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Adoptee Rights Demonstration – Photographs and Video – Missed Opportunities Abound

So in the end, I made the last minute decision to head up to Philly and see it with my own eyes.

I took a little over 24 hours to decide whether or not I actually wanted to blog this, but as once again, the Adoptee Rights Committee isn’t doing a very good job of communicating what actually took place people are frustrated. Again, this year I’ve been urged by readers to put up a report.

Still, why go?

Lots of reasons. Not the least of which being, there was always the outside chance, I could actually see something that I didn’t expect, that genuinely changed my thinking about this current incarnation of the Adoptee Rights Demonstration / Adoptee Rights Day (ARD). Had such happened, yes, I would have written about that as well.

Ultimately, nothing substitutes for actually going out and taking a good hard look.

So I went, knowing that there can be quite a difference between those creating the events and those attending the events.

Regardless of what some of the “Adoptee Rights Coalition” members have said and done in the past, I still understand that an organizing committee is only that, the key component here has always been about those others who show up.

Particularly so, as the original framing of the event has been that of it as a “mass action” capable of not merely interacting with legislators but of placing pressure on legislators through sheer numbers and dogging their every step over the conference, demanding they enact legislation to restore access to Adult Adoptees’ original (unmodified) birth certificates.

So I was interested in how this actually plays out in the streets, and what it looks like in practice.

My partner, Mike Doughney, “Sleeps with Bastard” joined in. We grabbed our small video camera so we could travel light, and a still camera and headed off . Philly, being just a short hop skip and a jump from our home in Maryland, it was quick and easy.

Besides, Philly holds a lot of fond (and a few not so fond) memories for us, it’s actually the city where we first came together as a couple well over a decade ago.

What we saw yesterday held very little in common with most of the Bastard Activism, particularly public demonstrations we are familiar with or have participated in.

Comparing yesterday’s events to Bastard Nation’s 1997 Bastards at the Bell, “Our Records Our Rights Rally in Philly” (which I was not present for) provides a particularly stark contrast. (Mind you, I’m not exactly a fan of invocations… .)

The very structure of that event was different, focusing on speakers, actions, and the strong visual of Bastard Nation having quite literally raised the flag.

The event took place within a broader context of fighting the states’ versions of the Uniform Adoption Act. Oregon had not opened records yet, and BN was in its early years.


Cindy Bertrand Holub – Pennsylvania Director, Bastard Nation – 1997 Bastards at the Bell / Our Records Our Rights Rally in Philly

Over a decade later, the ARD was to take place in the footsteps of Bastard Nation, the difference between the two couldn’t have been clearer. I strongly advise readers to look though the speeches, the actions, the fact that both Pennsylvania and New Jersey local groups (among others) were represented in 1997, and ultimately, the differences in attitude between the two. But then, I think Bastard Nation has come a long way in its politic since then as well.

Now a decade later? All I can say is that from my perspective, it’s a shame it’s devolved down to this.

While there will be analysis in this piece, much of the core of it is simply a matter of what it looked like to any bystander who was present and in the vicinity of the 2009 Adoptee Rights Demonstration.

The summary?

  • They gathered at People’s Plaza over the course of an hour and a half and stood around talking to one another, with a few doing interviews.
  • At roughly noon, 66 people (give or take one or two) spread out into a line and began chanting and walking along the sidewalks the 8 blocks or so over to the Convention Center.
  • At the convention center they hung out and sign held briefly.
  • By 12:40 most of the participants had already left the convention center, leaving a few stragglers behind.

The actual “doing” portion of the event was less than 45 minutes long.


So let’s start at the beginning.

Just as we had anticipated, it was drizzly overcast with the tops of buildings moving in and out of the low ceiling cloud cover.


There were some brief periods of light rain, but for the most part, it was a drizzly mist, letting up well before the noon step off.

The setting for the starting place for this year’s Adoptee Rights Demonstration was Independence National Historic Park, the grassy mall which includes Independence Hall, the visitor’s center, the National Constitution Center, and the Liberty Bell Center, among its many monuments and markers.

At the very heart of the park, surrounded by these icons sits the People’s Plaza, a designated site for protest, dissent, rabble rousing, complaint, and general soapbox standing for those with a cause of whatever persuasion. As the city virtual tour mentions,

“The Park receives over 300 requests each year for permits to hold public events or gatherings in the park.”

So long as a group first completes the permitting process their cause can be at the center of Independence Mall for the allotted period. (The designation of a specified site for expressions of dissent has been a definite point of contention.) None the less, there at the very heart of the Mall is a site where the grass won’t be trampled and the First Amendment stands alongside, carved in stone.


Picture courtesy of

With the first permit issued in January 2008, the People’s Plaza is a relatively recent addition to the Mall, paid for by the Friends of Independence Park who raised the funds for its construction.

The ARD scheduled their event to begin at the People’s Plaza at 10:30 Tuesday morning.

From across Market street, this is what the ARD looked like not long thereafter.


Here’s a nice long shot, the ARD folks have gathered to the left, Independence hall is at the back, and the Liberty Bell Center is to the right.


Over the next hour and a half, they stood in the on again off again drizzle and talked amongst themselves. While there are many things I could say about the ARD’s morning spent at People’s Plaza, the primary impression I left with was a feeling of wasted opportunity for money and time spent.

Seemingly, there was no strategy of ongoing intentional interaction with anyone else in the space, as there were no speeches, nor other central means of communication, they by and large, just hung out.

