I got a blog notification from LINK> Tony Corsentino, an adoptee that I now am glad to be able to read thoughts from. He notes people whose lives begin with severance and secrecy need to speak their truth. He goes on to say that secrecy in adoption makes one’s story into contested property, where truthseeking, not to mention truth speaking, can be received as betrayal.
He says the nearly universal expectation is that adopted people are grateful for their adoption—grateful to their adoptive families, grateful for a system that rescues infants and children from perilous circumstances, from abusive homes, from orphanhood. That expectation imputes a form of dependence to adopted people: that of being beholden to their adopters, and to the system that placed them in their adopters’ families.
Speaking one’s truth is an act of self-emancipation.
Often when an adopted person speaks of being adopted as a less than positive experience, their truth is labeled a “poor adoption experience.” The implication is that questioning the justification for severing a child from their original family must come out of the aftermath of a traumatic experience.
When the question is one of rights, the justification for denying people control over their bodies, it is the point. Storytelling is essential to moral argument. He goes on to note – this is true of adopted people who recount their experiences with adoption. I do not know whether to call my own adoption experience “positive” or “negative” overall. I was taken from my mother and given to people who did and do love and care for me. That’s a “positive,” surely.
Regarding his own search, he says “I did not find my birth parents until the fifth decade of my life.” In my own roots search, I was well into my sixties before I knew anything about my genetic and biological origins as regards my original grandparents. My own parents died knowing nothing beyond their names at birth and some sketchy information about one or both parents’ names.
So, Tony notes – “I have reflected on all those factors—the barriers adopted people face in trying to reclaim their original identities, their sense of their place in the world, their cultural and ethnic roots, their family health histories—and I see no compelling moral justification for those barriers’ existence. Certainly no justification for the lack of support for adopted people who wish to overcome those barriers.” I agree. During my own search, it was like repeating dashing my head against a concrete wall.
The reason why individual trauma and harm matter in the stories adoptees tell is it forces other people to ask themselves whether it really had to be that way. Adoption is the legally sanctioned erasure of the child’s original identity.
Adoptees tell their stories because they believe that they have insights about adoption that non-adopted people will at least find intelligible. Even while acknowledging that it is impossible for people who have not lived severed aka adopted lives to truly understand. As the stories pile up, one has to admit that the harms are not all in one adoptee’s head but are a universal experience among them as a whole.