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Adam Pertman, please shut up.

Mr. Pertman, the single biggest thing you could do for open records at this point is shut up.

(At least until you have the faintest idea of what you’re talking about, and find within yourself some willingness to stand firm for ’em.)

For those not in the know, Adam Pertman is the Executive Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute which has just released their research paper advocating adult adoptee access to our ‘personal information’ entitled “For the Records: Restoring a Right to Adult Adoptees” (The title alone is a massive problem, it fails to answer the most basic question, which “Right”?) He is also a self appointed spokesperson on adoption and open records, (though he certainly doesn’t speak for me!) and an adoptive father.

This post is not going to be a blow by blow on the report, though.

Let’s be clear from the outset- do I support full restoration of the unequivocal right of adoptees (and Bastards) to access their original unamended State confiscated birth certificates and other personal information held by the State? Hell yes! Does Mr. Pertman? Apparently not.

For regardless of what the report put forward, personal actions speak louder than any report any given Institute could ever issue. And yesterday, via NPR’s “Talk of the Nation,” we were treated to a real doozy of a set of personal actions. Mr. Pertman basically undermined any notion of himself as personally standing solidly for open records, let alone any kind of spokesperson for such.

Talk of the Nation’s guests were Mr. Pertman and Tom Atwood of the National Council for Adoption, an organization founded on maintaining sealed records and the Washington DC area voice of portions of the adoption industry. In the course of a slightly longer than half hour format call in show Mr. Pertman personally advocated any number of “compromise” measures that undermine full access for adoptees.

He began with advocating the creation of a ‘national mutual consent registry,’ and went on to advocate the use of internet registries (a woefully inadequate interpersonal measure in the face of State records confiscation.)

Far from seeing States that have contact vetoes as antithetical to genuine records access, he specifically endorsed (? I think, it’s hard to tell, does even HE know?) not only the strategy of contact vetoes, but then went on to personally validate the false framing of “birthmother privacy” and “need for protection” (Enough to make one wonder why they even needed Tom Atwood on the show as Mr. Pertman was doing a fine job of supporting gutting access all by himself.)

“I think women like this need to, need their privacy and need protection and the laws that have been passed and or repealed in several States provide a contact veto in some cases a contact preference form in others that’s protection that no woman has today so in fact they do provide some extra…”

This is man who has not only completely caved and self sabotaged, but apparently desperately needs adoption 101.

When parental rights are severed records are not sealed. The act of birth is not ‘confidential’ nor private. See Doe v. Sundquist in TN, which stated plainly:

“A birth is simultaneously an intimate occasion and a public event-the government has long kept records of when, where; and by whom babies are born. Such records have myriad purposes, such as furthering the interest of children in knowing the circumstances of their birth.”

Records are only sealed upon ADOPTION not relinquishment.

What this means as a practical measure is that a womyn can give birth to twins. She can surrender her parental rights, and if one is adopted and the other not adopted, being moved instead into the foster care system, only one set of records are sealed- those of the adoptee. The child in foster care’s original unaltered birth certificate is still intact and unsealed.

So notions of ‘birthmother privacy’ to ‘hide birth’, or to ‘protect her’ from a child she either surrendered or lost parental rights to are just that- notions. Sealed records were never about her. They may have been done in her name, but none of that translated over into anything meaningful.

A womyn who gives birth and surrenders a child is not written out of the history UNLESS the child is adopted.

And as for that canard put forward by the industry and other ideologues in adoption, “privacy”? Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton both apply to REPRODUCTIVE privacy a period that ends when a womyn gives birth as from birth forward there are now two people, two sets of civil rights, two personal histories, etc.

No State can “protect” a womyn in the future from the historical act of having given birth, as there are now two distinct people, both party to that birth. It is a part of both of our histories, regardless of the fact that we as newborns will clearly not have personal remembrances of the event.

In short, adoptee rights aren’t some zero sum game. Despite the insistence of many to the contrary they don’t come at the ‘expense’ of (“birth”) mothers, as the womyn have no ‘right to privacy’ in birth nor upon relinquishment of parental rights.

Adoptee rights are hard won from the STATE and if they come at the ‘expense’ of anyone, they sometimes prove to be at the ‘expense’ of the industry, as past misdeeds and abuses come to light.

The fact that even the most basic aspects of open records were never once brought up in the course of the NPR mess tells me volumes.