  • There was no banner explaining who they were or why they were there
  • No speakers or speeches, no use of sound equipment, not even a lousy ‘radio shack special’ bullhorn
  • No flyers nor educational materials passed out to bystanders unless you count a small ARD business card, one of which was left behind as litter on the ground. (Yes, I did ‘litter patrol’, after they left the Plaza.) On the back it stated “End discrimination against adopted persons” without ever defining what possible “discrimination” we might endure.
  • No chanting until later, when they got underway
  • Not even so much a set of ‘burma shave’ style signs held along Market Street for the traffic stopped at the traffic light

Over the course of the hour and a half hundreds of cars passed, tour groups went by, tourists wandered the area, those who live and work in the area strolled past, there were even multiple TV trucks just around the corner (set up for a separate unrelated event just over a block away). Instead of interacting, they gathered and occupied the space, hardly speaking to anyone other than themselves and a reporter for most of the time they were there.

How this possibly justified the effort to gain a permit, when they could have just as easily (and more certainly in a more dry place) hung out anywhere in the city is beyond me.

As an activist who has been around a few genuine protests in my time, the silence was beyond comprehension. Why on earth would you get a permit to stand in the damp for an hour and a half holding signs upside down and chatting one anther up?

This is one of the few early pictures I have where some number of signs are held aloft.


As not much was going on, I strolled across the mall to take a few more pictures.

Here’s Independence Hall, and the Liberty Bell Center. Those gathering for the ARD are behind me here.


And facing the opposite direction, towards the National Constitution Center, those gathering for the ARD are to the right of the picture…


Having been there, and now, looking at these pictures, I can’t help but be reminded of the words from Ron’s initial articulation of what went on to become the Adoptee Rights Demonstration.

Past marches on Washington by Open Records organizers were a bad idea, poorly executed. I think it’s fair to say that they had minimal effect in changing any laws. Worse, by bringing together a few dozen Open Records supporters in the largest possible venue, they create the perception that the Open Records movement is weak and small. Bad political actions discourage people from participating in further actions. Why should they follow leaders that waste their time and resources?

(Emphasis added.)

The venue chosen could not have made the ARD look more irrelevant and small. Coupled with the fact that all they did was stand around and talk amongst themselves, they could not have appeared more insular if they tried.

Note that the people in the middle of this shot are with the ARD, there is a small grassy patch between them and the walkway, then to the right on the walkway is a tour group, as large if not larger than the ARD at this point. No real effort was made to interact or educate.


Here’s another view with the visitor’s center at the left.


Bored, I wandered up into the Garden nearby, as it’s one of my favorite areas along the Mall.

Still not much going on, people hanging out, talking amongst themselves.


Directly across the Mall from the garden the line of tourists waiting to see the Liberty Bell had begun spill outside. The line goes off to the left along the side of the building for a ways, and as you can see, drizzle or no, clearly there were tourists in the area, essentially, a captive audience, had anyone bothered with a sound system, or had anything to say.


We wandered down closer along Market Street to get a few better pictures. By now the rain was letting up.




As you can see, mainly folks hung out in little knots, talking, finally meeting friends they knew from facebook, and otherwise doing what for the most part could have been done in any hotel lobby. Most of those gathered had their backs turned to both the street and any pedestrians walking past.

The signs, to adverage Joe bystander, would not have made a great deal of sense, for the most part, a bystander would have seen a jumble of bits: the word “denied” in red ink several times, terms like “OBC” and signs about “Moms” and “Daddys.”

Getting in closer they MIGHT have seen “adoptee” although it was sometimes written in a very ‘groovy’ 60’s style font often rendering it and similar terms illegible from any distance.

Some participants wore the family tree logoed ARD cafe press gear. Again, the family tree is a visual metaphor for search and reunion, not records restoration. Others had written in magic marker on t-shirts.

Here are a sampling of the signs that we were able to document, (keep in mind some of these are two opposite sides of the same signs.)

Some simply made no sense without a broader context.

  • OBC Equal Rights
  • We are opposed to state lies
  • How would it feel if you were denied?
  • You have yours (Denied) we want ours
  • a piece of posterboard made to look like some kind of document with DENIED written in red lettering across it
  • Original identity basic human right
  • Original identity = human right
  • We didn’t ask 4 confidentiality from our children
  • This is a legalized lie. Give me my OBC
  • Identity is a right
  • My identity is a state secret
  • (denied certificate) our civil right
  • You have yours, mine is denied
  • We never asked for promises of secrecy
  • I did not sign up for the witness protection program
  • Access Denied: Do you know your truth? Name? Birthdate? Birthplace? Mother? Father? Footprint? (Um, Footprint?!?)
  • Our rights are a state secret

Others were search and reunion focused.

  • Who’s my Daddy?
  • Whose my Momma? (messaging issues aside for the moment that should at least be Who’s my Momma?)
  • Searching for Identity
  • Hi Mom!
  • Are you my (heart shape)?
  • (A drawing of a family tree with the words) Do you know… (written across it)

Additionally, there was the occasional incoherent rambling sign along the lines of this little gem

  • I am a part of- not “apart from” – my birth parents’ privacy.


Perhaps winner for strangest and most obscure messaging ever – one with the sticker and ‘denied’ (certificate) with the single word “NOW!” in the middle (National Organization for Women perhaps? Unclear.)

There were at least a few that gave some context as to what all this was supposed to be about.

  • Adoptees deserve equal rights
  • Birth Moms support equal rights
  • Why is access denied for adoptees? Unseal our birth certificates.
  • I am (denied) my birth certificate (which unfortunately, since the “denied” certificate was mostly illegible from any distance, it appeared to read “I am my birth certificate”)
  • Adoptee Rights. Do I look like a dirty little secret?

And even several Bastard Nation slogans appeared.

  • Equal Rights for Adult Adoptees
  • Are you adopted? Are you Sure?

A number of these signs were made together at the ARD sign making party the night before.

As I said, there was no main banner or signage for the ‘march’, so to those wandering the area there was no real explanation of quite what this little knot of people many wearing green or tree logoed things was, other than glimpses of signs often held upside down as they stood around in the plaza.

