Posted by: 지인 | 13 December 2007

More on gatekeeping

November’s “Adoption Month” bonanza is over for another year, and the holidays now bear down upon us in full force, taking on the dynamic dual form of obligation and unkept resolutions (oh, and the cheer — don’t forget the holiday cheer).

The New York Times‘ “Relative Choices” blog project was (with a couple of very noteworthy exceptions) a relative disappointment for the most part — a too-familiar assemblage of inconsequential Orientalism/objectification and mind-numbingly trite musings mushed into nice, round, I-once-was-lost-but-now-am-found Jell-O molds. (Ah, most mythical “happy ending!” How we strain so hard to pin you down!)

And of course then there was the one that deserved no more than a barrage of rotten tomatoes and the hook.

Remember? We tried. We really tried to get a word in — several words, in fact — edgewide, lengthwise, sideways, upside-down and then some.

We were not allowed. And it was made crystal clear, once more, that we would not be deemed suitable for inclusion in the discussion unless our words were prefaced by disclaimers and tempered by gratefulness.

Strange, isn’t it, that these discussions are almost always directed, shaped and moderated by adoptive parents. Adoption triad, indeed. One side, good people, does not a triad make. Which is why my eyes involuntarily roll at the mention of that unlikely trio, and why so many of us adult adoptees have misgivings when the adoption community extends an invitation to take part in “celebrations” of the adoption triad.

(And there, mine eyes doth roll again …)

Because, see, time and time again, through discussions such as the “Relative Choices” blog, it’s impressed upon us adult adoptees that our opinions are valuable, yes, but only when watered down by proclamations of undying, paramount love and made palatable — comfortable — to the ones holding the keys to the discussion. And first parents — “birthmothers” (reduced to vessels for the comfort of the masses) — need not apply to the discussion unless willing to take a back seat to the so-called “real (referring to adoptive) parents.”

These days, it seems as though the acceptable standard for personal accounts is to venture perchance into poignant, risk-taking territory for a fleeting moment, and you think, “Ah, now we will learn some hard truths! Now we’ll glimpse some bare-naked honesty!” but then we are rerouted into emotionally safe territory: “That was then. Now it’s all resolved.”

A few significant victories merit mention, of course, but I wonder why it still seems as though the observant and critical voices and ideas are immediately followed up and drowned out by the unconcerned, the blithe, the obsequious and (can’t forget) the admonishers. By design, I suspect.

It is so, SO frustrating and disheartening to be trussed up like this (we’ll listen to you, but only if you say what we want to hear — we’ll embrace you, but only if you go like this and this), that many of us find our spirits flagging, and we simply back away, because it’s exhausting.

I’ve felt exhausted. To be honest, I still feel exhausted. But I am still here.

I’m still here because I still need my supportive community of fellow adoptees and allies, and they tell me I’m still needed, too.

Listening to most “adoption triad discussions,” you wouldn’t know we’re here, but we are. And we encourage one another when the going gets tough, and when it seems as though we’re talking to brick walls. When one of us wants to lie down, the rest of us supply pillows. Or shoulders. We prop one another up. Sometimes we tag-team one another: I’m tired. You talk now. Send up sparks with your wand if you need to be relieved. Light up the bat signal if you need backup. Send a round of cocktails if you think someone is actually listening and showing promise.

(And then there are some folks among us, of whom I am in constant awe, who never seem to need to refuel — at least not conspicuously!)

So I guess what I should say is: Hey, U.S. media, nice job trying to zap us with the mute button. You got a lot of people out there pretty ticked off at your gatekeeping tactics. A lot of people now see your agenda more clearly. Because you might not want to admit that you have an agenda, or you might not have one on purpose, but take a little look-see at who’s calling the editorial shots on these projects. Is this fair & balanced? Or could it be that your “thoughtful discussions” and “new angles” are really just the same old regurgitated clichés, repackaged to stroke the dominant ego? Congratulations, you’ve bored us.

P.S. Thanks, Elizabeth Larsen, for your observant critique of this gatekeeping trend in adoption discussions, and thanks also to Sarah Kim, for underscoring a vital point in your subsequent comment, which — hooray! — was not censored.

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