"Adoptees Using DNA to Find Family" My Review

I recently had my attention directed to this transcript of a radio program.

The first blog post that brought it to my attention was highly critical of the contributions of Kimberly Leighton, one of the panel guests on the program. Leighton is assistant professor of philosophy at American University and was, I assume, invited to be a part of the discussion because, according to her bio linked to above, "one question Kim asks is: how might current sciences of identity such as genetics and genomics, and the ethical problems they purportedly raise, affect current political, social, and legal critique, particularly in regards to articulations of rights and freedom?"

Makes sense, no? It's also interesting to note that Leighton herself is adopted and has experienced a successful search for her "birth mother" and says her life was improved knowing her and her story.

Seems to me an excellent choice of a guest for a discussion on adoptees using DNA to find family.

I loved that Leighton asked the representative of Family Tree DNA, Bennett Greenspan, how they "handle the more psychological aspects, as well as the ethical ones, of searching -- because many adoptees -- when they do find, they find more complicated situations than they expected."

I don't love that she asked because I think the Family Tree outfit has a responsibility to provide any kind of assistance to their customers in coping with the psychological aspects of searching, I love that Leighton bringing it up opens up (or should open up) discussion about the ethics and ramifications of searching, negative and positive, because it's a discussion worth having.

A large part of that discussion needs to be about our mothers and fathers and whether they want to be found or not, something that seems to be a terribly conflicted topic in online adoption discussions.

Discussing complications and ethics in adoption search does not deny adoptees a right to know or undermine a parent who wants to be found. It actually could aid in achieving openness. What's the difference between saying most mothers did not willingly give up their kids and want to be found and saying most mothers wanted and were promised confidentiality, anonymity, and have no desire to find or be found?

There is none. They both achieve nothing because both are true and if we try and make one or the other gospel, there will always be someone sitting there thinking "well, I know that's not true because it's not my experience", and when that happens, credibility is affected. Every experience is valid and it does no good to pick and choose only the stories that suit an agenda, does no good to minimize circumstances that are unlike our own.

I find the stats that say that the majority of mothers (sorry dads, nobody talks about you) want to be found and to reunite so far-fetched. We aren't going to see the parents who do want to remain anonymous, want their perceived promise of confidentiality honoured, jumping up and down yelling, "here I am!".

We can talk all we want about the world being so small now, the expectation of anonymity being unrealistic, but it wasn't always. My own bio mother said her being found was never supposed to happen. It's why she went "so far away" to give me up.

I'd like to share and comment on a few things Kimberly Leighton said. I think she's bang on with much of what she says within the context of her role on the panel which was as an expert in ethics and an adopted person who has searched successfully.

"When you go on an adoption search, you're not finding a static piece of information. You're stepping into an ongoing life of an infinite number of people." -Nothing to argue with here.

"So it's not simply the same as doing a genealogy. When adoptees go searching, they're opening up Pandora's boxes of other people's lives."
-Anyone who denies that an adoptee searching is different than real kids searching is in a big fat friggin' fog. It is NOT the same thing as doing genealogy for most adoptees. The only way it would be is if the adoptee was just researching out of interest and had no plans to make contact with anyone.

Leighton was asked, "In one case, at least reported in The New York Times, someone found a third cousin. What use is that?".

She answered, "Well, I think this opens up a large -- larger question, which is, what do we think family is? And I think adoptees who are using these services go in already hoping that they're going to find some kind of some kind of connection. And it raises a lot of questions about what the ethical issues here are. And that's probably where I would want to start, in some ways, in this conversation because, in a contemporary situation, when we have closed records, the women who gave up their children for adoption were, in many ways, promised confidentiality. So we have to think about -- as much as we like the happy ending story that these searches seem to promise, we do have to raise, at the first level, the ethical question of what about these women's or men's or larger families' right to privacy." -I guess if you're of the mindset that the only person worthy of privacy is the adoptee and that no mothers felt they were promised or wanted confidentiality then this comment is complete garbage to you but I think, at the very least, it would be helpful to acknowledge the fact that people/families like this exist and aren't as few and far between as people want us to think. Read a thread asking adoptees if their mothers were open or happy to be found, if they were immediately open and welcoming upon contact. In my experience, it's at least half if not more of the adoptees who were not welcomed by their mothers with open arms. Does it make it right? Maybe not. Is it reality? Yes.

"We never really know the full story of why someone has relinquished a child, and we can assume it wasn't an easy choice, no matter what. And to enter -- anyone who enters a search has to enter that process knowing that they don't know what happened. They don't know who's been told. They don't know what the circumstances were. And to find a third cousin and to begin a search backwards that way opens up the possibility that you're presenting yourself to family members who have no idea that this woman might have even been pregnant." -Hear this and believe it!

