The Problem Isn’t Just People Against Gay Adoption; It’s People Against Adoption

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I was adopted.

Are you surprised? A lot of people are when I reveal this super intimate detail. “Oh,  I didn’t know,” they say.

To answer your other questions: I’ve always known, and I have no interest in meeting my genetic parents. My parents are my parents and I love them very much. Oh, and yes, I do like to pretend I might be the second coming of Christ. (How do you know I’m not?)

But let’s step back. What was with that reaction to the news that I’m an adoptee? Do folks have have certain expectations about adoptees that are disrupted by my coming out? Did they expect it would somehow be obvious, or that if they knew me well enough it would be something they could tell?

The funniest (or not so funny, as I’ll be exploring below) moments are when folks will tell my mom how much I look like her. (I don’t know—we’re both tall, I guess.) She’ll just smile and say, “Well, actually, Zack was adopted.” They immediately get embarrassed and apologetic. I don’t think it’s just because they realize their assumption was wrong; I think there’s some disappointment there. There is an inherent expectation that I have some special connection to my parents that they now know I don’t have. (By the way, you can see from my pic that I really don’t look at all like my father. Sorry, Dad!)

The most recent assessment of attitudes about adoption revealed that there is still a lot of stigma in our society—probably more than you think. The 2002 National Adoption Attitudes Survey (PDF) found some startling results about public perceptions. Unsurprisingly, folks have greater concerns about young people who’ve been through foster care, but even some of the numbers for adopted-at-birth children are disconcerting. A third think we adoptees are less likely to be well-adjusted or self-confident, and a fifth think we’re less likely to be happy.

Well-adjusted… well-adjusted… why does that sound familiar?

Oh, right. It’s the argument used against same-sex adoption. In fact, a lot of the opponents of gay adoption will often say things like, “A child does best with his or her birth parents.” Or as Georgia gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel recently said, gay parenting is not “in the best interest of the child.” (Handel has a runoff election for the Republican candidacy coming up on August 10, in case you’re curious.)

No voice has been more virulent against gay adoption recently than that of Bill McCollum. As the Florida Attorney General, he pushed for the hiring of George Rekers to testify on behalf of Florida’s ban on gay adoption. (Rekers, you may recall, is a fan of rentboy “luggage carriers”, suggesting that his anti-gay views aren’t so legitimate—as if any are.) Now that McCollum is running for governor, he’s struggling to defend the $87,000+ in taxpayer dollars used to cover Rekers’ not-so-expertly expenses. Here’s the latest from McCollum:

I don’t believe the gay family model is good for the kids. First of all, it’s my religious views and my principles, so I’m just personally against it. I’m not going to argue with you further the merits; there’s no point in it. You and I perhaps disagree, but I just don’t think it’s a good model.

Now, of course, when it comes to gay and lesbian adoption, there is the added stickiness of archaic gender expectations. But fundamentally, most people who speak against adoption by same-sex couples use the same language that stigmatizes all adoptions. This is how we need to frame the debate.

If you’re curious, another study came out this week confirming that children of lesbian and gay couples do just as well (news article and PDF of the study). Here’s what researchers at the University of Virgina learned (p. 11-12):

Our findings revealed, for the first time, that young children adopted early in life by lesbian and gay parents were as well-adjusted as those adopted by heterosexual parents. Our results suggest that lesbian and gay adults can and do make capable adoptive parents. We found no significant differences among families headed by lesbian, gay, or heterosexual parents in terms of child adjustment, parenting behaviors, or couples’ adjustment. In addition, reports of children’s outside caregivers were consistent with those of  parents. It is important to note in particular that gay fathers and their children appeared to be faring as well as were lesbian and heterosexual parents and their children. These findings add to the very limited existing research on gay fathers and their children, as well as to the relatively sparse research on adoptive families with lesbian and gay parents. In all, our results both lend support to earlier research with lesbian- and gay-parented families, and extend these findings to adoptive and gay-father families.

While it’s nice to see some confirmation (finally!) for our gay dads, this study is nothing new. There have been many that show the same thing. Some even show that children of same-sex couples do better than children of heterosexual couples.

But these studies aren’t going to shift the argument. You see, I think people who oppose gay adoption oppose all adoption. They might not even realize it, but there’s definitely bias there. It’s no different than when John Briggs tried to ban gay teachers by suggesting they were pedophiles. Harvey Milk pointed out to him that heterosexuals were just as likely to be pedophiles, so it was a moot point. Still, Briggs thought it good reason to attack the gays (and the Catholic Church still does). Just as folks who oppose gay pedophiles oppose all pedophiles, folks who oppose gay adoption oppose all adoption. It’s the same exact scapegoating of gays and lesbians.

The proof is obvious. Look at David Blankenhorn, “star” witness for the defense of Prop 8. He supports gay adoption. He said as much at the trial. We shouldn’t be surprised. I’m sure, among all the goofy literature and pseudo-research he works with at his Institute for American Values, there have to be a few nuggets of truth. He sees how adoption can be good, and so can’t come up with a reason why gay adoption is bad.

Our problem isn’t people against gay adoption. Our problem is people against adoption. It’s the little bit of privilege and stigma revealed by the surprise when I tell someone I’m adopted—as if it’s some big deal (it’s not). People don’t trust adoption, and they use it as an excuse to attack same-sex couples in their family.

Next time you hear someone challenging gay adoption, go through all the motions. Remind them of all the data that proves they’re wrong. Show them pictures of loving families (like Scott, Robert, and Riley who I met at the National Equality March). Correct all their assumptions about the importance of gender roles. But then, make sure you also challenge them on adoption in general. The attacks on gay adoption aren’t just hurting same-sex couples; they hurt all of us connected to adoption and all the children waiting to be adopted.

