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A few preliminary notes on the attempted cooptation of the adoptee rights movement by Mr. Pertman and the EBD


EBD's call for adoptee rights, dead cows, & Jennifer Aniston naked: journalism at it's finest- Not

By way of a starting point, I wanted to draw readers’ attention across to Bastardette’s latest important post.

Bastardette has blogged about the ongoing clusterfuck unfolding over on the cultic Huffington Post, all sparked by a piece written by Adam Pertman in which he co-opts the work Bastard activists have done and language they have crafted over decades now.

I’m addressing this in my own space in no small part due to the fact that the Huffington Post is not a reputable source. Additionally, as others have learned repeatedly, their comments policy is shall we say, selective about what is and is not allowed through moderation.

For example, words such as “Bastard”, as in “Bastard Nation: the Adoptee Rights Organization” are apparently on the censor-list.

Funny, in that this puts the HuffPo even below the National Council For Adoption (the adoption industry lobby) who have insisted upon issuing name badges as “B*****d Nation.” Both are pathetic in this regard of course, but you know the world has gone wonky when even the organization founded upon preservation of sealed records acknowledges BN, its own open records advocating nemesis of a sort more than the often mistaken for oh so “liberal” HuffPo.

Not to worry though, Bastard Nation is in good company, the issue of how the Huffpo moderation plays out in practice is well tread territory at this point.

BN is but another added to the pile, though I must say, it’s difficult to find another shining example of a civil rights movement whose personal means of political identification, as well as an important organizational structure with a political and legislative history behind it the likes of BN has been relegated to the dustbin of ‘that which shall not be spoken of’ thereabouts. (Though skeptics of various stripes may come in a close second.)

Readers are welcome to delve into Ms. Huffington’s connection to the Movement For Spiritual Inner Awareness and the ways in which such is reflected in policy and practice at the HuffPo at their leisure, (when they’re not enjoying the celebrity tabloid irrelevancies of the site itself or being regaled with this season’s diet tips, that is.)


In any case, the bloated comment thread on this HuffPo week old piece of drek is a beast that simply will not die, expanding out over 900 comments long now.

A number of the comments sound like little more than  reheated leftovers,  a strange hybrid cross between yahoo answers (on adoption) and the trolls on  alt.adoption circa the 90’s.

Fortunately, many of those spreading disinformation, adoption legislative deform advocates, the genuinely uniformed, and Mr. Pertman himself are being both educated and taken to task, Pertman in particular for doing his best Janus imitation talking out of both sides of his head. He claims to want adoptee rights, but he’s also ok with some being left behind (for now) complete with the usual promises of ‘but we’ll come back for them later.’

Some of us have seen it all before, from the outright lies in the comments on through to Mr. Pertman’s standard lines by now. (Though years ago, before he co-opted our language, he was much more upfront about his willingness to settle for “compromises” poised to screw Bastards for decades if not lifetimes to come.)

Naturally, those standing firm for REAL adoptee rights are a number of Bastards and others throughout the comments, who have actually been in the trenches over the course of decades now, some of whom have been involved in the work of passing clean adoptee rights restoration bills, others of whom know well the disastrous consequences of half-assed legislative abominations.

So introduction aside, go read Bastardette’s piece Actions Speak Louder than Words: The Evan B. Donaldson Strikes Out on HuffPo.

Wednesday (January 12) the Huffington Post published a blog, A Civil Right: Adoptees Have a Right to Access Their Own Birth Certificates by Adam Pertman, director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. In it, Mr. Pertman calls for the restoration of the right of adoptees to their own original birth certificates.

Or does he?

As Bastardette attempted to point out in a comment that the HuffPo apparently nixed:two-faced

Actions speak louder than words. Mr. Pertman and the Donaldson, while they talk a good line, have repeatedly rejected the core principle of adoptee rights–original birth certificate (obc) access for all, by supporting, endorsing and testifying in favor of restrictive legislation that “permits” some adopted people to receive theirs obcs while leaving others behind to be stigmatized and blacklisted by their own state governments and denying them full citizen privilege vis a vis obc access.The EBD and their reformist ilk speak out of both sides of their mouths:

Left: adoptees deserve their own obcs.
Right: Except some don’t.

Left: No harm can come from obc access.
Right: “Birthmothers” must be protected from their own offspring; we support disclosure and contact vetoes and other forms of government document censorship through redaction.

Left: No legal promise or guarantee of confidentiality//privacy/ anonymity”birthparents” do not exist.
Right: We must honor promises of confidentiality/privacy/anonymity made to “birthparents.”

