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Adoption Day – Now in Photos

Adoption DaySo yesterday I wrote about being adopted, and mentioned a photo with the judge who formalized said procedure, which at the time I believed to be lost. Well. What was lost has now been found!

It’s a bit different than I remembered – there’s no black robe, and there’s two old dudes (one of whom must be the clerk? I have no idea.), but it is still awesome. And a great way for my folks to open a conversation about my origins without it being a big deal – double parenting points for them!

Mom & Gretchen - Adoption Day

On Adoption and Expanding Definitions of Family

I’m adopted. When I was a little kid, I thought everyone was adopted. You see, I had a tiny photo album my parents used to tell me about where I came from. It was the only album in the house that was all mine, and we’d sit and go through the pictures, labeling each of them.

“This is you you with Grandpa.”

“This is you on Mother’s Day last year.”

“This is when we brought you home.”

“This is us with the judge when you were adopted.”

That was it. Simple and matter-of-fact, my parents told me about where I came from, starting with that odd little photograph of Mom, Dad, me (at about 6 months old), and some old guy in a black robe.((That photo, alas, has gone missing)) As I was able to understand, they added details. How my first mom wasn’t able to take care of me. How Mom and Dad really wanted a baby, a kid just like me to be part of their family. How they got to bring me home right before Thanksgiving, and how exciting it all was. How they eventually went to see that old-guy-in-a-robe and make it all official.

They made it 100 percent normal. So normal, in fact, that for a long time I didn’t understand that “adoption” and “starting out with a different set of parents” were the same thing. I thought people had babies, and they kept them or they gave them to other people, and then at some point, when it was all settled, the parents would go in front of the judge and say, “This one. This is my kid.”((I’m actually not sure this is such a bad idea. I mean, how cool would it be if every kid knew that their parents had declared them wanted, and had their own pictures with the judges that made it official?))

I have no idea how much chaos I caused by telling all my friends that everyone was adopted. I do know that I finally got all straightened out after asking my mom when we were taking my (biological) baby brother to see the judge.((I was six-and-a-half years old and so proud of my “miracle brother” that I took him to kindergarten for show and tell.)) And when I finally understood the whole of adoption, it was still no big deal. Just another way – one of many – to make a family, and a pretty darn neat and useful one at that.

As I got older, I began to understand that while adoption is a pretty awesome idea, the execution is loaded down with baggage.

First I learned that a lot of people think of adopted kids as second rate, and that people think that parents can’t love adopted kids as much as biological kids.

I learned that lots of kids need homes, but that the chances of finding them decrease dramatically if one is not a blond-haired, blue-eyed, white baby girl.

That parents who adopt kids from other cultures may be woefully privilege-blind, and that those kids can end up feeling like they don’t quite belong anywhere.

That a lot of adoptive parents see themselves as saviors – taking kids from “underprivileged” or “savage” cultures and “lifting them up.”

That a lot of adoption is possible because of the sexist, classist, jingoistic society we live in, and the government policies that support it.

And while all of that is true, it’s not always true, and it doesn’t even have to be an issue, which is why despite all the problems with adoption, I’m still pretty darn favorable toward it.

Adoption is awesome because at its core it challenges our notion of what “family” is in an extremely positive way. Let me explain.

One of the strangest and most hurtful things people have said to me is, “I could never raise someone else’s kid.” This person will often go on to explain how impossible it is to adopt babies, how anyone older is just “such a problem,” and how they want a kid that “looks like me.”

This person will talk about all the issues adopted kids have, and how they just wouldn’t want to deal with all that – as if their biology is somehow a guarantee for a perfect, problem-free child.

They’ll talk about how expensive and unpredictable and emotional the adoption process is – and then plan round after unsuccessful round of fertility treatments that put them at war with their body and on edge with their partner.

But mostly they’ll talk about how deep blood ties are, the unmeasurable value of biology as a bond, as the only means to love.((Never mind that we generally create biological children with someone who is not biologically related to us. Or the judgmental insult toward anyone whose biological family has betrayed them in some way.))

Before I learned anything else about adoption, I understood this: biology has nothing to do with the ability to love someone wholly, fully and intensely.

