Dismissive Statements

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.

 

Guess what?

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.*

20 thoughts on “Dismissive Statements

  1. Renee Lynne

    “My coworker/cousin/neighbor/schoolmate/employee/maid/friend is adopted, and she’s super happy and grateful. She loves being adopted. She thinks it’s super awesome. She has no interest in finding her “birth” family.”

    Yes, because your coworker/babysitter/cousin/neighbor/schoolmate/employee/maid/friend shares all her deepest personal feelings about her deepest personal family situation with you.

    Let me assure everyone of one thing: Most adoptees don’t share their deepest feelings about adoption with ANYONE. Not even their own family members. And certainly not their coworkers/cousins/neighbors/schoolmates/bosses/maids/etc.

    And why not? Because it sucks being a traumatized adoptee in an adoption loving world. http://www.rebeccahawkes.com/2013/02/the-strange-strange-life-of-traumatized.html

    My adoptive parents went to their graves never knowing how I felt about being adopted. They never knew of my grief or my pain or my longing. They never knew I searched, they never knew I found, they never knew I reunited, they never knew squat. Neither did anyone else in my adoptive family. Neither did most of my friends.

    Reply
  2. Renee Lynne

    I especially love it when adoptive parents claim their adopted children are perfectly well-adjusted and happy and grateful and completely fulfilled with no desire to search/reunite.

    I always think about how my adoptive parents used to tell people that about us.

    Reply
  3. Jamie buday

    These dimissals of us, our experiences, our feelings, and desires to be a part of what I call “The Big Hush”. The PR push of how “wonderful” adoption is (and all of the other lies that surround the adoption industry) relies on the “hushing” of those it hurts the most; adoptees and first families.

    Be loud. Speak your truth!

    Reply
  4. Carrie

    Thank you, Kat! Bravo.

    This post is EXACTLY what I’ve been looking for (when 140 characters just won’t do).

    The combo that bothers me most is: “I’m sorry *you* had a bad experience. Not every adoptee feels that way. You don’t speak for all adoptees, ” because:

    1. Usually the person saying such is not in the least bit sorry or empathetic to my experience.

    2. As adoption experiences go, mine would never be classified as “bad”. I was well-provided for. I felt loved, and wanted. I suffered no abuse, neglect or discrimination within my family.

    There’s an assumption that adoption, in general, is an absolute good, without acknowledging that separating an infant from it’s mother is disorienting & traumatic to the child. I believe it’s more true that all adoptees HAVE had a “bad” experience (original relinquishment), although many are resilient, and survive and thrive DESPITE being relinquished/adopted.

    3. I would bet that most adoptees who feel perfectly “fine & happy” with adoption have not met any of their biological family, and thus have nothing to compare their adopted lives to.

    Until I reunited with my birthfather, I was the poster-child for happy adoptees. I was completely unaware of the pervasive sense of rootlessness I’d lived with my whole life. Upon reunion, I suddenly recognized holes being filled in that I didn’t even realize had existed.

    Cut off from our families of origin, from our genetic heritage, adoptees live in a strange twilight of not-knowing who we are at a basic human level. We develop a sense of self as best we can and call it good. If we never get the full light of truth about our origins, how could we know the extent of the darkness we’ve been living in?

    4. See Renee Lynn’s comment above!

    If I concede that I do not speak for all adoptees (which I do), will you please concede that your happy adoptee friend ALSO does not speak for all adoptees? There is a larger perspective which holds both as valid, but it makes for a more complicated picture of adoption.

    Reply
  5. Wickedmom

    This statement is not meant in anyway to minimize any of the above statements, but as a natural mom I hear the same crap.. I told I’m bitter because my adoption plan didn’t work out… I don’t even know what an adoption plan is. I’m told my daughter was better off and it is my attitude that has sent her into silence, not the trauma of her being a late discovery adoptee. I am told I should have thought about this before I engaged in sex.. Clearly when I was 16 and having sex I should have thought about the long term effect of relinquishing my child to people who lied to her.. Duh…

    Reply
  6. Samantha

    Thank you for this thoughtful post.
    I try to remember that Dr. Martin Luther King, Alice Paul, Susan B. Anthony, Wilberforce, Moses, and so many others were also dismissed when they spoke out about the injustice of their people a whole. It didn’t make their work any less important, even though very difficult.

