And speaking of that Adoption Conference in Boston…
There was quite a discussion in the comments section of a post over at Birth Mother, First Mother Forum about gay adoption. For some reason, some computer quirk, I often have trouble leaving comments there so I am posting this here.
Someone made a comment in response to the post (which was a speculation on why Philomena didn’t win an Oscar) that gay people only want to have the right to adopt because that is an indicator of equality with hetero adopters. The person went on to say that gay adopters really don’t care about the children they adopt. I think the commenter meant, they are only using these children to make a point. There were many cries of homophobia in response to the comment. I totally disagree that gay adopters don’t care about the children they adopt but it does seem that adoption is perceived by some members of the gay community as an indicator of equality with not just hetero adopters but with all hetero parents, adoptive or biological.
What follows is a taken from a report I did on this blog from the Adoption Conference held at MIT in Boston in 2010. It very much relates to the equality question.
Here’s what I said.
The next morning session was: BirthMothers: Agency and Activism. … [T]he first speaker was Frances Latchford from York University in Canada. Her presentation was entitled: Recovering Jocasta: Bio-essentialism and Agency in Discourse about Birthmothers.
If you need to refresh your memory re Jocastahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jocasta
Dr. Latchford and I exchanged a few words before the session began having recognized each other as Canadians. Her presentation went along these lines. If I get it wrong I hope someone will let me know or Dr. Latchford will post her paper.
She questions whether women are innately drawn to motherhood. The biology is destiny thing. In addition, to believe that a biological connection to a child or parent is important reflects an attitude of bio-narcissism. A belief that being raised in your biological family is important is bio-narcissistic nurturing.
Because of this, she questions the grief which many birth mothers express as well as their claims of coercion. She speaks of a Birth Mother Syndrome. How mothers who made a choice, believe it was a choice, and are happy with that choice, are fearful or intimidated about speaking up because the current party line (my choice of words not hers) is that (birth) moms were and still are coerced or manipulated.
I found this (birth) mothers as sheep theory kind of interesting. One of the main reasons I was at this conference was because I have heard various mothers express opinions as to why some feminists have for the most part thrown we (birth) mothers under the bus. I have never quite understood this because they, or should I say, we mothers are women who were essentially punished for daring to be sexual beings and for breaking a patriarcal societal taboo of having children outside the bounds of, as Dr. Latchford would say, hetero-normative marriage. I wanted to attend the conference, listen and see what I thought thus enabling myself to reach my own conclusions.
I am, at this early point in the proceedings, starting to feel I am hearing a theory whose philosophical underpinnings are motivated by a very healthy dose of self interest. I am also starting to understand at an even deeper level than I anticipated about the bus tire tracks that are on my back.
I am also starting to feel on behalf of the (birthmother) sisterhood, a little offended.
In my pre-presentation discussion with Dr. Latchford I expressed the view that adoptees seems to feel some longing to know where they come from. She believes this is because they are denied the information and that this will be solved by open adoption.
It does, after all, take a village to raise a child, Dr Latchford points out.
After the presentation, someone who appears to be familiar with these theories asks a question about how rights are determined in this situation. Dr. Latchford answers that it is based on work. So mom does get some rights for being the person who actually bears the child. (Where does this leave men I wonder, given they do not do too much work before birth? Pretty close to the minus column.)
How would these rights [between biological mother and potential adoptive mother] be determined? They would be negotiated, says Dr. Latchford.
Hmmmm? Young frightened, recently delivered, under pressure from all sides (birth) mom negotiating with academic or wealthy PAP’s? What’s the number for the Power Imbalance Police? Or the Pregnant Teenager Defense Team?
According to her profile on the York University website:
Dr. Latchford’s area of specialization is feminist social and political philosophy. Her interests are interdisciplinary and encompass a strong knowledge of continental, post-structuralist, post-colonial, psychoanalytic, and queer theories of subjectivity, sexuality, race, and gender. Her publications focus on questions of queer identity, subjectivity, and rights, as well as questions concerning ethical knowledge. She is currently completing a book, Steeped In Blood, that examines how ‘family’ experiences are produced in the modern Western context. She uses feminist, continental, post-structural, and psychoanalytic theories to examine the social and political devaluation of adoptive ‘family’ experience through discourses and psychologies surrounding the family, adoption, sexuality and incest, all of which intersect. She is also working on a new anthology entitled, Adoption and Mothering, which will be published by Demeter Press.
… (Discussion of other presentations)
I started talking to a Canadian PhD candidate who was sitting behind me and we ended up having lunch together. We discussed Dr. Latchford’s theories and I said to me it just seemed like the latest rationale to separate us from our children. In my view, there is a difference between equality in access (gay or straight) to children who truly need homes and developing a theory that is designed to provide “product” for PAP’s and misusing, It takes a village to raise a child, to do it. But it was a good discussion I thought.
I found the presentation upsetting because I do feel sometimes we are the women feminists would prefer to ignore and here was one explanation for that staring me in the face. To me the entire thesis was a question of what do we want do here (have access to children) and how will we work backwards to develop a theory to support that end result. Negotiating rights with the child’s mother. Is this something to negotiate some form of Open Adoption? we all know what the enforceability of an open adoption agreement is – zero.
Would proponents of Dr. Latchford’s hypothesis say to any other group that many of their number who express grief or cry injustice are only doing so because that is the cultural party line. The example of the harm done to First Nations by the residential schools comes to mind. The damage from this experience has echoed down through generations. Would she and her followers say that those who express this grief and decry this damage are insincere and only doing so because that is the accepted position in their culture? I doubt it.
Adoption should be about children who truly need homes and families not about people who want children. I care not whether the person who adopts a child who truly needs home is gay or straight. But if the child already has a family…
Does that make me a bio-narcissist? Could be.