Left: no adult/ parent has the right to deny another adult/offspring their own obc.
Right: We support a newly created “special right” of adults/parents to do so.

The whiplash effect is unending.

Mr. Pertman appears to dig his hole deeper each time he sits at the keyboard.

A number of us have noted for quite some time now, despite whatever so called “research,” (more aptly titled position papers) the Evan B. Donaldson Institute has put out, over and over again, in public appearances working to publicize the papers Mr. Pertman himself has come off as if he hadn’t even read his own Institute’s materials.

Repeatedly he has backed away from any notion of a full restoration of adoptee human rights stance, going so far as to take an opportunity in which he was supposedly there to publicize the Institute’s call for clean bills to instead call for a national reunion registry and liken adoptees making contact by telephone with harassing telemarketers. (See my posts Adam Pertman, please shut up and Vote now for the 4th annual Demons in Adoption Awards.)

Beyond these conflicted words though, the EBD’s entanglement in the disaster in Illinois and ongoing support of the broken bills in New Jersey (see New Jersey SCS1406 (A1406/S799) ACTION ALERT and update) for example, speak far louder than words ever could.

Thus sparking a comment of my own over on the Daily Bastardette.

Speaking as Queer Bastard, I find Mr. Pertman’s utilization of attempts to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the course of the EBD’s on again off again cooptation of the pure open records stance not merely disgusting, but strangely perfectly apt, in that the “repeal” of DADT as currently being worked on stands to leave behind all Transfolk.

Anyone who thinks the broader community will come back later to clean up the mess made by passing such ‘partial equality’ measures, well, they’re delusional.

Be that the Trans community abandoned in the “pragmatic” attempt to “repeal DADT” (for some) or the black-holed Bastards, Pertman and his deformer ilk have no qualms about leaving behind under some false notion of it ‘just being for now/until we come back for you’ deform measures gut all our rights.

Any serious student of history understands, do-overs in the realm of politics are merely the promises used to temporarily placate those being jettisoned in the name of ‘getting something, anything.’

Once a bill is passed, legislators take decades before revisiting the mess they’ve made, if ever.

Speaking as an Ohio Bastard whose human rights were left behind by the Ohio “compromise” bill, I guess you could say I know a thing or two about how this plays out in practical application.

Once a bad bill passes, it’s only those who held out for full equality in the first place who still care, and still push for the real thing. It’s the Bastard Nations of this world who fight for our rights, not the Adam Pertmans/EBDs.

Perhaps Mr. Pertman would care to mount a full scale campaign “go back for” those left behind by Illinois’ “compromise” bill?

Yeah, not so much.

To the best of my knowledge, they’ve never once expended resources to actually “go back for” anyone.

Illinois Open, Bastard Nation and other “purists” (to Mr. Pertman’s reasoning) on the other hand, were not merely in the fight, they’re still there, still working in the aftermath.

Not that they can get legislators to actually listen, as after all, to the legislators’ perspective, they ‘just took care of that.’

THAT is the real legacy of shoddy bills the likes of which EBD has had a track record of supporting.

We’ve never once seen any state go back and clean up the mess “compromised” records bills have left in their wake.

Whatever Pertman’s number or percentage of left-behinds may be in any given state, we’re talking about the basic human rights of individuals being left behind in the name of political expediency.

As I said on the comment thread, there is no such thing as partial human rights.

Genuine rights are binary, you either enjoy full equality or you don’t.

He’s busily picking up any ‘tool’ he can lay his hands on before they can get away. Be that his utilization of the attempted “repeal” of Don’t ask don’t tell as he attempts to market to Queer adopter marketshare, or his co-optation of Women’s Suffrage for his own uses.

Last I checked, Mr. Pertman wasn’t hunger striking for Bastard rights and being force fed in a DC jail  (like our Feminist foremothers)… .

His very use of slavery and the civil rights struggle of African Americans is deeply troubling to many adopteed people.

More to the point, his use of such simply belies his own lack of experience in this realm, as early on some white adoptees had attempted to use such as part of their arguments. People of color and people of conscience have repeatedly had to educate about why such co-optations are simply not up for grabs.

Mr. Pertman is not merely ignorant of that history and thus attempting to reinvent that utilization, he’s doing so on behalf of a class of people he himself does not belong to. (I.e. Adoptees. Mr. Pertman is an ADOPTER.)


Equality, give or take a few expendables

Furthermore, those who have fought for and continue on in the genuine civil rights struggle are not willing to settle for promises of 95% equality and offered promises of coming back later for those left behind.