Finally, as noon approached, some people began to actually hold their signs up, even as others stood around, still talking.


Interestingly, they never so much as posed for a group shot in the space they had paid to get.

So I moved around in order to get at least one clear shot of participants with Independence Hall in the background.

As I said, there wasn’t a great deal of ‘going on’ going on on at the Plaza. Sadly, the shot looks far more active than what was actually going on at the time, but this is probably among the more flattering shots I got.

Ironically, the person holding the “Birth Moms Support Adoptee Rights” sign is a man. (Later along the ‘march’ it was held by a woman.)


One of the few things that was taking place during all this were some interviews.

Sadly, this was about as close to the sidewalk and those passing by as I saw any ARD participant get. The large stone block in the lefthand side of the picture is where the First Amendment is inscribed.


Mostly, though, those gathered stayed in the plaza itself, huddled in little groups talking.



As the interview concluded we were treated to “Who’s my daddy?”


We went for another little walk towards Market Street and took some long view pictures just before noon to get a feel for how many were there. Along the sidewalk there were a number of unrelated pedestrians and tourists.



All told it had been nearly an hour and a half of standing around, by and large twiddling their thumbs.

In what amounts to perhaps the nearest thing this country has to a secular ‘hallowed ground’ dedicated to free speech, the Adoptee Rights Demonstration simply had nothing to say.


At this point, as they appeared to be preparing to move, we switched over to our video camera rather than the still.

As noon came around, they began chanting as they lined up and spread out, walking off down the sidewalk along Market street, chanting  as they went, according to the Philadelphia Enquirer:

“You got yours . . .” came the call from protest organizers.

“I want mine!” shouted the marchers.

It could not have been anything other than completely impenetrable to the tourists in the Mall. No explanation of what anyone “had” or what they “wanted,” let alone who they were nor why they were there.

I’ve seen flash mobs with more coherent messaging to the outside world. Those near us looked puzzled.

We now take a brief interlude to watch the video of perhaps the most “exciting” thing the ARD did in Independence National Historic Park, leave.

(This is me, shaking my head, completely puzzled)

Throughout the two minutes worth of footage they chanted. In an act of pure mercy to viewers, we’ve stripped off the broken record chanting, (well that, and I was on the phone nearby.)

So they lengthened out into a group and began walking down the sidewalk holding signs and chanting their bizarre chant and headed off to the convention center.

Their numbers had varied over the course of the morning at People’s Plaza, slowly building over time. But when the time finally came from them to step off and begin their sidewalk ‘march’ a total of 66 people (give or take one or two) set off towards the convention center.

Yes, that’s right, all this internet noise and hoopla over 66 people.

Just goes to show what a small pond and echo chamber adoptionland can be.

As I said in my first piece about this year’s ARD Philly (See my section on “Shifting event premise, conceptual, tactical, and strategic problems”),

The bottom line is, there is no adoptee rights mass movement waiting in the wings somewhere to show up for such an event.

For those of you interested in the demographics?

66 total:

  • 51 Women
  • 13 Men (adults)
  • 2 teenage boys

Which means those ‘marching’ in the ARD this year were 77% female, 23% male.

Here in this last picture taken on the Mall, you can see what they looked like having crossed and now heading down the street.


Keep in mind, I said step off from the People’s Plaza was pretty much noon.

We decided to head down and see the other end. The convention center is a little under a mile away, roughly 8 blocks worth of a sidewalk ‘march’. So we headed over to take a look.

Fortunately, I missed at least some of the ‘festivities.’ One participant’s blogged account of the ‘march’ included this tidbit:

One adoptee occasionally yelled out, or asked women as they approached, “Are you my mommy?”

Not ‘merely’ a messaging problem, or a mental health problem, this unfortunately goes to the heart of the lack of sensitivity to context some of those making the ARD happen and responsible for the ARD have displayed over and over again.

Behavior such as this (particularly while claiming to represent “adoptee rights”) is beyond mere problematic, it’s unconscionable.

As if that weren’t bad enough all by itself, this year’s event in Philadelphia far from taking place in a vacuum, was unfortunately taking place in the context of a lawsuit in Camden, New Jersey, directly across the river, less than three miles away from where the ARD was taking place. It involved allegations of “undesired contact” with a surrendered adoptee: Distraught woman sues, alleging N.J. helped child of rape find her. (Obviously, I have a great deal to say about the case, but for the moment, let’s stay on track, saving such for another day.)

This particular article hit roughly a month before the ARD. At least some people involved in the ARD were well aware of the case, as it cluttered adoption venue after adoption related blog, press release, news story, etc.

Amy Adoptee, who was on last year’s committee, blathered delusionally and incoherently on her blog about the article, postulating the lawsuit’s entire existence was a direct response to, and retaliation against the work of open records activists and the ARD:

I do believe that this entire situation is in response to both the Adoptee Rights Demonstration and New Jersey’s bill

She’s convinced it’s all a BIG CONSPIRACY and can’t fathom why a Philly paper would cover a story from just across the river.

The placement of this story in the Philly newspaper is also suspicious as the Adoptee Rights Demonstration in Philadelphia is set to occur a month later. The information in this article is about constituents in New Jersey, not Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Lest anyone think my bringing up the broader context would be making a mountain out of a molehill, care to guess what the Philadelphia Inquirer’s ( don’t get me started) article, Adoption-records advocates to protest in Phila., published the day of the ARD included?

Privacy clearly is a concern.

In New Jersey, an Atlantic City woman is suing the state for $1 million after being approached by a daughter she surrendered 30 years ago, a child conceived by rape, according to the Philadelphia Daily News. She claims state authorities provided personal information that enabled her daughter to show up at her door.

