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ARD- Another from the “I hate being right” category- the ‘messaging’ disaster

Mere days ago, two to be exact, I said the following in this post, ARD- This morning’s Adoptee Rights Demonstration webpage update and what the loss of BN means, speaking of the current state of the Adoptee Rights Demonstration with the mostly new set of organizers going forward (I’ll quote at length because it has everything to do with point “1.” below):

“…since they now have the booth, what does a post-Bastard Nation withdrawal Adoptee Rights Demonstration intend to do with it? I.E. what ‘messaging’ are they going to be taking to legislators and aides, in the name of the broader adoptee rights ‘movement’.

When BN was involved, they were always extremely clear on how search, medical records, etc were not directly related to open records, as such are interpersonal issues that adoptees deal with AFTER they have their own information from the State and without State interference, just like any other person.

See this from BN’s FAQ:

“While we support those adoptees who wish to search for birth relatives and offer resources on our website,, we do not help people search. Our mission relates only to unconditional adoptee access to birth and adoption records. Our concern is the relationship of the adopted person to the state, not to his or her birth or adoptive parents. We believe it is a personal decision whether one wishes to reconnect with birth relatives, one which adoptees should be able to make freely without state interference.”

But now that BN is off, coupled with the recent death of Julia of Julia’s Jam and how the adoption community is dealing with that by conflating her death for lack of access to medical information into the fight for open records (medical records of parents remain confidential, even under open records. Yes, with open records she may have been able to connect with family and asked them to see if a match could be made, etc, but open records do not equate to access to ‘original’ parent’s medical information. Open records are merely about getting access to your own unaltered original birth certificate, or OBC- from the State, not a medical history) it raises concerns about whether or not the people who will be in that booth fully understand what open records are and are not, and whether they will have the skills needed to articulate such clearly.

This was why the Bastard Nation Bastard Boot camp teach-in that was supposed to take place over the events in New Orleans was so vital. The average adoptee simply has never learned the difference between restoring access to our OBCs from the State, and the need for medical information which must be obtained in a secondary step from family members themselves IF THEY CONSENT TO IT.

This is how you ended up with conflated, mismessaged, manglings of actual open records work like the Gladney 120th anniversary protest utilizing slogans such as “…Genetic secrecy kills adoptees.” If this becomes their version of “open records work” it means they don’t know.

And them not knowing is going to hurt all of us in the long run.

All of which is to say, the loss of BN on the ARD/DAR is going to have profound effects.

And it has the potential to really destroy some of the existing open records work that has been ongoing.

I, personally have grave concerns about what will and will not be said in said booth, now that many of the experienced political Bastards with a strong grounding in Bastard politic are out.”

Well, had I bothered to read Joy, on her blog (I am not one of her regular readers), I would have seen the following, If you LOVE an adoptee, originally posted June 3rd

Why we should suffer through the absolute slogging that goes into pulling something like this off?

1. Closed Records Kill

2. There is no such thing as guaranteed anonymity, records seal upon adoption not relinquishment, and unseal upon disruption.

3. The law is on our side. The right to privacy secured by the constitution is the right from privacy from governmental interference in our personal lives, not the right for governmental interference.

4. The government is not in the business of protecting people from the facts of their own life.

5. Human dignity, no person should have to be treated with the indignity of not being allowed to know their own vital statistics.

6. Civil Rights, The Supreme Court ruled in Brown vs. the Board of Education that separate is in fact not equal, our rights need to be restored, the codification allowing the creation of a second class of people is unconstitutional.

Okay, that is my short list, I could go on, but why? That is more than enough.

I suppose I’m going to have to spend the time it takes to go point by point about how for example point 1. is conflationism of the worst kind, (see the above.) And further, that from a purely pragmatic stance, when adoptees start basing their arguments on their need for medical records all they get is further crap-o-la like an often optional medical history form added to the stack ‘o forms parents fill out upon relinquishment.

Records remain sealed, the objection has been ‘handled’, and all you’ve done is further conflated your status as adoptees with your demand for confidential medical history from another person. Thus making us appear to be precisely the ‘demanding whining little forever children who NEED and then DEMAND contact with their families of origin’ legislators are forever being warned about by those who benefit by keeping records sealed.

But by all means, just play into that role someone else has already cast you for.

Whatever you do, don’t listen to the years of experience of the existing movement to push for our records restoration that has been carefully studying what arguments work and what don’t in legislative halls for years now.

No, far better to just reinvent that wheel.

Number 2. is a Bastard Nation talking point. BN has been using it for years.

Number 3 would take a book, suffice it to say, the law is clearly NOT on our side. If it were, we wouldn’t be working to change the law in 44 states, now would we?