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There are 38 Comments to "The Problem Isn’t Just People Against Gay Adoption; It’s People Against Adoption"

  • david says:

    That’s a link to a story on “Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters” about Lou Marinelli, a “strategic” partner with NOM and speaker at their rallies this summer. The story is about him and NOM trying to distance themselves from each other (his rhetoric is too harsh or something like that? meh), but it quotes him calling out a (beautiful) family consisting of two dads and their child. He goes to great lengths to explain that the child is “not their child” … with the statement “They were white the baby was not.”

    I was struck by how dramatically the full quote (the article also links to his own site, which I am loathe to do) betrays a distrust of the institution of adoption in general.

    Anyways, your post reminded me of it – good job pointing out the biases / privileges concerning adoption. What in your opinion would be a positive response to someone saying “I’m adopted?”

  • ZackFord says:

    Well, it’s not my place to say for all people. I think what’s important is that you try to be aware of how comfortable individuals seem to be about it themselves. (For example, those who only learned about their adoption later in life might feel betrayed or disillusioned.)

    I tend to be pretty nonchalant about it, and often respond to “Oh, I didn’t know,” with “Yeah, it’s no big whoop.” (Hopefully readers picked up on “super intimate” as being super sarcastic.) Perhaps for me a better response might be “oh, that’s neat,” or nothing at all.

    Think about the context of the disclosure and the attitude of the adoptee as well as what exactly you hope to communicate in return.

  • david says:

    Nope, sorry, I want one response that works for all of you.


  • Andre says:

    I am also an orphan, and I have little interest in finding my biological parents (I have quite enough obligations to the ones I have already, thank you). I agree with your point however, US people dislike adoption, and find it oddly shameful.

  • Allison says:

    Bravo, Zack! Great post. As someone who plans to adopt her children someday, and already gets comments along the lines of “Well, why would you want to do that if you are capable of having children?”, I totally appreciate the bias you speak of.

    Keep it up!

  • Peter Hoh says:

    Our typical default for someone telling us good news is “congratulations.” For bad news, it’s “I’m sorry.”

    Since neither of those stock responses works when you tell someone that you are adopted, we have to scramble for an appropriate response, and “Oh, I didn’t know” is about the best most of us can come up with.

  • Buffy says:

    I’ll never understand the obsession so many people have with the issue. They go out of their way to have biological offspring, as if it’s possible to love them any more than adopted children. Then there’s the assumption that adopted children suffer somehow. Perhaps if people would stop being such dingleberries and obsessing over whose sperm and egg were put together to make the child it wouldn’t become an issue. Sperm and egg aren’t what make a healthy family. Parent(s) who love and nurture their children, whether those children are biological or adopted, are what make a healthy family.

  • Dan in MI says:

    As a 47yo adoptee that’s known all my life that I was adopted, I can say that there IS bias toward adoptees. Either it’s assumed we came from criminals, crack whores or drunks.
    the reality is many of us were legally kidnapped through coercion, or the dirty secret of some influential man’s illicit affair.

    And yes, I AM against adoption as it stands today. There is NO reason to seal a child’s identity, and keep it sealed through his/her adult life. Amended birth certificates are flat out LIES. OBC is the record of an actual event and those responsible for said event.
    Naming a man as the mother, or a woman as the father is just ridiculous! It’s a physiological impossibility, PERIOD!
    Naming ANYONE other than the biological mother and father on a birth certificate is state sponsored lies, and should be abolished!
    I’m against ANY child being brought up with lies as the basis for everything they do, say, learn and become.

    If you want to help and do the caring thing raising a child that needs a home, why the need for a new identity? Why adopt? why not guardianship?
    The answer is ownership. That name on the FALSE birth certificate, whether it be a hetero couple or gay, IS A LIE!!! No amount of arguing or defending can change that FACT!

    As to the “chosen” comments, we are NOT commodities on the shelf to choose from!
    We are humans that have suffered the greatest loss ANY child could endure.
    And APs find that an event to celebrate.

    No, loving and caring for a child does not require stealing his/her identity and replacing it with fiction.

    Adoption is not the natural order of things, it is a man made creation that has become a multi billion dollar industry. It treats adoptees as indentured servants, slaves if you will.
    All for the profit of legalized human traffickers and the pride of ownership that the “title deed” known as amended birth certificates affords them.
    Gays want to use us to further their agendas. Straight infertiles can’t accept natures decision. Some entitled PAPs just don’t want to deal with pregnancy and the wear and tear on their perfect bodies! It is NEVER a child’s duty to fulfill ANY of these needs for an adult. PERIOD!!!

    When I was adopted there was a purpose. For me to become a preacher like my amom’s father, and to carry on my afather’s family name as he was the last male heir.
    They didn’t count on the fact that I wasn’t a blank slate for them to create their dreams from. They didn’t count on us growing up and making our own choices in life.
    And as they did absolutely nothing to prepare me for adult life (since I wasn’t fulfilling their plans) they had no right to expect either.
    And my asis and I didn’t fill that need either, and we knew it. There was a long list of “ready for adoption” infants that continued to fill that void in my arents life for 10 years (my school years) while asis and I fended for ourselves in the “preparing for adult life” arena.

    Buffy, unless you’re adopted or were coerced into relinquishment, you haven’t a clue as to what you’re talking about. The bond between mother and child in the womb is something NO AP can ever approach. Growing up different from EVERYBODY in your family is an isolating experience. It’s not a malicious or intentional thing, but you never fit in to that inner circle bond that families have, because we’re different. It’s just the FACT.
    And for those “friends of friends who had an adopted neighbor” STFU, you have no standing to comment on the issue.

