Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Oh Those Adoptees

I  was in Chicago last week for the Adoptee Right's Demonstration.  I was there with an amazing group of men and women from all over the country, joining together for one thing . . . the fight to give Adoptee's the rights they deserve.  The rights they have been denied for far too long.

It was my second year attending, and honestly, I want to kick myself as I think back on all the excuses I created out of fear that kept me from attending long ago. 

I had just barely started blogging when I learned of the very first protest in New Orleans.    I remember stumbling across some mention of it somewhere and having no idea what it was about.  I was so naive, even then.  Even after reunion with my son. I didn't know Adoptee's were denied access to their OBC's.  Heck, I didn't even know that they were issued a falsified birth certificate after adoption listing their adoptive parents as the ones who gave birth to them.

And I was a First Mom.  I had reunited with my son.  I was in my first stages of learning about the Adoption Reform movement.  And I still had no idea, absolutely none, that OBC's were sealed away and denied Adoptee's and that birth certificates were forged by our own government to create an illusion - a lie - that adoptive parents gave birth to the children they adopted.

Up until that moment I had foolishly believed that OBC's were kept intact and factual and that some kind of addition was added to them to show that a child had been adopted.  I had never imagined, not once, that my own son was denied access to his own personal information.  That he was discriminated against for no other reason than he was adopted. 

It took coming across information about the first Adoptee Rights Demonstration in New Orleans for me to learn the truth.  And, honestly, it wasn't Adoptee Rights that first caught my attention.  It was the mention of New Orleans - mine and my husbands favorite place that we visit every year - that first peaked my interest.

It took that to get me to learn, to research, to find out for myself just how Adoptees in our country are denied the very rights I had always taken for granted.  To realize my own son was discriminated against, denied his equal rights for no other reason than he was adopted.

Because nobody tells you that.  I don't know of a single adoption counselor or attorney who sits down with pregnant mothers and makes sure they are aware that once their babies are adopted, they will face discrimination and denial of their rights.  That they will be issued falsified birth certificates.  That they will be slapped on the hand and treated like children for wanting no more than what every other citizen in our country is given without question.

So to learn that, to realize I played a part in the discrimination and denial of equal rights for my own child, my own son, was like taking a fist to the gut that doubled me over in pain.

And yet, I still found excuses for the following two years of why I couldn't make the demonstration.  I had no problem writing on my blog about Adoptee Rights.  I sent out letters, made phone calls, left comments where ever I could, but I still held back from making that step to finally being a physical part of the fight.

I had many excuses.  Even last year, before San Antonio, I had them.  There was too much going on.  What if this happened or that happened while I was away?

It finally took my wonderful husband to step up and make it clear that we were going to San Antonio and there was not a single excuse he was going to accept for why we couldn't go.

And that was when I first started to realize my excuses, my lame reasons for not attending, were nothing but fear and insecurity keeping me away from a fight I truly believed in and wanted to be a full part of.

So we went last year . . . my husband, daughter and I . . . and I found every fear and insecurity I had completely ridiculous.  Immediately I felt as if I was exactly where I was supposed to be and I knew then I would never allow such weak reasons keep me away ever again.

Though our time was cut short then because of the birth of my granddaughter who decided to come six weeks early, I knew we would be back the next year.

And we were, the whole big group of us.  All my sons, my daughter and husband, my granddaughter, daughter-in-law and my middle son's girlfriend.  We piled into three cars and headed for Chicago. We went as one big family to join the fight for my oldest son and all other Adoptees denied their equal rights.

This year, though, there was something I noticed and realized more than I had the year before.  I'm sure it had something to do with having my oldest son with us this time around.  With seeing his own experience being part of a demonstration that was fighting for his rights.  Seeing how it impacted him, empowered him, affected him.

It was the night of the sign-making party, after the pizza had been consumed and the signs were complete, that it hit me . . .

There was this large group together in a way words fail to even explain and the majority of them were Adoptees.

Adoptees from all experiences, all different kinds of backgrounds.  They filled table after table, talking in small groups and in large groups as even more filed in, one by one, two by two, even three by three, to join them.

They were all there for one reason, one purpose.  It didn't matter that some might have already had their rights restored to them - or never had them denied in the first place.  That others faced the very real reality that they will never know in their lifetime what it is like to be given back their rights.

What mattered was they were there to fight for ALL Adoptees to be treated equally.  To be free from the discrimination so many of them face.  To change, however they could, the current accepted practice of denying rights from anyone simply because they are adopted.

They had sacrificed, changed plans, lost wages, left behind loved ones, for one common goal . . . to add their voice to the demand that all Adoptees be treated equally and be given their rights.

And the saddest sight was, they were the overwhelming majority.  Us moms (First and Adoptive) were merely a drop in the bucket compared to the many Adoptees who were there.  We were a mere few adding to their fight.

And that was what struck me, what hit hardest that night as I walked in and saw the ever-growing group . . .

Here was this group of people who have not only faced discrimination and denial of their rights, but many of them have faced personal attacks, accusations, labels, from Adoptive and First Parents alike.  And yet they give their all, they don't let any of that stop them, from fighting for, not only them, but the children of those who are so quick to try and demean them, discredit them.  Ignore their voices, their fight to make changes for Adoptees from the very ones who know the reality of what it is like to grow up adopted.

Because of them, because of what they do, there may be a five year old little boy who will never know what it is like to grow up and be denied a passport.  There may never be that little girl who wants so badly to become a doctor only to be frustrated with trying to get her education because she can't prove her identity to the college she is attending.

They fight, they sacrifice, they push on past every obstacle, not just for them, but for the future generation that is yet to come.  The generation that will know the discrimination they have been forced to face if changes are not made.

And they do it in the majority while so many moms of those very children they are fighting for, remain silent in the fight.  Remain, often times, unaware, of those who are giving so much of themselves so that their own children will know a future different from the present reality they must live.

Us moms need to do more.  We need to stop our excuses, our lame reasons for why we aren't a part of the fight. For why we can't be a part of the many Adoptee's who are out there fighting, sacrificing, giving with all they have, for the benefit of our children.

Acquiring OBC's before an adoption is finalized.  Being a part of an open adoption.  Knowing information about First Parents and/or Adoptive Parents is not the solution that excuses us moms from stepping away from the fight so many Adoptees are a part of.

None of that gives our sons or daughters their equal rights.  None of it protects them from discrimination.  And it certainly doesn't equal, in any way, the drive, sacrifice and dedication so many Adoptees put forth to try and make the future better for those who are too young to realize the reality of what it is like to be adopted and denied.

When I saw so many Adoptees together on the night before they held their signs high, let their voices be heard and fought for change for ALL Adoptees, young and old, I realized just how much us moms need to do more, participate more, fight more.

This is not, and never should be, their fight alone.  We are mothers, no matter what side we fall on, and we should have just as much force, support and dedication to making the changes for our children's future. 

We cannot continue to let our voices be the minority.  It's time to step up and join the fight. Time to make sure everyone hears us loud and clear and knows that we support and fight EQUALLY with every Adoptee wanting change for them and for our children.

Time for us moms to come together, do the right thing and work towards a future where no Adoptee stands alone in their fight against discrimination and every Adoptee is given their equal rights.

Time for us to join the fight, add our voices and be a part of the change every Adoptee deserves.