Mr. Pertman was reinventing the wheel, basic pieces that experienced politically savvy Bastard activists understand to the very core of our beings, were simply beyond his reach. Clearly, he simply is not familiar with the real basis, and legal case law open records have been built upon.

The crux of his argument was ‘see, our RESEARCH shows, open records don’t hurt anybody’. (NCFA will be more than glad to provide an ENDLESS parade of those ‘hurt by openness’, in response, I assure you.)

The crux of our argument is the demand that what the government robbed us of be restored as a means towards which we too, may become full participants in and equal members of society, not the second class citizenship we currently are relegated to by policies that hide misdeeds and benefit only people other than the directly affected.

(That’s just a teeny tiny simple little portion of adoption 101, I’ll get more written eventually.)

So I’ll get back to Mr. Pertman. In the NPR piece he showed that he, sitting in his perspective as an adoptive father, appears to have exactly ZERO genuine understanding of certain aspects of the Bastard experience. He went further, equating Bastards who attempt to contact their (original) family members via telephone (in cases where they at that point find out contact is unwanted) to telemarketers!

I don’t know whether to be completely insulted or just write Mr. Pertman off once and for all. Telemarketers are after all, considered maybe half a step above pond scum by many, and are often considered non-consensual, demanding, and intrusive.

Just imagine, here’s a Bastard, now an adult who has waited for this moment for decades, with a massive emotional investment to say nothing of the time and resources spent working towards getting to that phone call only to be rejected- and then further kicked when they’re down by Mr. Pertman saying we’re no better than telemarketers! ‘The scourge of the dinner hour!’ ‘Pests!’ ‘Annoyances!’ ‘Lower than (gasp) LAWYERS!’

Hello? Hello? Mr. Pertman? Yeah, this is empathy calling… .

By way of a final example of how deeply he clearly misunderstands the nature of where legislation comes from and what the fight for restoration of our documentation to those of us it was confiscated from, I’ll provide one last quote, “Good public policy is shaped not by individual experience… .”

While he may jump up and down and emphatically claim public policy must only come from RESEARCH (his Institute’s in particular) he’s only showing he has no understanding of how legislation truly comes into being. It is born directly of the experiences of individuals.

Bastards recognizing their class status (as ‘members’ of ‘class Bastard’) come to recognize that we, as a class are second class citizens, that we are not treated equally, that we are denied basic things all other members of this society have. We gather together, learn from one another, and advocate based on our real world personal experiences of what it is we suffer. No, not some “primal wound”, injustice, inequality.

We, our personal experiences, ARE the RESEARCH, we ARE the experts, we ARE adoption (complete, with all its warts and pixie dust.)

So let me give a couple of pieces of advice. For starters, any time NPR wants to do a piece on open records and has two adoptive fathers on the show, and no adoptees themselves (let alone Bastards) -HINT!- there’s a problem. (Then again, most Bastards are smart enough to avoid traps like this one.)

Your first duty should you even chose to participate, is to point that out. That the most directly affected have no voice here today. (And thus are relegated to trying to get past the screeners to get on air, which was apparently an issue.)

Anytime you find yourself in a half hour long extravaganza of a cavalcade of compromise, yeah, you might want to hang up that ‘spokesperson for open records’ hat. Those of us genuinely fighting for real open records are gonna look at you funny, and might even write a blog post or two about ‘cha. Them’s the breaks. If you set yourself up as pro-open records and then compromise a mile a minute, you have no right to expect anything less.

Never bring dental floss to a shoot out at the OK corral.

And anytime you can’t be bothered to stand for a goddamn thing? Shutting up is far preferable to digging your own hole deeper.

Doubly so if your actions may affect the real work being done by genuine uncompromising open records advocates.

You don’t speak for us. You’re not one of us.

Not today, anyway. Humans are capable of change, but I’m not holding my breath- got too much work to do.

It’s pretty simple, actually, with self appointed ‘allies’ willing to sell us all short, who the hell needs ‘enemies’?

13 Responses to “Adam Pertman, please shut up.”

  1. Baby Love Child Says:

    I didn’t mention it in the post, but for another Bastard perspective on the NPR clusterfuck, enjoy this from BB Church’s Funhouse. A very good read!

  2. joyjoy Says:

    Fabulous post.

  3. Marley Greiner Says:

    Now you’ve done it, Baby Love Child!