Just a helpful hint, wandering up to total strangers on the street and pulling an


(for those unfamiliar, see the “plot summary” here) does not tend to make adopted people appear particularly trustworthy, able to conduct their own interfamily affairs, or for that matter stable, let alone sane.

But it does play perfectly into the larger narrative of “unwanted contact” and out of control adoptees. You know, that mythic archetype of the adoptee as always in a needly, reunion obsessed, consent and boundary violating, unable to cope, constantly in psychological dire need-to-find-Mommy state.

Pulling crap like that out on the public streets of Philadelphia, going up to women, total strangers, and demanding to know if they might be one’s long lost parent is a slap in the face to most Bastards’ reality, the sensitivity and delicacy with which MOST approach initial contact with potential kin. It’s a mockery, a mere cartoon of most of our reunion experiences or desires for such.

It plays into every expectation of the bad adoptee, and the picture so often painted of us by our opponents as out of control needy reunion obsessed nuts.

None of which has a damn thing to do with genuine records access, and equal treatment under law.

My complete disgust aside for the moment, back to the Convention Center.

When we first arrived roughly 12:25, there were a number of sign holding ARD supporters standing on the sidewalk along the convention center mostly clumped in small groups all over again. Participants were being interviewed, but by and large it entailed standing around.

Driving past, this is what it looked like by 12:32. The convention center is to the right, you can make out the first of the sign holders to the right of the tree, holding the sign, “How would it feel if you were denied?” (Denied what? Who knows.)

This was the initial thing those going past saw, not an arching statement building a narrative and providing any form of explanation of the next few sign holders further along. Nope, just another piece of completely decontextualized irrelevancy. Another missed opportunity.


Unfortunately the visual metaphor of a big red “denied” stamp, while close-ER, is still not it either.

Most Bastards will never have the absolutist clarity of a big red stamp on a piece a paper. Nope, we don’t even get the “gratification” of having a “DENIED” slip of paper to show for our troubles.

The more fitting visual metaphor would be an Empty Mailbox.


We fill out the request forms, we pay our money at Vital Statistics offices (only to be offered a state fabricated lie).

We re-apply, we write, we call, meet with those on Judge’s staffs, we contact legislators, we advocate, we do demonstrations, we ask politely, we write letters to the editor, and we fight for restored access, but each and every passing day of lack of access to our own authentic original unaltered birth certificates is another day of waiting, of checking, of finding nothing but an unresponsive government on the other end.

No mail today, none yesterday, and barring the unforeseen none tomorrow. We check methodically, every day, but the box is always empty.

No big red stamp, just silence, from those who feel they owe us nothing, and do not answer to us.

Outside the convention center?

Things were fizzling out.

There were still a few small clusters, but things had mostly broken up.


Signs were up against the convention center wall, often upside down. (Bear in mind that some in these pictures are uninvolved pedestrians.)


More of the stragglers, near an entrance an interview with a private camera (not news media) was ongoing.


Here’s what the ‘denied’ (birth certificate) sign looks like upside down and from a distance.


And the shot I could find with the most ARD participants in it from this time period.


The area they occupied was directly across from Reading Terminal market, an area with tons of ‘foot traffic’ on a market day like Tuesday. This was busy downtown Philly in the 12:30 lunch hour. Yet the Adoptee Rights Demonstration appears to have viewed the convention center as more of an end point than a key place to be for an extended period. Yet another missed opportunity.

We ‘circled’ the block to be certain we were not missing a larger group at another entrance, stunned that it could be this small this quickly, but by 12:38 there was little left.

The interview with the private camera continued near the entrance and a couple of people with their signs remained, but to the right of the ‘tunnel’ we found all of four ARD participants.


Here’s the “NOW!” sign.


By this point, the event was over and people were heading on in search of drinks at the Hard Rock, which was followed by a trip to a comedy club that evening.


So let’s recap, step off from People’s Plaza was roughly noon and by 12:38 it was over.

I didn’t note precisely what time they arrived at the convention center, but clearly the bulk of the ARD participants spent less than 1/2 an hour sign holding there.

Which means they spent almost 3 times as much time standing around in the drizzle not doing much of anything at People’s Plaza than they did protesting at their target.

This is one of those rare moments that simply leaves me “holding my head like a stunned monkey.”

Yes, they will have the booth inside the convention and will be marketing as best they can alongside the other exhibitors over the next few days, but that task will be left to a small subset.

Most of those participating on the day of the ARD stood around waiting in the misty rainish morning, took a rather noisy walk, and then sign held for a few minutes outside a building.

In the final calculation, it amounted to this roughly 40 minutes worth of fewer than 70 people actually ‘marching’ down the sidewalk, signholding, being a “presence” etc.

The Adoptee Rights Committee behind the ARD laid out this rough “budget” of sorts, from their Donate page,

The Philadelphia Adoptee Rights Demonstration has a base target goal of $2,000 for the protest. This money will be used to pay for permits, security, advertising and materials. For an additional $2,000, we will again be able to afford a booth inside the Convention Center.

They relied on the broader community of those who support restoration of records access to foot the bill and in two years have never had to account for the financial realities of the ARD.

Now that the “protest” portion of the event has taken place, perhaps it’s time for a some careful cost-benefit evaluation.

By way of ‘coverage,’ it’s been pretty slim pickings:

Here’s the ARD’s own sparse twitterstream from the event, and now in the aftermath from the booth inside the National Conference of State Legislators exhibitor’s hall.

Today in the aftermath,, (also owned by the Philadelphia Inquirer) carried this piece by way of wrap up, Adoptees protest for access to original birth certificates. Once again, reunion focused messaging is portrayed as the prime motivator for why Adult Adoptees would seek access to their Original Birth Certificates.