  • ZackFord says:

    Dan, I thank you for your extensive comment, but I must admit I was tempted to censor it, as I fear there will be many who, like me, are hurt by it. It seems you carry with you your own burden of pain, and I would encourage you to seek counseling for the feelings of isolation and abuse you’ve described.

    Your arguments sound quite religious in nature. You suggest a “natural order of things,” “nature’s decision” for infertile couples, and of course your claim of “lies” on birth certificates. These are unfounded beliefs. While I can’t deny there are bonds between a mother and her unborn child, they are not as such to inhibit an adoptive couple from being the most loving family for a child. While the adoption system may be far from perfect, I think the concept of adoption is quite human. We are a social species with a propensity for irresponsibility, and the idea that we take care of our own when others are unable or unwilling is an admirable thing.

    I would not have had the life I’ve had if I had not been adopted. Despite the fact that my parents could not conceive a child, they have been (and continue to be) the most loving of parents. It is your delusion that they incapable of being “good enough” parents that helps perpetuate the stigmas against adoption.

    Again, I’m sorry for your pain, but I strongly suggest you seek therapy for it. I will not tolerate you spreading it further to others via my blog.

  • Dan in MI says:

    No Fritz, my comments speak of truth and lies.

    The truth that adoptees identities are changed to suit the whim of adults, gay or straight.
    And the LIES that ARE amended birth certificates.

    It’s not about gay rights at all, it’s about the record of an actual event.
    The gay aspect just illustrates the falsehood that IS the amended birth certificate as 2 males or 2 females cannot produce offspring together, no matter how much you think you have a right to. But their AMENDED BC tells a different story. A story of lies.
    I don’t have any problem with guardianship and care provided by gays or straights, just the lies that are part and parcel to ADOPTION!

    Not a religious issue either, as the adoption industry is headed by the largest religious organization known, Catholic Charities, who continue to profit from adoptees even as adults ($400 to release non-ID info after a “search” {of records that THEY possess already}). You can speculate on my position all you want, I stand for TRUTH, which the adoption industry has no use for, and apparently religion chooses to ignore as well.
    Beyond CC, Bethany Christian Services is the largest non-catholic adoption agency in the nation. I was adopted through a “christian” based agency.
    They HIDE THE TRUTH at every step. They do this to stay in business!
    In the name of “GOD”.

    Again, it is NEVER a childs responsibility to fill an empty spot in an adults life.
    Caring for a child does NOT require changing the child’s personal identity.
    Until this inequity is remedied, adoption IMO is nothing but human trafficking supported by the state.
    We are not a commodity to be traded for money, which is the driving force for the industry known as adoption. We are not a tool to assert supposed “rights”.
    We are human beings, citizens of this nation that are discriminated against, while you cry “civil rights”.
    What about OURS!!!???!!!

  • Andre says:

    @Dan – The truth is that it is only a caring person who deserves the title “parent”, the person who successfully put their penis in a vagina dosen’t deserve such a title. It is something that is earned rather than some sort of right. I see/know many people with shitty parents, it takes no great talent to have sex and pop out a child, it does take effort though, to raise one.

    Also, who cares who the “real parents” were? Were you raised right? This is what matters. All the biological stuff is just trivia. It seems to me that you would not be so obsessed about the “truth” (which you define in a narrow way) if would’ve had better adoptive parents.

  • Lady M says:

    I am so tired of hearing that any unhappines on the part of an adopted child is due to some failing of their adopted parents. People who have lost a parent as a child aren’t told that their unhappiness has to do with the poor parenting skills of their surviving parent. They also aren’t told that their desire to know the deceased parent is wrong or that it really doesn’t matter whose womb they came out of–all that matters is who cares for them now.

    Adoption is a loss. It’s wonderful if that loss is not a hindrance to you as an adopted person. It’s wonderful that you feel good about your family, and about your adoption. It’s tragic that people want to sweep all of the repurcussions of adoption under the proverbial rug. Even the federal government has a list of the psychological impact of adoption:

    I believe one of the reasons that you find better statistics for children adopted into homosexual households than in heterosexual households is because of the lack of secrecy. While heterosexual couples can and do pretend that their child was never adopted, homosexual couples don’t have that option. This prevents children adopted by homosexual couples from discovering late in life that they were adopted.

    Which is another question I have. It seems to be normal and expected for late-discovery adoptees to want to know who their biological parents are. Everyone seems to sympathize. Why am I ungrateful for wondering the same thing, just because my adoptive parents didn’t hide the fact from me?

    Sorry for the hijack. As to your post, I find it interesting that the same legislators that say the birth parents are best for children adopted by homosexual couples are often the first to spout invective about the same birth parents if the child was to be adopted by a white heterosexual couple.

  • Dan in MI says:

    Again you all assume my childhood was bad. It was for the most part pretty average. Things I take exception to today wasn’t the case as a kid growing up. Some had to do directly with adoption, some not at all. Yes there was a certain amount of “raised eyebrows” we had to learn to live with. YES I always felt like I didn’t belong. and yes that was ALL about adoption, and the loss I was supposed to celebrate. It wasn’t about the love that my Arents gave me or didn’t give me. It was about being taken from my mother and placed in foster home at 9 days old (I’m not allowed to know if I was with her or if I was sick in the hospital, or just being kept away from her) the day after christmas. It was about the fact that on New Years Eve, when the world celebrates, I was relinquished because my mother was convinced that she was not worthy of parenting, by condescending entitled “do gooders” like yourself!

