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. 

19 comments:

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    1. Yep! There's beautiful Amanda! I'm so glad I got to see you again.

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  2. I agree. We "birthmothers" need to step in an join the fight no matter how much damage we may have suffered through adoption and even reunion. We need to reach past the pain and do what is right for this generation and the next.

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    1. Yes! There are so many young adoptees who will face the same struggles if we don't fight for change now.

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  3. This post has me in near tears. Thank you for supporting adoptee rights, and for working in the booth! You rock!

    It was fabulous to see you again! You are all kinds of awesome!

    xoxo
    Elizabeth

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    1. Ah Elizabeth, it was so great to see you again too. I'm already looking forward to seeing you again next year!

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  4. Feeling a teary over here. Love this rallying cry post. And it was so wonderful to finally meet you in person, Cassi. You are "da mom!" ;-) <3<3<3<3

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    1. I was so happy I finally got to meet you and that you let me squeeze in beside you on the bus!

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  5. Wow, you have had quite a journey. Yes, we need more mothers--of all ages! to get in this battle for human rights.

    Writing about how we got involved must be in the air. I have been involved...longer than, well, long.

    WE WILL WIN.

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    1. Your courage and strength to break through the boundaries paved the way for the rest of us.

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  6. Oh Cassi, how can I ever thank you enough for all the passion that you bring to adoptee rights? You just seem to "get it". While we're on the subject of New Orleans, I don't think I could have spent any time focusing on the cause in that culinary city. I would want to spend all of my time eating. I have never had such good food as I did when vacationing in the Big Easy :)

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    1. Robin, you and those before your comment keep thanking me and I just hope you all know that I don't see any reason to thank me for anything. The fact that I can, tomorrow, walk into our local health and human services office and obtain my birth certificate without problem while you, my oldest son, and so many other Adoptees, are not allowed to do the same, is clear proof that there is something very wrong in the laws of our government that should concern every citizen, no matter if they have or do not have a personal connection to adoptoin.

      I think Adoptees should expect us to fight for their equal rights because if we remain silent and allow the discrimination against them to continue, who knows what other rights our government will feel comfortable in stripping away from our citizens.

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    2. I was both born and adopted in closed states so at this point it seems that I don't have a snowballs chance in hell of seeing my OBC. It certainly would be wonderful to see the document that proves I was actually born. Also, the mother named on my faux document was not even in the state where I was born on the day that I was born.

      It was coming to these blogs where I first learned that some adoptees are unable to get a driver's license or a passport due to the Homeland Security changes. My amended birth certificate was finalized when I was less than a year old so I haven't had a problem with those issues. Although I did want to change my last name (adding on my natural father's name) as I feel this more represents my real identity. And it is who I feel in my heart that I am. However, I have decided against it because I already have a passport and I don't want to create any possible complications with getting it renewed. So this lack of having the true, factual record of our births affects adoptees in many different ways, emotionally, practically and in terms of our basic human rights.

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  7. Hi Cassi! Glad you were beside us in the fight! Great post. One thing I would suggest is that we all teach this generation of first mothers and adoptive parents (including step parents who adopt)to get a copy of the original birth certificate before ever surrendering/finalizing an adoption. The lack of knowledge of the practice of sealing birth certificates puts everyone at a disadvantage later on when that document is wanted. That birth certificate is available before finalization of the adoption and all adoptive parents and/or first mothers should order a copy. If they can't order it, they should have their lawyers do it before any final papers are signed and filed. My daughter is adopted and I have a copy of the original because I ordered it before finalization. If this became general practice in this country, then it would take the power away from those lawmakers who still favor secrets and lies.

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    1. I do agree that Adoptive parents and mothers giving up their children should be encouraged to obtain their child's OBC before the adoption is finalized. The problem with that, though, is that the Adoption Industry must then have to be honest and let mothers and hopeful adoptive parents know that adoption isn't all roses and sunshine and that there are precautnions that have to be taken before our children are discriminated against.

      And who would do that. Which adoption professional is actuallay going to warn pregnant mothers or hopeful adoptive couples about one of the consequences of adoption?

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  8. I love you Cassi and your whole wonderful rugby team. Your oldest was fantastic in the booth and an all-around super sweetheart.
    You are so generous and kind and wise.

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    1. Love you too, Joy-Joy! And yeah, I was a proud momma watching my oldest in the booth.

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  9. Here here!!
    "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."
    Yup.. that something *I did caused my one child to be treated differently than my other 3? Nope, not gonna stand. I'll being doing this work until I die or we win.
    What I don't 100% "get" are the moms who won't support Adoptee Rights bills because the model legislation does not include access form our end. It's not about us in this fight. The education and understanding overall needs to go further just to get folks to understand that adoptee rights are a civil and human rights issue, we can't complicate it on the sides of moms. Not yet. That can be the next step, but we are just not there yet.
    Can't wait for Atlanta!!


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    1. You know, there is no question that I understand adoption has caused so much pain for so many that there are many who are seeking justice and acknowledgement of what happened to them. But, like you, I firmly believe the fight for Adoptee's Rights need to be very clear about the one thing it is truly about - restoring equal rights to every adopted person, without restriction. If we muddy it up with the other (very justifiable) fights, we risk losing sight of what it is really about.

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