None of those groups were present yesterday – nor did they need to be. They’re winning the argument, noted adoptee Dan Haines of Egg Harbor. That forces adoptees to mount a state- by- state appeal to lawmakers that could go on forever. And while that happens, he said, birth parents grow old and die.

That fact lends urgency to what adoptees call the nation’s last civil-rights battle.

( I’d HARDLY call us the “last civil rights battle!” There are still plenty of other frontiers…)

Still it’s not a terribly surprising ‘justification’ for the event/adoptee ‘activism’ considering much of the messaging coming from the ARD, such as the photo included with the article.

JOHN COSTELLO / Staff Photographer Philadelphia Inquirer

Photo: John Costello / The Philadelphia Inquirer

Finally, (only semi-amusingly) several people with, as well as the ARD homepage itself, appear to have mistaken for a newspaper or some other form of hard media.

In reality it is an online ‘content’ generator not dissimilar to (See this press release for an overview on their more than 4,000 “Examiners”/paid content generators. It’s out of date, they’re now up to well over 8,000. (Also see their Quality Writers Wanted: Join us page.) Space filling junk like this Live reports from today’s Adoptee Rights Demonstration pointing at ARD’s twitterstream hardly passes for “coverage.”

By way of blog coverage in the aftermath by those involved, from the ARD homepage: Greetings from Philadelphia (7-22-09, Day after the event)

(In which they bemoan what they perceived as the “miserable rain” and thanked those who showed up and to endure such.)

Kali’s “Anti-Adoption” blog: The Adoptee Rights Demonstration Philladelphia does it again!

In which she, as “founder” of the event, leads off with an interesting admission about last year in New Orleans and this year’s numbers.

Three times the amount of protestors there last year…

Just as I had suspected, I was being quite generous in my morning after recap of last year,

This New Orleans Times Picayune Article, poorly entitled Protesters seek to change laws sealing birth papers came out today, July 23rd.

It mentions “about 60 protesters” took part in the march from Lafayette Park to the Ernest N. Morial convention center.

This year’s numbers being what they are, again a mere 66 people, give or take one or two, marched out of the Park. If last year’s was 1/3 the size, that’s a rather startling admission.

She continues on, insisting that the ARD will go on and on, becoming an annual occurance (paid for by the broader community of those who support open records of course).

The Adoptee Rights Demonstration will never give up, it will continue year after year if it takes until I am one hundred I will be there at the convention, writing my leggies, introducing bills and voting those in office against adoptees equality OUT and getting people who support us in will happen if necessary!

An interesting insistence in light of my post she commented on the night before this year’s ARD, questioning the effectiveness of the tactic, the ARD’s finances, and the notion of becoming an annual habit.

Naturally, the “rain” has taken on a mythology all its own, becoming part of the ARD Philly narrative. Kali adds her notion of participants as dedicated to slog it out through the rains.

You know it means the heart and soul to someone when they’re willing to do it in the rain!

Sigh. Pretty much any “activist” who would even consider being dissuaded by the light misty drizzle that let up long before step off probably hasn’t earned the title street “activist… .”

I suppose for this reason alone it was worth the trip.

Someone had to be there to reality check whether it was torrential rains or merely the slight mistiness in the air that it had devolved down to by the time the ‘march’ began.

Emphasizing the rain as some kind of ‘oh see how dedicated’ or ‘look how much they suffered for the cause’ nonsense, is just a load of crap.

Finally, it’s important to look at what kind of media is internally produced by participants themselves using the footage gathered at the event and how participants are characterized in such:

“Forgotten Children”

Because apparently, there’s nothing like relabeling ADULT adoptees “forgotten children,” set to a ‘cheerful’ little tune, suitable for slitting one’s wrists to.

(Sarcasm kids, sarcasm.)

23 Responses to “Adoptee Rights Demonstration – Photographs and Video – Missed Opportunities Abound”

  1. Baby Love Child Says:

    Kali, in her wisdom and maturity, has posted her rebuttal on her personal Anti-Adoption blog.

    If you see this girl, run for your life!

  2. Baby Love Child Says:

    Geography 101- Hint, Maryland is not a 24 hour drive to Philadelphia. Closer to twoish.

    As for those thinking we were somehow “hiding” in the bushes or behind buildings or otherwise “sneaking” around (such vivid imaginations) as you can see from the video, the participants in this year’s ARD each passed within ten feet of us and our camera along Market Street, that hardly makes us “secret agents.”

    Damn, “Q,” where are my ‘specialty’ Aston Martin, my jet pack, and other such nifty gadgets? If I’m to be a “secret agent” I expect all the toys to go with!

  3. antiprincess Says:

    aw, honey – you are my heart shape.

    garbled message, messy presence, no banner? lame chants…don’t be sad you can’t work with these people.

    here’s the big thing, what would change things in order to clear the way to make true coalition-building even remotely possible:

    “You’ve got yours, I want mine.”

    should be

    “you’ve got yours, WE want OURS.”

    until these folks shake off their selfishness, they can’t hope to become effective agents for change no matter how many weak-ass protests they attempt.

  4. mermaid Says:

    Thanks for a clear and fair assessment of what sounds like a pathetic effort. I hope the people organizing these events will get over their defensiveness and take your criticisms to heart. The pictures speak for themselves, the signs were terrible; ugly, confusing and not even grammatical in some cases. There was no program, no banner, no literature to hand out.

    If they do this again they should plan speakers, get signs printed, with clear, easy to understand messages, get a banner that is not obscure but states the purpose of adoptee rights, and have a plan and literature to distribute.

    I had thought of going but feared it would be a waste of time. I am glad I did not go. This event did not make adoption reformers look good at all.