    But again you deflect from my real and very clear point. Adoption, BY ANYONE is nothing but the sale of a human being! SOMEONE PROFITS (adoption agencies, lawyers…) Someone suffers loss. (natural mothers and adoptees) and the adoptors get what they paid for, a pedigreed child with a false identity. The legendary (urban legend that is) blank slate so you too can design and raise the perfect child

    Andre… How dare you tell me to be grateful “that I was raised”
    How dare you attempt to determine who is qualified to parent a child.
    How dare you attack me on a personal level.
    Your “who cares who the “real” parents are” comment shows that YOU are not qualified to care for and raise a child. You’ve demonstrated that the child’s needs must be approved by you, the owner.
    Who cares? EVERY adoptee that has been denied the TRUTH of their origin.
    Who cares? Every woman that ever relinquished their child, at least until they were convinced or threatened enough to try and forget the most horrible of losses.

    You missed an important point, I don’t care if you’re straight or gay to qualify for child care. That’s a non-issue to me. What I’m concerned with is later on down the road in life for the child. The LIE that is their proof of birth. Not one of you can give me good reason for removing a child’s identity forever upon the finalization of adoption. Explain the need to force pass your family name on someone that isn’t a part of your heritage. If you feel the need to “make a difference” adopt from foster care! Those kids NEED love and caring, better yet, be a legal guardian and leave the kid’s identity alone! It’s not yours to dispose of!
    That YOU don’t care, will reflect in the child you try to raise.

    I’ll say this one more time, the sexuality of the APs means nothing to me at all.
    I’m against adopting PERIOD! I’m against stealing and sealing a childs identity for life!
    I DON’T CARE the sex or sexuality of you and your spouse, as long as your names don’t end up listed as the ones that gave birth to a child that you DIDN’T give birth to.
    OBC is not a certificate of ownership, it it a record of an actual event, the birth of a child.
    The TRUE record of those actually involved in the actual event.

  • Dan in MI says:

    And Andre, the truth is the truth, no matter how you choose to define it, you can’t change it.

  • Andre says:

    @To the extent that I am feeding a troll, I must give one further sentence of reply. You are a man who has never learned the meaning of the word “irrelevant”.

    I was raised by adoptive parents who were not perfect, but on the whole pretty damn good. They certainly earned the title of “mom and dad” far and above someone who merely put their cock in a hole and shot. This is not a big achievement. Raising, paying for, and managing a childs growth year after year though, is an achievement and is not easy to do. Therefore my “real” parents are the ones that raised me. This is the “Truth” that you think is so important, your “truth” strikes me as incredibly irrelevant and small minded. But more than anything, irrelevant.

  • Dan in MI says:

    Andre, YOU have the right to make that choice. But YOUR experience cannot dictate mine. That’s not how EQUALITY works! And isn’t EQUALITY what YOU’RE fighting for?

    The TRUE event of your birth is NOT what is recorded on your birth certificate, it it FALSE!
    Whether or not YOU want to know the truth of that event, is YOUR chioce. The constitution provides that I should have the same access as EVERY other US citizen.
    This is not negotiable! It is the law of the land! And people are beginning to become informed of the real laws and what they entail.
    If your amended birth certificate is not dated within one year of your birthdate, good luck getting a passport. You are a prisoner of the United States of America. YOU cannot leave the borders of this nation. Because your amended birth certificate is not viewed as valid PROOF of where you were born, and thusly your actual citizenship!
    Be happy with your fab adopted life! And don’t venture too far, they might not let you back in.

    I’m really not trying to change YOUR mind as to how this information is used, or IF YOU choose to use it or not. I could care less. What I’m suggesting is that YOU don’t have the right to dictate whether or not I can access that simple piece of paper that pertains to NOBODY in this world more than MYSELF. Nor does anyone else.
    Unless of course, we seal EVERYONES record from here out. That would be EQUAL, wouldn’t it?

    Troll away. Deflect all you want, it doesn’t change the truth.
    Amended birth certificates are LIES, they are false documents. If you falsified ANY other federal or state document, you would be guilty of a crime. But states do it EVERY day.
    You are a victim of said crime whether you think so or not.

  • ZackFord says:

    Dan, that will be your last comment on this thread. Your comments have been disrespectful and have hijacked the conversation. I thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  • Gaye Tannenbaum says:

    WOW! Heated debate up there. So is the premise of this article that “gay adoption” brings out the general anti-adoption feelings of the general public? I agree that the general public has a love/hate relationship with adoption, as do adoptees. I’m not anti-adoption, and I’m certainly not against marriage and adoption equality. What I do have a problem with is the government sanctioned rewriting of an event. It has only been since the 1930s that adoptees were given “new” birth certificates to hide their shameful illegitimate status. The original records were sealed away from the general public (but not the parties to the adoption). Some years later, the records were sealed from even the parties themselves. Was adoption so shameful that it had to be hidden? At the time, yes. Does the sealing of records CONTRIBUTE to keeping adoption a shameful secret? I would answer yes to that as well. Promoting adoption vs. promoting family preservation is a different topic and a different argument. I’m only in this to understand how the acceptance of adoption in today’s society does not automatically do away with the practice of new “birth” certificates, or at the very least restoring the right of ALL adoptees to their OWN original unaltered birth certificates. Let’s do away with the shame, secrecy and lies. Let’s leave it up to the individual to determine what information (if any) he or she wishes to know.

  • ZackFord says:

    I disagree with your premise.

    I don’t think the sealing of records has anything to do with shame. I also don’t think there is any “rewriting” taking place. A baby is born; who are its legal guardians? The end.