    Reply
  7. Sara Woods

    The grateful comment – “I know adoptees and trans-racial adoptees and let me assure you that they are happy and very grateful to be adopted.” Grateful! Why do they have to be grateful? I always ask, do you have to think be “grateful” about your family situation? Grateful you weren’t aborted? Grateful to have clothes and food and a roof over your head? Do you think about these things everyday? Because an adopted child is supposed to. Grateful.

    Reply
  8. Lorraine Dusky

    Oh! I totally love love this post. Can a first mother comment?

    We first mothers hear different words but the same kind of silencing attitude when we actually speak up–You should move on. You have to leaver “her” or “him” alone. Isn’t what you’ve done “selfish?” (That is, reunite.) My cousin/aunt/best friend’s daughter/hair dresser’s son is adopted and he’s never mentioned that he is unhappy. He’s perfectly adjusted….(therefore you are a fuck up for speaking up). What do her adoptive parents think? Everybody has problems–get over it.

    Kudos for this post, again.
    lorraine

    Reply
  9. Sara Knight

    I cannot tell you how many times over the course of my life casual family friends and strangers alike would rush to dismiss my curiosity and frustration of wanting to find out more about my origins. Since the time when I was a very young child, I had infinite questions about my coming into this world and got no real answers. There are many assumptions that others make about adoptees, and a general societal push that encourages us to embrace the belief that we should be infinitely grateful for our lot in life without any hint of regret or reservation. Adoptees, who are told that they were adopted, were often indoctrinated to believe that asking questions about origins was somehow a betrayal to our families.
    This notion took hold in my head so that whenever I asked my parents questions, I was reminded that the only thing that really mattered was that I have a family that loves me. I was also told that being adopted meant that I am the same as anybody else in the world when it comes to family, self-identity, and genealogical history.

    At present, I have a very positive and stable relationship with the family that I was raised in. My parents are my parents. But when I had my own biological children, I noticed a slight albeit significant difference between the relationship that I had with my adoptive parents growing up, and the one I have now with my natural children. It is hard to articulate without my feeling guilty that I am insulting the very people who raised and supported me. But the difference is that there is a primal connection. My husband and I with our two children are a wolf pack. We are so similar in temperament, talent, taste, and sense of humor as well as looks, mannerisms, and body types. This simply did not exist in the family I was raised in no matter what my amended birth certificate reads.

    So “not knowing anything about my familial background” was simply the only truth that I had ever known. There were many years where I would tell others that I chose “not to search”. I bought into the narrative that “It doesn’t matter where you came from, you are here, your parents are your parents, case closed”. This reality weighed down upon me like a heavy blanket; it was both comforting as it was stifling. The truth was that I was always searching and hoping to find my B-mom; I just constantly hit enormous bureaucratic barriers every time I tried.

    I was finally able to connect with my B-mom at the age of 34 and have now been very happily reunited with my B-mom, half siblings and extended family for the past 8 and half years. In fact, I am flying out to see them all next week for a quick weekend visit. The “funny” about being a well-adjusted adoptee was that I didn’t even realize the issues that I had until she and I were reunited. I had denied that I had a “Primal Wound” even as I read the book by that title, when in fact I did. It has been a long process going through the stages of grief that followed our reunion. My A-Mom and my B-mom are two of my closest friends, but as I like to remind my A-mom periodically, I can yell at her whereas, I am still always and like will forever be on my best behavior with my B-mom. And that’s okay.

    I think Closed adoptions are particularly damaging. Yes, not everyone is born into an ideal set of circumstances. I am forever thankful for the nurture, love and support that my A-parents (my parents), but having had some access to finding answers years ago would have made so many things easier.

    Ultimately, it was the denial of access or any information that time and again explicitly reminded me that I was somehow damaged goods. It was not for me to know. How dare I question? Where is my Loyalty to the family that raised me? “It doesn’t matter where you came from”, “it shouldn’t matter where you came from.” This information is being kept secret for a reason. The truth could destroy you (This was one that I was reminded of time and again.)

