This is day 13 of National Adoption Awareness Month, so this is my daily post to amplify the voices of adoptees.
Some 25 years ago, my eyes began opening to many of the complexities of adoption. My children were all in elementary school, and I was working for the now defunct Joint Council on International Children Services, an umbrella group for international adoption agencies. In the mid-!990’s, Bastard Nation was founded, by and for adoptees, and I attended at least one of their early conferences. (In Virginia, near Dulles Airport? The mind fades.) I remember being initially startled by the boldness of the name: Bastards? Oh my. At the conference, I listened to the perspectives of adult adopted persons who wanted the same basic civil rights as we non-adopted people: the right to know who they are, the right to have their own unaltered birth certificates. I met folks and talked with them, getting to know them as individuals and hear their stories, their pain, their hopes. I attended workshops to learn about their advocacy plans.
Back then the Internet was a different animal, as was the adoption world. Bill Pierce of the National Council for Adoption (NCFA) held a lot of power in Washington, DC, with Congress, adoption agencies, and adoptive parents. Looking through “alt adoption” to see the arguments and online altercations was a slow slog. The pages themselves were gray and full of text only. Bill engaged with the Bastards, and there was something of a mutual respect there, if not admiration.
Bill died in 2004. NCFA has seen much change, in leadership and membership (so many agencies have closed!). Adoption itself has evolved as adult adoptees and birth parents have begun to speak out (and we adoptive parents have begun to listen and hear), and to bring about much-needed change.
Since its founding in 1996, Bastard Nation has stayed steadfast, unflinching, and true to its goals in its advocacy for adoptee rights. From their website: “Bastard Nation is dedicated to the recognition of the full human and civil rights of adult adoptees. Toward that end, we advocate the opening to adoptees, upon request at age of majority, of those government documents which pertain to the adoptee’s historical, genetic, and legal identity, including the unaltered original birth certificate and adoption decree.
Bastard Nation asserts that it is the right of people everywhere to have their official original birth records unaltered and free from falsification, and that the adoptive status of any person should not prohibit him or her from choosing to exercise that right. We have reclaimed the badge of bastardy placed on us by those who would attempt to shame us; we see nothing shameful in having been born out of wedlock or in being adopted.”
There has been progress in improved access to Original Birth Certificates by adoptees; Bastard Nation provides a wealth of state law information. There remains a long way to go. Bastard Nation has also taken advocacy positions on adoptee citizenship/deportation. The organization remains tireless, irreverent, and deeply committed to ensuring that adoptees have no less than their full human and civil rights. Check them out on Facebook, buy some merch, and support their valuable work.