    I’m speechless at your deconstruction and analysis of yesterday’s events–possibly the most aggravating experience of my adopalife. More aggravating that a statehoues hearing; more aggravating than Jay Sekulow. More aggravating than Massachusetts deformers.

    Yesterday’s show illustrates clearly that we must never depend on others, no matter how well intentioned, to speak for us. I am really struck by the comments I’m seeing on internet adoption forums about yesterday Lots of people are really angry, and I’ve read not one single positive comment about the debacle. I’m not sure it would have been that way 10 years ago when adoptees and bastards were still happy that somebody even listened to them. Of course, I like to think that Bastard Nation had something to do with this sea change.

    Bastards are not going to shut up.

    I wish I’d written this blog. I’ll be refering my readers over here.

  4. Baby Love Child Says:

    Marley, I’m (almost!) speechless- and honoured beyond words.

    And you are ABSOLUTELY right.

    Yes folks, it *IS* alright to be angry when bastards are kept from the very discourse of what we initiate and work towards and that affects us and our lives.

    Not a similar situation, but perhaps a personal inspiration;

    In 1969 in New York, Redstockings (Radical Feminists, activists) disrupted a New York State legislature’s abortion reform hearing where those set to testify were 14 men and a nun.

    They demanded full abortion law repeal, not the compromise measures that were going to deny full access. They also demanded womyn testify as the REAL experts on abortion.

    As I said, when it comes to adoption- we are the experts, and no one, certainly not adoptive fathers of any stripe, can speak for us.

  5. Marley Greiner Says:

    The Redstockings were my introduction to radical feminism (not to be confused with the current brand). In 1967 I was living in Albany, GA, and at night I’d listen to my transistor radio under my pillow (so as not to bother Mr. Marley who had to get up at 5 AM) and pick up the Alan Douglas Show all the way from Cleveland. One night the ever-marvelous Redstocking Anselma D’ollio (sp) was his guest saying things I’d never heard before. Today I don’t remember much of what she said other than ask a Sicilian caller if his family still kidnapped brides. But she changed my life that night. You never know how what you say or do will influence untold and unknown others. Bastards can certainly take a page from the Redstockings, and I think that day is near.

  6. Baby Love Child Says:

    That day is the moment we own it in our own hearts and stop waiting for everyone else.

    In the mean time, Tuesday July 22th, 2008 sounds like a good date… !!! Though perhaps it’s merely one of the many many more yet to come.

  7. BB Church Says:

    We cannot let the media get off the hook. The host and the producers of TOTN worked diligently to create a “balanced” program, to the degree that when Atwood took a drink of water and was temporarily not on the offensive against adoptee rights, the host stepped in to pose thoughtful questions, like, “Adam, what about this woman who was raped by her father when she was thirteen? Shouldn’t she be ‘protected’?” and other “when did you stop beating your wife?” queries.
    Anyone who has worked for any amount of time as an issue advocate knows when they’re being sandbagged. Anyone who has worked for any amount of time as an issue advocate knows how to stay on-point and to repeat, ad nauseum, the key bullet points. Always be on the offensive. If you are asked a question that pulls you off-point, answer with one of your bullet points, even if it bears no relationship to the question.
    As a reporter, Pertman should know this stuff. If I were *his* supervisor, I’d have pulled him into my office right after the show and directed him to refer all media in the future to someone who can stay on message, because he BLEW IT.
    Bill Pierce must be chuckling from Beyond…

  8. Marley Greiner Says:

    And Bill and NCFA always stay on point. They ignore what they don’t want to answer. They argue their points, not ours. They don’t do liberal chit-chat on marginal issues that do not further their agenda. Unfortunately, that’s just what “progressives” do. They want to be liked. They apologize. The “empathize.” This isn’t some polite game of croquet. Presenting your arguments via the media is a learned skill, and I admit I’m not always good at it. But I’ve learned. Dare, I say, the best “primer” I’ve ever read on how to handle the media is in the bio of the loathesome Janet Folger. blagghhhhhh Now shoot me, BLC

  9. Riddle Me This: « Just Enjoy Him: Ramblings of a Mid-Life Mom Says:

    […] From Baby Love Child, Adam Pertman, Please Shut Up: yesterday, via NPR’s “Talk of the Nation,” we were treated to a real doozy of a set of […]

  10. Baby Love Child Says:

    BB Church is absolutely right in that the media cannot be let off the hook.