  5. Baby Love Child Says:

    A couple more links for the ‘wisdom and maturity’ department-

    Issycat’s What an idiot


    Addie Pray’s Stalkers Aren’t Just For Celebs Anymore..

    Apparently, standing on a public street, documenting a publicly announced political demonstration is now being characterized as “stalking”, lovely.

    In this morning’s unintended humour category, we have an example of what can go wrong when tagging a post ends up alongside one’s own avatar: Kali added the tag “Baby Love Child Sucks” to her post mentioned above.

    Initially, she had taken a copy of my personal photograph and attempted to use it with her post. Once I removed her ability to use the stolen image, the inevitable occurred (the link goes to my partner, Mike Doughney’s personal blog).

  6. kateiskate Says:

    Honestly, someone who has so much to say about the protest and has enough time to stalk the ARD and take pictures of everything should have gotten involved. At least they made an effort rather than going all the way to Philly to stalk people.

  7. Baby Love Child Says:

    As obviously, there are people unaware of the history of the ARD and unaware of why I wouldn’t be “involved” this year, I’d urge they do a read-through on these three pages worth of posts going from back to front (i.e. beginning with my Jan 10th, 2008 post at the bottom of the linked page and reading their way forward to this post at the top of page 1.)

    If you only have time to read through one post, this post, Adoptee Rights Demonstration / Day for Adoptee Rights some history and Gershom’s “storm”, lays out a fair amount of the history all in one place.

    I was involved last year, on the organizing committee as the”March/Protest Volunteer Trainer and Head Monitor” from March until the end of May 2008. Other people and groups were also involved at the time, notably Bastard Nation and Ron Morgan (who was a real driving force behind the first incarnation of the Adoptee Rights Day.)

    You can read the reasons why more than half of the organizing committee resigned last year at the end of May in the posts above. Lack of participation in what was to be a “mass” event coupled with entanglement with an adoption agency, both fundraising off what was at the time our event without our knowledge or consent AND a member of the organizing committee, Amyadoptee advocating on behalf of that agency (Abrazo adoption, from Texas) from within the committee led to those who had created the original adoptee rights day resigning.

    As the permits were in Kali’s name, she went forward with the event, filling it out with a new set of organizers to compensate for having lost so much of the organizing committee.

  8. Baby Love Child Says:

    Readers may also want to examine this post over on and the comment thread that ensued, which was ultimately locked down due to Joy’s behaviour there.

    Joy, (who is a member of this year’s adoptee rights coalition that put on this year’s ARD) both speaks to some of the financial issues, and then proceeds to attack Triona, the blog’s owner.

    Triona of course, was saying how much she supported the ARD at the time. (D’oh!)

  9. cindy.psbm Says:

    Your like the ‘simon’ (re:American Idol) of the adoptee bloggers… I like you!!

    All of the adoptee blogs that described the protest were confusing, you made it all clear as day, THANKS!

    I mean, I would support this cause if thought they were actually serious enough to be professional about it…

    They are all so mad at you it’s funny!!

    You know you are doing something right when people get mad at you!!

    The truth hurts and they are too proud to admit they need more help.

    I think the chat should have been


    I guess that might be hard to chant though…

  10. Mary Lynn Fuller Says:

    Thank you for posting this and giving an accounting of what took place in Philly. It sounds like it was a disaster due to lack of organization. Those passing by probably either gave no notice or wondered what the hell was wrong with people holding signs upside down. The wording on some signs was juvenile and would have meant nothing to someone passing by unless they walked on wondering if it was going to be a bad day in Philly. And to think a film is in the making – why it could be categorized as a comedy.

  11. Mike Doughney Says:

    I’ve written yet another post about this mess, from my perspective as Sabina’s partner. I also observed the goings-on in Philly last week.

    When adopted people torpedo their own cause

  12. z-girl Says:

    Your analysis was spot-on, BLC. These people haven’t a clue. Their communication is pitiful. Their impact non-existent, maybe even damaging. Their blogs are whiny and insular.

    But your cause is a good one.

    What in your view would turn this around?

  13. Baby Love Child Says:


    per your question What in your view would turn this around?

    I can only recommend you read my partner, Mike Doughney’s analysis linked above.

    I’d say we’re pretty much down to the point of what might be termed ‘irreconcilable differences’ by the time we’re down to members of the Adoptee Rights Coalition (the organizing committee that put the ARD on) who I’ve never even met calling me a “Bitchy Little C*nt.”

    Clearly, communication has long passed the point of total breakdown.

  14. Baby Love Child Says:

    It’s been a busy couple of days (working on adoption things that actually matter, like the important stories coming out of Guatemala), and I readily admit, I haven’t gotten around to “babysitting” this nonsense, but obviously, the viciousness has continued and escalated.

    Members of the “Adoptee Rights Coalition” (the organizing committee who put on the this year’s ARD) and other individual participants in this year’s ARD have come home from Philly and proceeded to lash out at me. Apparently they haven’t anything more important to be doing.

    So fine, plenty more examples to add to that ‘from the wisdom and maturity department.’

    I’m going to take one post to go through, some of the comments in the aftermath on Kali’s blog post, If you see this girl, run for your life! and the post itself, as it’s a microcosm of the broader trend.

    While at various points in the following blog and comments ARC individuals express a willingness to entertain the possibility of working with Bastard Nation at some point in the future, doing so overlooks the past history, such as this comment from Joy (who is on this year’s ARC) from last year on Marley’s blog in which Joy insists:

    “… there is no way we are touching them [by which she is referring to Marley Greiner, Bastard Nation, and myself] with a 10 foot pole next year, we have learned our lesson. Next year… we are not letting them near us.”

    If anyone wants to know why I didn’t pick up a sign and join in, there’s your answer, Joy herself told us we were not to participate.

