Whenever I write about adoption, my computer reminds me that adoptees do not exist.
According to my spell checker, that is. As I write this I can see three wavy red lines telling me that two instances of "adoptee" are unknown. Oops, there's a third. I know, I could add the word to my spell checker, but that's not the point. Adoptees are so disenfranchised by our society that the only word that describes us does not exist in spell check software.
Adoption language is loaded. Considering how adoptees are not societally permitted to mourn what we have lost, we sure get a lot of grief from people who have no idea what it's like. While we're still young and cute we are "gifts," or as they said in my era, "chosen children". As teenagers we become "troublesome," "rebellious," "bad seeds." Or maybe we're "quiet," "reserved," perhaps "antisocial." It's hard to be social when all your social clues are stolen, when you're an untethered ship floating at random across hostile seas. While we are "chosen," we are also expected to be "perfect" - the perfect solution to someone else's desires. If we search for our roots, we are deemed "in need of therapy." And if we express outrage at the systems which have sealed our records and denied our existence, we are lashed with the word "ungrateful."
Ungrateful: every adoptee's favorite loaded word.
No, I am NOT grateful I was adopted. I hate being adopted. (Oooh, collective gasp from the unsuspecting! But the adoptees saw it coming.) I hated growing up looking in the mirror at a face that had no reflection in the world around me. I despise the fact that my children are the only biological relatives I have ever met. Think about that for a minute - the first and only birth kin I know are my own kids. Do you get how utterly whacked that is? Yet adoptees are expected to suffer in silence, without even a single word to describe who we are.
Let's not leave out our blood relatives. "Birth mother" is in the spell checker only as separate words - "birth" being an unnecessary adjective to describe "mother." Our society, thanks to the adoption industry, places a modifer on mothers who surrender as a way of de-humanizing these women, making it harder to empathize with their experiences. There are other terms - first mother, natural mother, bio-mother - but the truth is, these women are mothers. That they do not raise their children (and many were not given a choice) is irrelevant. You wouldn't catch most adoptive parents referring to themselves as adoptive parents - in fact most of them are insistent to the point of hysteria that they are parents, no modifier. Loaded language saps the strength of surrendering parents, and completely dismisses their trauma and grief.
Loaded language applies to adoptive parents, too. They are showered with praise - "rescuers," "good Christians" - implying that they are somehow doing us adoptees a favor. As I said before, there wouldn't be a market for infants if there weren't willing consumers, and what child wants to be raised apart from his or her parents? Why did I need rescuing from a mother whose only fault was being pregnant and unwed during the Baby Scoop Era? Now there's a phrase you won't find in common dictionaries. Worst of all, adoptive parents use loaded language on their adopted children. "You're Mommy and Daddy's gift" puts enormous pressure on an adopted child, who is all too aware that unwanted gifts get returned. To be a "chosen child," one must first be un-chosen.
Some of us have "chosen" (ha!) to load our own language. "Bastard" is a badge I'm happy to wear. I'd rather be an honest bastard than a brainwashed perpetual adopted "child," though it took me years to realize the brainwashing had even occurred. Now I know adoption is, as Douglas Adams might put it, one great big joojooflop situation. Adoptees don't have to be grateful, and we sure as hell don't need therapy.
What needs therapy is the adoption industry itself. Give it a shot of Ritalyn and a couple of Prozac pills, then pat it on the head and let it sleep. Maybe when it wakes up, it will have founds its moral backbone.