    What you’re suggesting seems, to me, to reinforce the kind of shame that’s already a problem. I feel like if I were less comfortable or confident about my own adoption, then I would have this insecurity to seek out my genetic providers. To suggest that adoptees can never be secure in who they are without knowledge of people who are essentially complete strangers is to continue the demonization of adoption. I am only speaking for myself (an at-birth adoptee), but I have to say I resent your characterization of adoption.

    What is this assumption about the importance of knowing the genetic providers? As long as I have the health histories (which I do), then those individuals serve no purpose in my life. They’re not my parents; they’re not my family. To suggest that I’m somehow being punished for not being allowed to identify a complete stranger in a way that very well might upset her life (since she too has the right to privacy) is to continue the shame of adoption.

    Basically, my point of view is that if you think an adoptee is missing out on anything because the parents and genetic providers are not the same people, then you have a problem with adoption and you are adding to the stigma.

  • Gaye Tannenbaum says:

    I disagree with your premise.

    It’s your blog. Disagree as you see fit.

    I don’t think the sealing of records has anything to do with shame. I also don’t think there is any “rewriting” taking place. A baby is born; who are its legal guardians? The end.

    The legislative intent of sealed records was to hide the illegitimacy of the child from the prying eyes of the public – back when all birth certificates were public record.

    Baby born – I agree with you there. The birth is recorded. That original record remains that person’s record of birth even when the biological parents’ rights are terminated. Then, if the child is adopted (even by a stepparent), the original is sealed and a new birth certificate is issued with new names and sometimes even changing the date and/or place of birth.

    I have no problem giving the child’s (new) parents an official document to that effect. But why change the facts of the child’s birth even several years later?

    What you’re suggesting seems, to me, to reinforce the kind of shame that’s already a problem. I feel like if I were less comfortable or confident about my own adoption, then I would have this insecurity to seek out my genetic providers.

    Those are two separate issues. Since when does transparency = shame? Shameful things are kept in the closet, under lock and key. Someone’s comfort or insecurity with adoption is not the issue. Not everybody wants to be a genealogist but no one tells a genealogist that they are “insecure” because they have an interest in who they’re ancestors were.

    To suggest that adoptees can never be secure in who they are without knowledge of people who are essentially complete strangers is to continue the demonization of adoption. I am only speaking for myself (an at-birth adoptee), but I have to say I resent your characterization of adoption.

    Where did I suggest that adoptees “can never be secure in who they are…”? I’m in favor of transparency. How does that “demonize” adoption? You yourself said “People don’t trust adoption…” The demonization comes from the general public, not from those who are fighting for transparency.

    What is this assumption about the importance of knowing the genetic providers?

    For you, obviously not. Marriage may not be important to me – does that mean I have a right to tell other people they can’t marry?

    As long as I have the health histories (which I do), then those individuals serve no purpose in my life.

    Of course that health history will never be updated. Mine says that my great-grandfather died of TB in the 1920s. Everyone else was healthy. Amazing how 50 years will change that.

    They’re not my parents; they’re not my family. To suggest that I’m somehow being punished for not being allowed to identify a complete stranger in a way that very well might upset her life (since she too has the right to privacy) is to continue the shame of adoption.

    First off, the vast majority of first parents WELCOME contact from their relinquished children. My mother was actually upset that it took me so long to find her. She didn’t know that my records were sealed.

    Basically, my point of view is that if you think an adoptee is missing out on anything because the parents and genetic providers are not the same people, then you have a problem with adoption and you are adding to the stigma.

    I don’t have a problem with adoption per se. I have a problem with sealed records. I’m still not understanding how advocating for transparency is “adding to the stigma”.

  • jeni says:

    hey buffy-

    after you buy your adoptees, then have a bio kid, come back and answer this:

    whenyour adoptee and your bio are both in a burning bldg, and you can only save ONE….

    and i digress.

  • ZackFord says:

    Jeni, your comment is extremely offensive to adoptive parents. I’m only allowing it to demonstrate the persistence of adoption stigma.

    Gaye, I can agree with you to a certain extent about changing records, but not about sealing them. I don’t think someone who gives a child up for adoption is entitled to be kept in the loop. It’s not fair to the adoptive parents or the child to have to negotiate with an extra “parent” or two.

    I think your need for transparency ignores the privacy of both the adoptee and the birth parents. As exemplified, perhaps, by Jeni’s comments, this point of view ignores or diminishes the adoptive parents’ capacity to parent, as if not having a biological link would make them care less, which I find to be offensive and hurtful to the adoption cause. We will simply have to disagree on this point. (I do thank you for commenting.)

  • jeni says:

    ha! it’s hardly about offending or not offending. it’s the TRUTH and we all know it.

  • Mara says:

    Gay or straight, anyone who participates in the process that seals and amends another person’s birth certificate is a criminal in my book. The judge, attorneys, vital records clerks, and adoptive parents (gay or straight) are forgerers and criminals.

    Outside of adoption anyone forging identity documents serves hard time in Federal prison. Yet, inside the 6 billion dollar a year adoption machine, it happens every single day all over this country.

  • Gaye Tannenbaum says:

    Gaye, I can agree with you to a certain extent about changing records, but not about sealing them. I don’t think someone who gives a child up for adoption is entitled to be kept in the loop. It’s not fair to the adoptive parents or the child to have to negotiate with an extra “parent” or two.

    Well, that would make you against “open adoption” which is the dominant type of adoption currently available in the US. Further, your statement implies that the first parents would have access to the adopted child’s identity. Many of my first mother friends would really like that, but that is NOT what I am asking for. I am asking for the ADULT adoptee to be allowed access to their original birth records. It will be entirely up to the ADULT adoptee whether or not to request it.

