Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Adoption as Melodrama, Pertman v Atwood

Today on Talk of the Nation, National Public Radio’s flagship news and talk show, there was a forty minute discussion based on the premise that states should allow adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates. On first blush, this would seem a moment to cherish, to celebrate. Instead, it was an aggravating “debate” between two non-adoptees presuming, yet again, to speak for us. With all due respect to the so-called “triad position” of Adam Pertman (Executive Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute), and Tom Atwood (Executive Director of the National Conference for Adoption), the two gentlemen were not there as fathers, they were there representing different aspects of the fifth leg of the adoption stool, the experts who get to interpret our realities to the world.

Can you imagine a program on any major national station on voting rights without any African-Americans on the panel? Can you imagine a serious discussion about immigration issues without any Hispanics as guests? Or what about a program about GLBT rights with a panel of two straight guys ? What the FUCK!!!!

I called in to give my two cents, I’m a sucker for speed dials and hit and run radio agit-prop. When I got through, the producer screening me said that what I wanted to say would duplicate comments of people she had on hold. When I asked why no adult adoptees were on the panel as guest, she said that the program was allowing adoptees to call in, and we would be heard. BULLSHIT. The producer asked adoptees to stick to their sob stories, and when they got off-script and challenged Atwood for appropriating the privilege of speaking for adoptees, they were CUT OFF.

This is why the Day for Adoptee Rights in New Orleans is so critically important. Adult adoptees need to be on the panels, on the podiums, in the statehouses, in the streets, without someone speaking for them, no matter how "supportive" they appear. These are OUR LIVES, OUR RIGHTS people.

In general the media loves us when we tell sob stories. They encourage us to portray our lives as a freak show to entertain the masses. It's standard operating procedure for daytime talk shows like Maury Povich and Oprah and their ilk to exploit our tragedies, but it was the allegedly high-minded NPR that played us for melodrama today, with Atwood and Pertman as context and window dressing. They wanted our "stories", they didn't give a shit about our rights.