    Did anyone else listening to the broadcast notice how NCFA’s/Atwood’s reframing/catch phrase du jour “mandatory openness” was picked up by the interviewer?

    This was the point where clearly we had moved into the territory of two against one. Mr. Pertman, far from sucking it up and tumbling backwards should have instead pointed out what just happened- and there’s a media lesson in that for all Bastards. When the interviewer intentionally internalizes and then utilizes your opponent’s linguistic strategies any pretense of ‘fair debate’ has gone by the wayside.

    Never bite down on ‘so when did you stop beating your wife?’ questions, instead, show the ‘question’ itself and the and the ‘questioner’ for what they are.

    What is perhaps most stunning is Mr. Pertman himself is a former member of the media, you would think he would have some understanding of the techniques and would be familiar with issue advocacy, but no, apparently not in the least. It was so obvious he thought he was having some kind of discussion. While he may have once upon a time had talking points, they were weak at best and undermined by his own actions within minutes.

    It’s also clear he hasn’t spent (enough?) time directly dealing with the real kind of calls and callers one is likely to face in these situations (no matter how many of them may have been NCFA encouraged to call in). Those of us on this end HAVE to be ready to deal with the usual set of senarios; the I was raped caller, the Incest caller, the ‘what about my privacy caller’, and in some cases the won’t this undermine Roe v. Wade caller.

    There are responses for all of these, but it was pretty clear, Pertman had never even confronted the notion of such a caller, much less had any kind of response prepared. Hence his stumbling straight into the garbled non-sentence that I transcribed for the blog post in which he fell into all of NCFA’s framing- ‘privacy’, ‘protection’ etc.

    And once again, BB Church hits the nail on the head-

    If I were *his* supervisor, I’d have pulled him into my office right after the show and directed him to refer all media in the future to someone who can stay on message, because he BLEW IT.

    Unfortunately, that’s part of the point- he doesn’t answer to those of us directly affected.

    Were *I* his supervisor, he wouldn’t be the ‘player’ I’d put in in the first place, but failing that, if I HAD to send him in, after that performance, he’d be warming the bench for the rest of the season. Almost any open records supporting Bastard picked at random off the street could have done better.

  11. Baby Love Child Says:

    Dare, I say, the best “primer” I’ve ever read on how to handle the media is in the bio of the loathesome Janet Folger. blagghhhhhh Now shoot me, BLC

    Oh, you mean Janet- the rapid professional anti-Queer wingnut who shops at Yankee Trader with the Queer Flag in the window- ~HYPOCRITE~! – Folger? Yeah her.

    Well, I guess the good guys will just have to take her cash and do something good with it, far outlasting her 15 seconds of fame on channel 10. You know that usual, “The Wealth of the Wicked, Yours for the Taking” (Actual christian book title, by John F. Avanzini.)


    Well, long as you (and anyone reading you) understand that some tactics are in bounds and some are unethical sleaze that are out of bounds, s’ok. She is nothing if not a walking talking media stunt slut.

    And I’m sure somewhere underneath all that there must be something we might find useful- even if only as constant examples of what not to do/who not to be.

  12. Says:

    Hah! Great post. You managed to articulate, beautifully, what was so wrong while I was reduced to sputtering and saying, “that’s not fair!”

    I have long had an issue with Mr. Pertman. Ever since he said EVERY CHILD is subjected to the whims of chance as to which family it finds itself in. I had raised the point that I was PLACED into an abusive home. He said his mother would have aborted him if her doctor had advised her against it, etc. (This bit and his POV is in his book, Adoption Nation). The two are ENTIRELY different. Some social worker spent all of five minutes with my adoptive parents. As a result, I was placed with TWO narcissistic people (one diagnosed by psychiatrist) whom I was stuck caretaking as soon as I was able to listen and provide comfort. The fact that my entire life was determined by a social worker based on social theory now commonly referred to as a “failed experiment” is not at all the same as almost being aborted. Just another example of how Mr. Pertman proclaims to “get it” while not understanding at all.

  13. Erika Says:

    i dont understand how a “mutally consenting registry” would work anyhow.It would still treat adoptees like property rather than individuals who have a natural right to know their own history.

    there are two many variables with this type of registry or system.people relocate,and some people may not even know this even exists.

    why do they hide behind this so called privacy?As a first mother, I believe my rights are automatically intertwined with that of my children whether I like it or not.I have no right to deny my adopted out child this information.

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