    Perhaps Joy forgets her own words when she writes things like this, (see comment 3) this year:

    I think it would be great to join forces with BN and if they are ever involved in any type of action would be really curious to hear about how I could support it.

    She may not remember, but I certainly do. Clearly, within days after last year’s ARD, at least one of this year’s organizers had made it abundantly clear that Bastard Nation and I, were unwelcome.

    So on to the ARC, in their own words, Kali Coultas’s post and its remarkably fictional comment thread.

    Initially she had copied the childhood picture of me from my blog and added it to the top of her entry. We (my partner and I) have since disabled her ability to utilize the stolen image.

    Kali herself, (so called “founder” of this incarnation of the the ARD) calls me “crazy,” a “brat in pig tails,” and a “bitch” she goes on to accuse me of trying “to sabotage the protest” and “slaughter” ing those who participated in the ARD, “bitching”, “complaining” etc. and then goes off on a tear about Bastard Nation, (who of course have been busy working legislatively, just ask anyone in close enough to have a clue.) She accuses both BN and myself of “playing naughty”.

    She repeats the lie that I was “asked to leave the committee” last year, insisting she has “a record of” such. Likewise, I have the time and dated emails to show we (my partner and I) resigned voluntarily. (I received personal e-mail from Kali 7 minutes prior to my resignation, nothing in it to indicate I was no longer a part of the organizing committee nor had been “asked to leave”.)

    Kali then laughably insists:

    Our time will come when we’re face to face and you know, i’ll have an Adoptee Rights sign in my hand.

    This from a so called “founder” who can’t even be bothered to show up for her own event in Philly.

    The thread, likewise is full of ARD coalition members and others describing me as everything from “stalking,” “trashing,” a “baby-cry-baby,” “pathetic,” a “freak,” “poison,” being “unstable” insisting that I am “anonymous” (what part of my about page don’t certain people understand?) and that I should

    “just to keep her opionons to herself and keep her mouth shut.”


    All alongside some rather amusing wishful thinking:

    “It’s a pretty safe bet that BLC has been ousted from other groups and organizations because she is a loose canon.”

    (which has never happened, not even with ARD. Again, we resigned voluntarily.)

    Meanwhile, Joy, who is another ARC person, appears to believe I’m somehow steering policy for Marley and thereby Bastard Nation, and thus my writings and actions are to her mind at least “done with the endorsement of BN”:

    Please no one forget that BLC is the executive director of Bastard Nations, “policy girl” any obscuring of the fact that this was not done with the endorsement of BN motivated by jealousy, is naive.

    This is a rather remarkable mis-interpretation of Marley’s personal blog post from last year in which she referred to me as “Theory Girl”. It takes her a while, but by a comment further down, she does however correct herself, only to go on to further bad mouth BN, accusing it organizationally of “mudslinging:”

    Again, I am talking about the leadership and the leadership’s closest minions.

    (If she thinks I’m some kind of “closest minion” of BN she really is delusional.)

    As Mike pointed out she goes so far as to think I was sent by BN to “stalk” them:

    “… BN bailed, that was their choice. I mean obviously they are so busy with, with, with, well something I am sure. Not too busy to send nutter BabyCakes to stalk the protest. “

    Then she turns around to insist:

    you know not a single person from our org. has dirted their efforts,

    How about this, that Joy herself posted to AltAdoption after last year’s event in New Orleans:

    “HEY THANKS BN from the protest… thanks for trying to sabotage the protest pre and post protest…. “

    Only to back and forth throughout the single comment to the point of whiplash:

    Like I have said before, I would be happy to support BN in any proactive effort they were involved in.

    …I don’t want to be associated with people who make random ad hominem attacks on people they don’t know.

    The infighting hurts us all though, no question about it. Too bad that is what your leadership has to offer. It would be wonderful if we could join forces

    This kind of irrational, let’s work together/you’re scum I don’t want to be associated with ping pong is enough to make any rational person tune out.

    Far simpler to simply look at the actions and raw words.

    Joy herself attacked BN two days after last year’s event in New Orleans on alt adoption. Now she wants to pretend no one has ever “dirted their efforts” (referring to BN.) She uses pretty words to pretend to being open to working together, even while telling us

    there is no way we are touching them

    The problem with people like this is that you never know which side of their mouth they’re going to speak out of next.

  15. z-girl Says:

    “This kind of irrational, let’s work together/you’re scum I don’t want to be associated with ping pong is enough to make any rational person tune out.”

    Funny you should say that. A long time ago after dealing with a relationship involving borderline personality disorder, a wonderful book was recommended to me that saved my sanity: I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me, by Jerold Kreisman. Oddly relevant, don’t you find? yeah, Mike’s analysis was spot-on too but when I said what would turn it around I didn’t mean going back but what would put the fight back on track with the goal of mass impact. What is lacking? $$? the will? the means? leadership? Realize these are open-ended questions to the point of silliness. Just asking. This is not to take away from the real work that gets done legislatively state by state but the public isn’t getting the message.

  16. Baby Love Child Says:

    At this point there are some comments on both this and my more recent post about the ARD that are currently held in moderation. Some are positive, others are shall we say, in firm disagreement with me.

    Per my comments policy I will be letting some through as I find time to write in response to them. (Responding to others, however, are tasks considerably lower on my priority list, somewhere right below ‘alphabetizing my sock drawer by colour,’ yeah, not likely.)

    In any case, there will be more on this thread as I find time and inclination.

  17. Baby Love Child Says:

    (responding to z-girl)

    when I said what would turn it around I didn’t mean going back but what would put the fight back on track with the goal of mass impact.

    As I have stated previously, “mass action” strategies (i.e. those dependent upon large numbers of Bastards converging on one place at one time in vast numbers) strike me as unrealistic at this point, certainly without years of educational groundwork long before such. I don’t believe there are “mass action” numbers of Bastards about to come out of the woodwork for any event.