Family isn’t about biology, and it’s really not about creating an army of Mini-Mes.((Seriously, if this is why you want to pro-create, do the rest of us a favor and stop now.)) It’s about who you love, who you share life with. It’s about learning from one another, challenging one another and bringing up the next generation of humans to be functional, loving and brilliant adults.

It’s National Adoption Month, and it’s nearly Thanksgiving. I’m not saying we should all run out and adopt, but if the idea of adoption is hard for you, or if you struggle with a picture of family that isn’t Breadwinner-Dad + Stay-at-Home-Mom + 2.5-Biological-Kids, may I suggest you consider that there’s more to it than that? Expanding our notion of family is the first step toward a world that celebrates each person as valuable and awesome, and that’s something worth being grateful for.


If you are a non-heteronormative family who’d like to grow via adoption, the Human Rights Campaign is sponsoring a Twitter chat tomorrow (Tuesday, November 17, 2014) night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time. More information here or follow #LGBTAdoption.


ETA: My folks found the judge pic


…to institute new government

declaration vote

The Revolution Starts Here

On July 4, 1776, men representing the interests of 13 colonies signed a document – the Declaration of Independence – and took a stand against a government that had no regard for the rights and lives of its citizens. With that act, these men set off the violent separation of the United States from the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Eleven years later, with many lessons learned, a second set of delegates set their hands to a painstakingly designed document, one that would minimize or even eliminate any future need for brutal war. It created a delicate yet radical system of checks and balances amongst the elected, representative government, the most powerful of which was the right of the citizenry to bestow or revoke power via popular vote.

Today, the value of our vote has been eroded. The Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling for against the same commission have resulted in a glut of political speech financed by corporations and the extremely wealthy. The messages, of course, are distinctly designed to favor particular ends, most of which have no benefit to the population at large.((The New Yorker published a very nice bit of background on these rulings, and their impact, here.)) It is nearly impossible to discern Super PAC ads from other campaign ads, or to dissect the intent of the producers on the fly, reducing all campaign free speech and information to noise, drowning out the voices of anyone less fiscally fortunate, and negating any real possibility of making an informed choice. The same Supreme Court then struck down crucial parts of the Voting Rights Act, leading many states to erect unnecessary barriers to casting one’s vote that disproportionately affect poor folks and people of color.

The net effect of these rulings is that our “democratic” government has evolved more and more into a government “for the elite, by the elite.”((Not that it hasn’t always been this way to some extent. But really, we had been making so much progress away from that.)) And most of these elite would prefer that you and I, the messy mishmash of the hoi polloi just give up altogether. Stay home and abdicate our power to those who “know best.” That we sit back, stay quiet and let the grown-ups run things.

So that they can deny us basic healthcare, tie us down with babies and maladies that will keep us from ever getting ahead (then tell us how lazy we are).

So that they can use our labor to fund their perpetual wars, wars fought by our children.

So that they can shoot us in the back and leave us bleeding in the streets with no repercussions.

So that they can use our hard-earned savings in their investment schemes, getting richer on our futures.

And for what? So that they can live out their last decades in micro-kingdoms of hordes wealth they didn’t earn and that will never “trickle down” to create any benefit for anyone?

Dust to dust and ashes to ashes. . . We all count the same when we’re dead.

Meanwhile, we the hoi polloi struggle. We breathe polluted air, drink contaminated water, chase menial jobs for the chance to put food-like products into our mouths and watch an impossible “reality”-TV dream unfold on our flickering television sets.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Your right to revolution, to demand something better, is written into the very fabric of this country, and it begins at the ballot box.

Own your rights. Take your place at the table. Start the revolution.


A Week Out (Election 2014)

We’re a week out, so I’m watching the election prediction hype for a moment…

I know what I’d like to see happen, as far as candidates and parties and ideals go. You might agree with that vision, you might not – I’m actually not especially concerned about that at the moment.

The reality is that those kinds of results matter very little to me this year. This year, I’d just like to see all of us get representatives who remember that their sacred duty is to serve We The People, not them the corporations, not just those folks over there, not their personal ideals and power plays, but We ALL The People.

We are a democracy. Ever body is supposed to count, but our officials have forgotten that. And we deserve better.

Vote accordingly.