used as a first line defense by those less experienced in adoption debate, or a last line of defense when a person has run out of all other arguments. They are meant to shut the adoptee up, once and for all.
The intention is to marginalize the adoptee. It takes the chorus of voices and separates them. Once the voices are separated, it becomes easier to ignore or attack the single voice. Nice strategy.
Technically, these statements are correct, but here is one last thought, at what point do we begin to listen to a chorus of adoptees all singing the same song. Dismiss the chorus if you like and continue waiting for the solo, but the chorus is loud, strong, and powerful.
The purpose of dismissive statements is to individualize the experience and deny any link to a larger group feeling.
Adoptees feel loss.
Adoptees feel grief.
Adoptees feel pain.
There. I said it. I generalized.
I have spent a lot – A LOT – of time reading, learning, hearing and just taking in what adoptees write and say. There is a chorus of voices. I am justified in making some generalizations.
You go spend no less than 8 – 10 hours (sometimes more) every day hearing what adoptees say with no judgments, no thinking about what you want to say. Just listen. Then come back and tell me how wrong I am in making these generalizations.
I have honestly hit a wall on being dismissed. Not only for myself, but also for my fellow educated, well spoken, honest, selfless adoptee friends. We speak to you. We want you to listen.
But if you find that you just cannot hear us at all, please do not dismiss us.
Dismiss yourself from the conversation.
*Comments are open to adoptees who would like to add additional dismissive statements and their reactions to those statements.*