    Instead, I advocated refocusing efforts and resources on the strategy that does have a proven track record, the roll up one’s sleves difficult local state by state work. (Speaking of in the U.S. anyway.)

    This is not to take away from the real work that gets done legislatively state by state but the public isn’t getting the message.

    Focusing upon educating the general public is key to, for example, a statewide referendum, as in Oregon. But statewide referendums are tactics that only work some places, under specific circumstances, and are incredibly expensive, in many states, prohibitively so. Such may also have marked a moment in time, external circumstances have changed greatly over the past decade.

    In other places, the focus is instead going to have to be on working with those who hold a gatekeeper capacity.

    As for what strategy I personally advocate going forward? There is no one size fits all, each state has its own history, it’s own circumstances, and it’s own personalities with their own motivations.

    No matter where we work, Bastards are always going to be a small minority, forced into the position of asking not merely a majority, but more often than not legislators, (some number of whom are adopters themselves) to restore our access. Our strategies moving forward are going to have to reflect those realities.

    Events such as the National Coalition of State Legislators annual meeting are all about the wine and dine, they’re about the swag, and the private parties, they’re about who has genuine power to both put legislators into office and push them out. Bastards will never have the resources nor the power to play that game. Being a mere “annual presence” at such drains resources and efforts better spent elsewhere.

    So to recap, strange as it may seem, educating the general public, while always worth doing, oftentimes does not have to be the primary goal. The general public does not have the power to restore records to us. (Even with the statewide referendum, it eventually came down to a court to make the final decision.) Nor will the general public ever remove legislators from office or put them in based upon the single issue of restoration of OBC access to adopted people.

    That said, if you going to go out in public and do for example, a ‘rally’ and ‘march’ and interact with the general public in an educational capacity, Bastards would do well to have a clear (and legible) message, and have signage pertaining to OBCs that from a distance won’t be mistaken for the “birthers” and the current wingnut flap over President Obama’s birth certificate.

  18. J M Says:

    3 Points:

    First- As a chant leader, I assure you that we yelled, “You’ve got yours, We want ours.” I can’t account for the misquote, but I’m certain those 2 lines are what caused me to lose my voice.

    Second- you took photos of me without my permission and posted them on the internet. I call that stalking.

    Third- One photo is of 2 of us talking to a legislator. If we stopped to talk, by law, we had to drop our signs. Period.

  19. Baby Love Child Says:

    responding to J M-

    1. Take it up with the Philadelphia Inquirer:

    “You got yours . . .” came the call from protest organizers.

    “I want mine!” shouted the marchers.

    2. When you go out on a public street and participate in a publicly advertised political demonstration photographs can be taken by anyone, from tourists to the Philly papers. You and others participating in the ARD clearly failed to understand that your participation in such was at public event, not something in any way private.

    The events would fall under the general category of a “newsworthy event”. Our photographs and video were taken from public sidewalks of an internationally advertised public political event. My political criticism based on what I saw is just that, political commentary.

    Perhaps the committee organizing this year’s ARD failed to explain to those with little to no political experience what the potential ramifications of participating in such an event could mean, (i.e. potentially be photographed, written about etc) but lack of political experience, lack of clue on the part of participants, or lack of ARD organizers explaining what should be obvious, is an internal issue to the ARD and its participants.

    3. I know quite well what the law is pertaining to such in Philly, the ARD being the third event I covered in some of these venues (Independence Mall and at the Convention Center) in the past decade.

    Holding signs or not holding signs is not the issue.

    You want me to bump the numbers of people at the convention center by two? Sure fine, whatever. Granting you an ‘extra’ two, or five or (to pull a wildly inaccurate number out of my back pocket) even 100 would still not change the basic facts of the matter: the numbers were small, the low numbers made the effort and the cause itself look weak, and by 12:45 the vast majority of people had already left the convention center, sign holders or not. Yes, there were a few stragglers, but again, the bulk of the people spent less than 1/2 an hour outside the convention center.

  20. martha in maine Says:

    I’ve been an activist / educator of adoptee right to birth identity since 1986 in both Maine and Hawaii. Mike’s assessment of the 2009 rally in Philadelphia is right on the mark with regard to the painfully ineffective efforts too often seen among adoption reform movements. Victimhood is rampant in these groups. There is little focus on actually educating lawmakers and the public on civil right violation with regard to the birth certificate. When states issue birth certificates to some citizens, but not all… this is a violation of equal protection under the law. End of story. Law makers are not interested in our flubbery stories ad nausium. I concluded years ago that adoptees don’t really want equality with regard to birth identity. Victimhood is so much more familiar… with lots of company. Maine succeeded by cutting the crap and keeping the eye on the prize.

  21. z-girl Says:

    Just wondering why my comment from Aug. 1 is still in moderation.

  22. Baby Love Child Says:

    z-girl said:

    Just wondering why my comment from Aug. 1 is still in moderation.

    Mainly because there are other things in my life beyond getting back to comments. To say I’ve been busy would be an understatement. August has also had its own special twist- spending time with family in from out of state simply took precedence.

    As I said in my comments policy:

    Sometimes it’s me, not you. Again try not to take it personally. Doubly so in that sometimes I’m on the computer a great deal, other times it may be quite some time before I get back to it.

    Additionally, you said something in your comment I actually wanted to find a little time to write to. Again, see my policy:

    I also have a life, which means even though I may be BURNING to get to your comment, it may take some time.

    As I have time, I will be writing towards a few things here or more generally ARD related, but this coming week also looks to be a busy one.

  23. z-girl Says:

    OK, cool. I just didn’t think I said anything much different from other posters.

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