    I think your need for transparency ignores the privacy of both the adoptee and the birth parents. As exemplified, perhaps, by Jeni’s comments, this point of view ignores or diminishes the adoptive parents’ capacity to parent, as if not having a biological link would make them care less, which I find to be offensive and hurtful to the adoption cause. We will simply have to disagree on this point. (I do thank you for commenting.)

    The vast majority of first parents do NOT want anonymity from the children they relinquished. Privacy from the general public, certainly, but that is not the issue as the original birth certificate would only be accessible to the adoptee.

    Further, I don’t think the adoptive parents’ “capacity to parent” is diminished by an ADULT adoptee having access to an original birth certificate. You are thinking (as many do) of adopted “children”. We grow up. I’m a grandmother and my adoptive parents are deceased. I am well past having to consider the wishes or concerns of my adoptive parents.

  • ZackFord says:

    Two last thoughts.

    I’m okay with the genetic parents wanting privacy. If they don’t want to be found, that’s their right.

    I’m not okay with the genetic parents expecting to get to be involved. If they are giving up their responsibility as parenting, they shouldn’t then get to still enjoy some of the benefits of being a parent. It becomes an intrusion on the adoptive parents and adoptee’s life.

    I will say, I’m okay with an adult adoptee seeking out their records, but I’m not sure I’d recommend it, necessarily.

    (By the way, just a protip: you might try using the blockquote tag for quoting passages. It offsets things more clearly than italics. Thanks again for posting!)

  • Mei Ling says:

    [i]I don’t think someone who gives a child up for adoption is entitled to be kept in the loop.[/i]

    Ah. You are an adoptee who believes in the “She threw me out like trash” abandoner stereotype? Unless of course, it’s true. In which case, may I politely point out that not all “genetic sources” are like that? You might want to read a little about how open adoptions work, because they’re becoming more popular these days – oh wait, you don’t care, right?

    [i]It’s not fair to the adoptive parents or the child to have to negotiate with an extra “parent” or two.[/i]

    Not fair to whom? Okay, maybe the adoptive parents, but when [i]they chose[/i] to adopt, they are legally adopting to raise and love a child that someone else birthed. Semantically, that “birther” is not a legal parent, but they will always be biologically linked to that child.

    OTOH: What if the child wants contact?

    [i]I think your need for transparency ignores the privacy of both the adoptee and the birth parents.[/i]

    Do you have legal proof that the “birther” wants privacy? Because if it’s based on the number of relinquishments alone, then I’d suggest those “implied” contexts of wanting privacy are merely anecdotes in the minority.

  • ZackFord says:

    I don’t think the woman who gave birth to me abandoned me; in fact, I am grateful that she made a sacrifice that allowed me to have a wonderful life. But if she all of a sudden wanted to be back in the picture, it would be offensive to my parents. I don’t even like using the word “parent” to describe her because she’s not my parent. The Fords are my family. The biological link is irrelevant; it exists, but does not represent any entitlement.

    I’m open to different kinds of adoptions. I just think that all folks involved ought to respect the agreements made at the time.

    I think I’ve been very fair in hearing people out and even looking for opportunities to agree. However, I’m going to discontinue responding at this point because I think I’ve said all I need to say and I’m tired of being attacked.

  • As my names indicate, I was born with one name and adopted with another. I was issued a Certificate of Live Birth when I was born. I was a single birth, the youngest of five children (indicated upon the birth certificate) and my parents were married. I was baptised by a priest at the bedside of my dying mother and a baptismal certificate was issued. At my age of three months, my mother died. My father was talked into relinquishing me for adoption by a Catholic priest. I was placed with my pre-adoptive parents one month later. One year and one week after my birth I was legally adopted. Three months later my birth certificate was sealed, and a falsified Certificate of Live Birth was issued: showing that my new mother gave birth to me at a specified time, in the named hospital, and I was a single birth. The facts that I was the 5th child of a different couple were not transffered to my new birth certificate, but the name of a woman who did not give birth to me, and a father who did not sire me, are on this Certificate of Live Birth. Three years later, the Catholic Church issued a false baptismal certificate to state that I, Joan Wheeler, was baptisted on the date that Doris was, and the priest signed his name to the document certifying it as true! Zach, I have each and every one of these documents in my posession. They were kept by my adoptive mother. My natural father gave her my birth certifciate and my baptismal certificate at the time he gave me to her. Shame on you for telling Dan that he is lying about the lies on amended birth certificates! Because of all of this, I will fight to the day I die that the federal government put a stop to the automatic sealing of adoptees’ birth certifcates. I will also fight to the day I die for the end of falsified birth certificates. Every amended birth certificate should be an Adoption Certificate…that is the way it is done in the Netherlands: each adoptee gets one and only one birth certificate and one and only one adoption certificate. Both documents are open. Australia has no adoptions any longer beccause they practice family preservation. No pregnant teenager is forced to give up her baby in The Netherlands. Unfortuately, they have an influx of babies from 3rd world countries in Holland, a practice I disagree with, but the director of the Adoption Center of the University of Utrech, Holland, is a very dear freind of mine. We have been friends for 23 years. He was my mentor in adoption reform and wrote the forward to my book, Forbidden Family. There are adoption reserachers and psychologists who would say you, Zach, are overreacting. You are defendinig gays as parents. I defend your rights to parents and to marriage, but as Dan said, guardianship does not change a child’s identity nor earase a child’s family of birth. Adoption does that to a child. yes, I am anti adoption. My mother died and had no way of concenting to my adoption. She does not know she is not my legal mother. That is sad. Legally, I am an only child. In truth, I am the youngest of five, the middle of 10, which includes step kids and a half brother. And cousins and aunts and uncles. I have been reunited for 36 years, found at age 18 in 1974 by siblings my adoptive parents never wanted me to know. The crimes against adoptees are numerous. We pay the price for the wills and deeds of our parents — all of them.