As for the constitutional right to privacy you allude to- you might want to go back and actually read Roe v. Wade and its companion piece Doe v. Bolton. Then read about the legislative and legal history AFTER 1973, see the ’76-77 Hyde Amendment battles, 92’s Planned Parenthood v Casey, as but two examples. Part of the entire point of the patchwork of abortion laws across this country is that the courts have found that there are times when the State’s interest overrides a womyn’s autonomy, thus making her a slave to her own anatomy.

(I would argue the courts have found incorrectly, but we’re dealing with the realities on the ground here, at the moment. So no, the law is NOT on our side, that has been the entire point of the year by year eroding away of reproductive autonomy and privacy.)

Number 4., the State is ABSOLUTELY in the business of “protecting” people from the facts of their own lives- Duh! That’s what being a sealed records Bastard is all about! While no, the State shouldn’t be- that hardly changes the fact that at this very moment, it most certainly is in all but 6 states when it comes to access to our original unaltered birth certificates!

5. If you think legislators give a crap about human “dignity” you clearly slept through the entire Terri Schiavo mess. (Yes, I know this a federal example, when we are talking about records restoration as a states issue, while no one state case as of late has perhaps had quite the notoriety of Schiavo’s case, many state legislators have been more than happy to do their own ‘local’ versions of the Schiavo fiasco.) The INDIGNITIES these people and their families have endured at the hands of legislators grandstanding for votes should tell you all you need to know. Indignity is just fine if it helps ’em come November.

Finally, number 6. Again, if you understood for one moment what historically HAS HAPPENED when adoptees raise even the spectre of conflating our circumstances with those of African Americans and the American legacy of slavery, you’d avoid even the unintended appearance of such like the plague. Adoptees’ circumstances are fundamentally different than many aspects of African American experiences (unless of course, one happens to be an African American Bastard! Then speaking to both would be speaking of one’s own life.), and any attempt to co-opt such history or voice for your own use, let alone the fight for open records disgusts me on a deeply personal level. And to pull that in N’awlins? (This would be me, my blood boiling) THINK for a moment would you?

This is a paragraph I wrote back on January 10th, 2008 in the first BLC post I ever wrote about the Adoptee Rights Demonstration (I’d link it, but the post is no longer visible. I have made it private, at bare minimum until I get some kind of disclaimer up on every post I wrote about ARD before Bastard Nation withdrew.):

Do I have reservations? (Well, will it be New Orleans in July? Yup, and I know what that means. Will lots of Bastards end up looking like a bunch of white faces- unavoidably so, we are after all, what the open market bought- usually white skinned and often blond or fair haired. That’s the very nature of the adoption beast. How do we do what we need to do in New Orleans while not overlooking or in anyway downplaying the magnitude of the realities New Orleans itself currently faces? On that one, I have no real answer yet. Yeah, it’s going to be strange protesting for open records in a place where day to day fighting for SURVIVAL is a genuine reality. I’m still trying to figure this one out, but the bottom line is we’re there because they’re there- the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Annual Meeting.) Oh, you meant HOTEL reservations… none-the-less yes, of course, we have those too!

So, if I set Joy’s list aside, what DO I recommend? How about starting with listening to those who have actually gotten states to open over the last decade since Oregon’s measure 58? Now, am I saying do a state referendum? No each state is unique. But listen and learn from what arguments along those lines have gotten us before.

Now, why would someone (Joy) turn to such legal and court based arguments? Particularly when one is intending to utilize them with legislators not judges?

Could it be because Joy, herself, as someone working on the Adoptee Rights Demonstration, continues to leave a vital question unanswered?

So let’s go back and pull it from this comment thread on Bastardette, I asked Joy then:

You say open records are your focus, so let me ask you publicly; do you personally believe state by state legislative work (BN’s strategy and what DAR originally advocated, particularly since it’s outside the annual meeting of State Legislatures) is the best strategy to work for open records going forward? If not, why are you working with the Adoptee Rights Demonstration whose original intent was exactly that?

Joy proceeded to not answer the question.

So I restated it and put it out again:”

I’ll note you did not answer my question about the very premise of the event itself as originally stated.

Funny about that.

Folks might want to do some follow up on that, since Joy hasn’t answered me yet.

It’s an important question, essentially do those working on it now fully support the premise of the event?

The question continues to linger in the air.

If this is the ‘messaging’ we can come to expect from the post Bastard Nation withdrawal from the Adoptee Rights Demonstration organizers, we will continue to get more of the same, closed records.


Because such messaging has been tried before. It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now.

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