    To this day there is nothing worse to me than secrets and lies. I can handle any truth about myself, the world, anything. It is the LIES, obfuscation, denial of access that throws me over the edge no matter the subject at hand. I want to know, deserve to know the truth like any other person in the world.

    Reply
  10. Lee H.

    ^^Carrie….did you write that post as me? I feel the same way. I did have a feeling that I was lost and longing but then I pushed those feelings down as well. I had read Betty Jean Lifton’s Lost and Found: The Adoption Experience like 10 times, but I could not speak out loud that I had any problem being adopted. In Annie I always prayed that Annie would get to meet her real/original parents and still have a good relationship with Daddy Warbucks.

    Meeting my dad and seeing my adoption file, finding out my “story” changed me forever, and for good. My adoptive parents though loving could not fill these holes….in any and every family love can’t “fix” everything. My dad is my real dad…I get to decide what to call him. My parents who raised me are still real in one sense, but I get to feel what I feel about my own life. I should not be required to make myself feel what’s expected…that just does not work in spite of my living that way for over 40 years.

    So happy for you (and for me!).

    Reply
    1. Carrie

      Wow, Lee! That’s amazing.

      All of these comments show me there truly is a rising chorus of similar adoptee stories, but it’s especially validating to know there’s someone else whose experience so closely mirrors mine.

      Now, if I hear “Not ALL adoptees feel like you,” I can honestly answer, “True. But SOME do.”

      Thank you!

      Reply
      1. Lee H.

        I just love my dad…he is my dad! And meeting him has gotten me in a position to see how much God really loves me. I never thought I would truly feel that, but I do. And I, too know that all our stories are so different. I think that is why there is so much emotion among adoptees…each story is so unique. I have to claim my story and choose for myself what to do with it….it could have been different, but it wasn’t. The things that happened, happened, and how I respond is up to me.

        Love to you Carrie…so glad you love your dad like I do.

        Reply
  11. Catana Tully

    This is a meaningful blog. I have been following your entries and find them all thoughtful and absorbing. Only after years of therapy did I realize that my life was not as charmed as I had been made to believe by friends and family. Mine was a good experience, simply put. But the pain of having been given up, was so deep and intense that I actually don’t feel a lot of physical pain. I also remain emotionally detached when others flow over in tears. Today, after I have written about my experience, those friends and family members are amazed at the reality I lived through without ever sharing with anyone how I really felt.

    Reply
    1. Lynn

      Catana, I loved your writing in the Perpetual Child (I am a co-author in that project). The images you provided of your birth father and your meeting him are forever etched in my mind! Thank you!

      Reply
      1. Catana Tully

        How sweet to hear from you, Lynn! thank you for taking the time to comment. I’m pleased you read an excerpt from my book Split at the Root. The Perpetual Child is on its way to my mailbox. Look forward to your entry!

        Reply
  12. Sarah Morris

    “But adoption is such a blessing. I know someone who adopted a child and they are so happy and love the child so much and feel so grateful and blessed.”

    They are, of course, completely ignoring and disallowing that other people, including the so-called “blessing” have suffered a great, life-altering loss. Personally, I don’t care if the adopters are happy with their purchase and are (on the surface) good caregivers. Until adoption is only for children who don’t have a family and for whom all avenues have been exhaused to help their own family keep them – not to fill orders of adopters who can pay, or to create orphans in a country that doesn’t conceive of orphans the same way (so that those who can pay can join the vast mutual admiration society of international child-purchasers) – it will remain a victimizing mess that does nothing to meet the needs of children.

    Reply
  13. kat

    I have had a lot of other adoptees tell me their ok about it, I believe they are in deniel when they do this, if you asked me in my 20s I would have said dnt know don’t care- total avoidance on my behalf, now in my 30s and with chn of my own I know how much damage has happened to me and that Brainwashing occurs, how coudnt it get a baby from birth and that’s what happens

    Reply
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