  • Want photocopies of all of my birth certificates and baptismal certificates? Give me a PO Box (not your home address!) and I’ll gladly send yoou all the proof you want! Including my adoption papers, too!

  • To be clear, while I have all of my birth certificates in my possession, I am not legally allowed to obtain my sealed birth certificate.

    I live on the border between Canada and USA. Because of 9/11, I have not crossed the border since then. We have oportunity to get an Enhanced Drivers License, or a passport to get into Canada. I have applied for neither. Primarily because I cannot afford to, but I suspect I would not get a passport or an Enhanced Drivers License because adoptees must provide proof of WHO they were born to, but we are not legally allowed to get that certificate document, so why put myself through that headache? I do miss Canada, and frequently went there thrpughtout my lifetime. Imagine: I could present my falsified birth certificate, but that was issued one year and three months after my actual birth, but to be authorized for a passport or enhanced drivers license, a person’s birth certifciate must be issued within five days after birth. If not, you don’t get the passport or the enhanced drivers license. At age 54, I sure would like to go see Niagara Falls again from the Canadian side, but I’m stuck with the American view because I can’t leave my country because I am adopted.

  • Gaye Tannenbaum says:

    Do you have legal proof that the ”birther” wants privacy? Because if it’s based on the number of relinquishments alone, then I’d suggest those ”implied” contexts of wanting privacy are merely anecdotes in the minority.

    Prof. Elizabeth J. Samuels (University of Baltimore School of Law) has been collecting relinquishment documents from first mothers. No matter what state or what time period or what agency, they all say pretty much the same thing:

    -The relinquishing parent gives up ALL rights and responsibilities with respect to the child.
    – The relinquishing parent promises not to locate, contact or otherwise interfere with the child and the adoptive family “for the duration of the child’s minority”.
    – There are NO promises of anonymity made TO the relinquishing parent.

    Further, legislative intent from the time these laws were passed shows CONCLUSIVELY that the laws were passed for the benefit of the ADOPTEE and the ADOPTIVE family. “Birth parent privacy” was not a consideration. The laws were passed to protect the adopted child from the “stigma of illegitimacy” and to prevent the relinquishing parent(s) from finding the child. When the laws were first passed (1930s-1940s) they only sealed the original birth records from public inspection, not from the parties to the adoption.

  • 7rin says:

    @Andre: “It seems to me that you would not be so obsessed about the “truth” (which you define in a narrow way) if would’ve had better adoptive parents.

    It seems to me that you would be more obsessed about the “truth” (which you define in a cock-arsed way) if you would’ve had better adoptive parents.

    See, I had the best aparents (and extended afamily) in the entire multiverse – which only made it even more traumatic that I hadn’t grown up knowing that love from my own family.

    Wonder how many of you “don’t wanna know”ers actually have a clue about whether you were snatched from loving arms (as has happened soooooo often), or whether actually yeah, you were one of the few that actually did need a loving home found for you? ‘Cause it’s not until you actually meet the people involved to find out what actually happened, that you begin to learn what “The Truth” actually consists of.

    Turns out my dad would’ve loved to’ve raised me, but since he was away in the army fighting for his country, my mom (who was struggling with two kids) could palm me off onto someone else to raise without my dad getting any say in the matter.

    Wtf should records denote I was born to two people who didn’t even know I existed at that time, when I was actually born to two completely different people? My birth certificate is supposed to be a record of my birth. I can get an accurate record of my dog’s birth, so why not one of my own?

    Adoption is nothing more than legalised lies!

  • When my father stood in the courtroom with my adopting parents, the judge turned to him and said, “You are to stay away from this child and her adoptive parents. Do not interfer with their lives. You can search for and reunite with your daughter when she is 18 years old.” The judge did not say to my adopting parents that they had to stay away from my natural father. The court papers that were signed by all three parents stated the exact stattements that were verbally said to my father. There was no promise of confidentiality or privacy. There was no stigma of illegitimacy involved in my adoption, yet there was a feeling of shame: my adoptive mother felt ashamed that she could not conceive naturally and she told me that she was ashamed of adopting me that adoption was a skeleton in the closet. They were happy to have me, but not of adoption itself. Notice that no one, not even the courts, were concerned for the siblings who lost each other. That would not happen today in adoption at all. Today, all efforts would have gone to help my father keep his family intact. If he felt it necessary that the baby be out of the house, legal guardianship would have protected my birth identity and my relationship with my father and my full blood siblings. Both of those two alternatives would have been better than total and complete adoption that severed my relationships from the family I was born into and would have preserved my birth name and birth certificate.

    Repeat: my natural father did not want confidentiality nor privacy. He was not in hidding from me or my adopting parents. He wanted contact with me and welcomed contact. He did not want to give me up, but was talked into it by a priest who said that the baby needs two parents. The baby needed to be with the family she was born into!

    I am a half orphan who has been treated like an illegitmate bastard by the laws of this country and by the people involved in my adoption. I have been faced with adoption discrimination: I’ve felt the sting of shame bestowed upon adoptees simply because of the stigma of being adopted and the assumption that we must never know who we were born to nor develop relationships with our blood kin. — visit my website for more info. Yes, I’ve written about two dads on a birth certificate, too, (see tags) not because I dislike gays as parents (I do not feel that way), but because the institution of adoption itself is wrong. I belong to the Unitarian Universalist Church in my city where there is a huge gay and lesbian community, which I support. A lesbian friend told me that I must keep pressing forward with my message because the gay and lesbian community may not be ready to hear it as they are stuck in their own pain of fighting their own discriminations. Beleive me, I was moved to tears when I saw the play “The Laramie Project”. I saw it twice and dragged my 94 year old (adoptive) mother to see it. That play changed the way she views gays; so I’m on your side for human rights. It would be great if you could step outside your comfort zone to see adoptees’ civil and human rights issues and our fights against descrimmination based upon birth circumstances.