Yet that is precisely what Mr. Pertman has asked Bastards be willing to endure in the name of “compromise.” (See the full comment thread.)

I could transcribe a number of recordings, and work with even the post and comments Mr. Pertman has made on the HuffPo. Tonight I won’t. These are preliminary notes, a big picture view if you will.

Let’s be clear, this post is not the word by word deconstruction of the mess EBD and Mr. Pertman are leaving in their wake that’s another post, for some other day, perhaps even for some other blogger.

All this represents is a very minimal laying out of the track record, and a cautionary word that anyone willing to entrust the winning of any notion of their rights to the likes of such had better be willing to be considered Mr. Pertman’s mythical expendable 5% doomed to be left behind with nothing more than empty promises of ‘we’ll come back for you’ when the time comes.

Those of us who have walked a few decades in those shoes know from personal experience that isn’t good enough.

pentagonWe know better to entrust the winning of our rights to those at any other point on the adoption pentagon, be that the State, any of the other interests, or adoptive parents such as Mr. Pertman.

While there are plenty of respectful ways by which others can support the authentic adoptee civil rights movement, ultimately, it is not the role of any other interest to subsume the directly affected in their efforts to “speak for us.”


Bastard Nation: promoting adopee equality and dignity worldwide

Back in 2000, Bastard Nation invited Mr. Pertman to keynote the fourth annual conference, “Bastards on the Brick Road,” held in Seattle that year.

His speech was entitled “Opening Records, Opening Eyes: How the Adoption Revolution is Transforming America

BN has invited a number of people to their conferences over the years perhaps as a means by which to dialog further. Obviously I do not speak for BN, but I would argue part of the reasoning is likely also to help those who are not Bastards themselves get to know us and understand the civil rights work BN does.

My partner Mike and I walked out in disgust, specifically due to his expressed support even back then of an accommodationist, incrementalist or compromised stance rather than expressing a willingness to support pure open records and the fundamental equality for the adoptees in that room.

When your keynote doesn’t support your equality, there is no point in applauding.

Since that point, we’ve watched Mr. Pertman and EBD over the years polling adopted people repeatedly in venues such as the EBD  and Ethica cosponsored “Adoption Ethics and Accountability Conference” in Virginia back in 2007.

The final session was little more than EBD promising to make open records a key component of its agenda while collecting language soundbytes and polling basic attitudes, particularly of the adoptees in the audience.

While I’ve no doubt such was of use by way of background “research” for Mr Pertman’s soon to be revamped and re-released  new version of his book, “support” such as I’ve seen to date is little more than co-optation and then telling adoptees we should be willing to settle for “some” being left behind. Apparently his listening skills could use some work.

Bastards are more than a test market, a market share, a potential membership base to market to, and a book and speaking tour audience.

We are people, every bit as deserving of 100% equality as anyone else.

Any willingness to settle for less, or accept the tired and depoliticizing trope of being “unworthy” of full equality serves other interests, not our own.

The end of that conference signified the will of those in attendance felt restoring adoptee rights was their highest priority item. They did not however in any way shape or form endorse EBD (nor Ethica) as any sort of THE, or even A leading organization to go take point on those efforts.

(Much could also be said about who was in that room being polled, for the most part, those with the resources to be there in the first place, precisely those willing to expend funding or institutional funding to be there. Likely those also willing to expend time and resources on future efforts or products by the likes of the EBD. It was hardly representative of the Bastard population.)

When adopters work on adoptee rights as we have seen in Mr. Pertman’s case repeatedly, it’s out of his own desire to see adoption “normalized” societally, or more out of a consumer protection model by and for adopters themselves than the authentic human rights work of adopted people, representing their own interests with their own voices.

That lack of a personal Bastard perspective shows its ugly teeth each and every time Mr. Pertman, speaking as an adoptive father childes us for not being willing to settle for less than full equality. When he bemoans those who have actually accomplished open records for daring to call the compromised on their shit.

If the best Mr. Pertman and EBD have to offer are abominations of legislation like the current mess in New Jersey, they cannot and do not speak for adopted people, particularly those who have direct personal experiences of having been left behind by precisely such fatally flawed legislative efforts previously.

They may co-opt our words, but they fundamentally lack the Bastard heart and soul.

The quest for our human rights, our equality and dignity cannot be left to those who repeatedly have shown a willingness and track record of trading it away.

One Response to “A few preliminary notes on the attempted cooptation of the adoptee rights movement by Mr. Pertman and the EBD”

  1. Baby Love Child Says:

    Please see my post A note on the Bastard condition and authentic remedies, which can be considered a critically important footnote to this post.

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