Hmm, reading through the transcript I could pretty much copy everything Leighton contributed. To me it all came across as balanced and realistic, an excellent assessment on adoptees using DNA services to find family.

Leighton definitely did not come across to me as an enemy, a traitor to adoptees, as only caring about herself and her own search. She didn't offer her personal position on the legal issue of one's birth record and kept her comments confined to the topic which was the use of DNA services by adoptees to locate family. She could hardly pretend there aren't ethical questions and concerns surrounding adoptees searching, especially when using a method that can involve 3 and 4 times removed relatives who barely know each other, if at all.

There was only one thing Leighton said that gave me pause and that's that Canada has no secrecy in adoption. Perhaps she meant in new or recent adoption and/or sperm and egg donation because there certainly is still secrecy and closed records in adoption here. I know this because mine are.

Lastly, I explored and enjoyed this link recommended by Greenspan and want to share it. The DNA Testing Guide .

Oh, and personally, I would use DNA to carefully ascertain who my biological father is. At this point, I am well prepared for anything I might find out. Well, except maybe for how much the DNA testing would end up costing.


Yeah, not my type

You know the type.

The type who is the perpetual victim, the type who is never responsible for anything because they are a victim. Oh sure, now and then they'll say they know they're imperfect, that they know they can be a bitch or an asshole, but they aren't truly sorry. They believe, being a victim, they're entitled to behave in any old way they feel like behaving. Something bad happened to me once, now you must all forever walk on eggshells around me. You must agree with everything I say. You must acknowledge my pain daily, cheer me when I lash out.

The type who tries to zero in on their perceived enemies' vulnerabilities, tries to manipulate and shame. Hit 'em where it hurts, or at least try. This type tries to get others to jump on the bandwagon by reminding them that they too are victims, that it's a shared enemy, that if you want to love me, you must hate and be hateful to those that I hate. You must never think for yourself, you must worship at the altar of my victimhood or be cast out of my circle.

This type never sincerely apologizes. How could they? They never think they've done anything to apologize for and if they have done something unkind or uncalled for, they are to be excused because they are victims and have it worse than everyone else. Life is hardest for them. Your feelings, needs, and experiences are unimportant to this type, even the needs of their own children can come second. Oh yes, I've witnessed this with my own eyes. One of the saddest things I've ever seen.

I'm sorry for everyone who has to regularly deal with this type. Nothing you do will ever be good enough, no mistake you've made will ever be forgiven. This type isn't capable of true generosity or compassion, capable of being genuine or grateful. My advice is to work hard against allowing them to poison your life, make you sick. To resist being drawn in by their taunts, their challenges, their attempts to control you, to make you feel badly about yourself and sorry for them.

I wish you the strength to stand up to them when necessary. The strength to say no way, you're wrong and I am not going to let you get away with, or encourage, your damaging, childish, self-absorbed behavior.

If you must cut them loose, do it, and don't let them make you feel bad for doing so. Too little too late and unless they completely own and are sorry for their actions, don't look back because he or she will be right there, planning their attack, figuring out how to draw you back in, trying to make you forget they are a teflon coated victim, make you think that they're just your type.


The holiday is over

The last day of a vacation is a weird one.

It's bittersweet, the fantasy is coming to an end, which is sad, but going home is always great. I miss my son. With the roaming fees for cell phones and shaky Internet connections I've had very little communication. It's only been two weeks but that's just me. I enjoy talking with him, getting a hug, having a laugh.

I had a cool moment yesterday. There's been more than that over the trip but this one is standing out in my mind. I had just gotten my daily, much loved, self-served mimosa to my table and promptly knocked it over, smashing the delicate glass it's served in. Sigh, orange juice and glass everywhere. The break was actually quite dainty sounding (not everyone in the restaurant stood up to gawk) but still, I was mortified at the mess I'd made. The woman who was to be our server started busying herself cleaning up the damage as I sincerely apologized (once or seven times), feeling genuinely terrible for causing her so much trouble.

The cool moment was when she touched my arm, looked me directly in the eye and said, in broken English, something like, "it's ok, ok?", with pure sincerity and kindness. As I nodded she gracefully moved to the next table, quickly prepping it for service, and gestured for my husband and I to come to that table. We gratefully moved over and sat down, my husband giving me the old, "there, there, it wasn't so bad my little klutz" as I pondered the possibility of this being an omen for the day ahead. "Are you going to go get another mimosa?", my husband asks. "Are you kidding? Not a freakin' chance", I respond.

We had just settled down and begun eating when there, magically, a brand new, delicious mimosa appeared in front of me, prepared and delivered by the sweetest server I have ever been fortunate to have had.

I will likely remember this woman forever. It's amazing how far-reaching a simple act of kindness can be.

Cheers to servers!