  • UNICEF does not approve of adoption of half (or single) orphans, such as myself, because there is one parent still alive to take care of the infant or older child. UNICEF defines an orphan as a double (full) orphan if both parents are deceased and there is no parent to take care of the child. Usually, there are extended family members, such as siblings, aunts and uncles and cousins who are also connected to the half or full orphan.

    When a baby is taken from its mother at birth, the baby is violently ripped from its mother in an unnatural act. This is a crime against the mother and the baby, let alone the father of child who may not know he is a father. Given the chance, most fathers want to be involved in their children’s.

    Complete severance from natural family is a crime against nature and a human rights issue for the child/person being torn from one family and given to another. That child/person undergoes tremendous human suffering because of this lifelong separation.

  • If Mathew Shepard (the real young man murdered because he was gay) were adopted and not born to his courageous mother (yes, I’ve seen her in public appearances), who would fight for the right of his natural mother and father and siblings and other blood relatives to be told the truth of how he died?

    Countless adoptees die as children or young adults and their natural parents are never sought out and told the truth.

    Countless adoptees are gays and lesbians who want to know the truth of their orgins.

    Yes,, yes, YES there are adoptees who do not WANT to know and bla bla bla. Here is why they don’t want to know:

    The following is quoted from this blog: —-

    “Another argument often claimed by adoptees are those adoptees who don’t feel they’ve been affected by adoption at all and feel as though they are well adjusted and quite content within life as well as their adoption situation. This may be true to a certain extent but the adoptee in this situation lives within a realm of stratospheric consciousness, being what they feel every one wants or expects them to be, also known as the vigilant adoptee.
    I agree that every adoptee has not been affected by separation trauma[1] in the same capacity, I feel every adoptee, whether they’ve experienced the recognition[2] or not, has been affected on a unique level of the separation spectrum for a variety of reasons dictated by natural genetics and the chemistry within the adoptive family they are nurtured by.
    Regardless of the individual personal belief there are three basic classifications of adoptees: 1) Those who have recognized that adoption has impacted their life; 2) Those adoptees who have not recognized that adoption has impacted their life; 3) Adoptees who feel great inner calamity and turmoil but have no idea what these strong feelings are attributed to.”

    Please read and read and read about the psychology of adoption: books by Dr. Betty Jean Lefton (Journey of the Adopted Self), Dr. David Brodzinsky (The Psychology of Adoption, and The Lifelong Journey to Self) , and Nancy Verrier (psychotherapist) (The Primal Wound and Coming Home to Self).

  • ZackFord says:

    It’s interesting that a post I wrote about all the stigma around adoption has, in fact, revealed quite a lot of stigma around adoption. It has been interesting to read everyone’s stories, and my heart goes out to those who have been hurt.

    Nonetheless, I maintain that I am quite pro-adoption. There are apparently a lot of legal questions I still might need to think about my thoughts on, but it’s clear that people’s attitudes are very much motivated by beliefs about what is “natural” as well as claims about the importance of genetic connection. These, to me, are unfounded claims rooted in insecurity, fear, and distrust. It’s unfortunate that those negative feelings exist, but it seems they are very much the by-product and recurrence of stigma, and not objective rationale for the stigma itself.

    The question here is “family.” Genetics do not define a family. Love does. I am sure I have genetic siblings or half-siblings somewhere out in the world, but those people don’t mean anything to me, and I think there is something sad about the idea that people have to find common blood to find a common bond in their lives. That is, itself, the goal of anti-adoption stigma, to propagate unfounded ideas about the importance of biology. (While studies show adoptees having some unique challenges in adolescence, adult adoptees are generally as well-adjusted as other adults. Meanwhile, children raised by same-sex couples face no unique challenges in growing up well-adjusted except for being faced with the anti-gay prejudice of their peers, which often makes them more resilient and open to diversity.) How distressing that, much like religiously-fueled anti-gay beliefs replicate through people who are actually gay, the meme of adoption stigma recruits people who have been adopted.

    Unsurprisingly, it is clear that religion also continues to be a destructive force in people’s lives. It is painful to hear of a priest’s ignorant intrusion into a family’s decision-making, and given the immense amount of control religious organizations have over the adoption process, I am sure this is hardly an isolated incident. As always, we must not let religious belief be a shield from critical critique of practices.

    At this point, I’m going to close discussion on this post. It seems to be a magnet for trolling, and I’m quite concerned that the extensive, repetitive comments seek to undo the very point of my original post (despite, in fact, confirming it). Should anyone have read this complete thread, particularly any adoptees, adoptive parents, or individuals who have given a child up for adoption, I hope you are not too shaken by the pain and frustration expressed by commenters. I think it’s fair to say that their perspective is not generalizable, but of course mine isn’t either. Either way, this is not a blog about adoption; it’s about LGBT rights, and I have a commitment to support LGBT families. This thread has proven that there are many challenges ahead with adoption, but I don’t want to be any more liable for the spread of stigma than I feel I already have been by allowing (and at times humoring) so many attacks on adoption that seem mostly fueled by personal bias.

    I thank you all for your comments. If adoption is an issue you wish to discuss, I am sure you can find many better places to continue the conversation than here on this blog.

  • […] Zack Ford compares telling people that he is adopted to coming out of the closet. […]