On March 10, 2011 several Bastard Nationals, including myself, attended the “records event” held at the Hard Rock Cafe n Times Square New York. Sponsored by The Evan B Donaldson Adoption Institute, NJCare, and a couple other organizations. The event was billed as a “records events.”–a sort of “summit” to discuss the future of the adoptee rights movement. This future, led of course by the not-adopted adopter Adam Pertman, would includ ,Oprah Winfrey,.at least according to the event flyer.The meeting was an ego booster (and revenue booster?) for the always-limp EBD and a chance for NJCare to flog the bad bill it was running back then (referenced in the Manifesto). I won’t go into the details of the event here. Mike Doughney’s excellent He’s Not Legit and Baby Love Child’s Up Next on DMC’s “Adoptee Rights” Agenda: “Kidnapping” cover the run-up and downfall of the event I also wrote about it here.
A draft of the Hard Rock Manifesto was distributed at the event. The message was not greeted by much applause. Bastard Nationals who switched the losing discourse of reunion and wounds to a winning discourse of civil rights creating the revolutionary Second Wave of Bastardism were ignored, insulted, and verbally attacked as Pertman & Co attempted to deflect the issue, cut off debate, and pretty much tell us to STFU. We weren’t in their script Videos of the event are posted here. Look at 20-23 especially for an up-close look at how “nice” liberal can’t-we-all-get-along adoptionists operate when questioned on their own efficacy..
Afterwards plenty of people came up to us and said they supported or stand. Unfortunately they didn’t declare their support publicly. By the end of the event I felt like I was going to throw up. I have attended many oppositional conferences and events and have always been treated with respect. The Hard Rock “records event” showed me why its easier to deal with your enemies than your “friends.” Enemies respect you. Friends’ don’t.
To no one’s surprise, the Hard Rock “records event” was an expensive flop. Nothing grew out of it except the reiteration that nothing would change until reformists got out of the way.
Below is the final draft of The Hard Rock Manifesto. I have made a few changes which you will see with “NOTE”
HARD ROCK DRAFT MANIFESTO
March 10, 2011
New York City
Fourteen years ago Bastard Nation was founded on the guiding principle that access to original birth certificates, (OBC) identity, and history is a natural right, not a privilege doled out by the state. Adopted people want their original birth certificates for many valid reasons, but reasons are immaterial since they are nearly always argued on desire, not the right to possess them and the unredacted information contained in those documents. We have a right to the facts about our births, origins, and adoptions—adoptions imposed upon us, usually without our knowledge and consent, by the state. That same state, then seals our information and refuses to acknowledge our right to that information or that we even existed before our adoptions took place.
Bastard Nation argued that the not-adopted need not justify why they want their vital records. The not-adopted are not forced to ask their parents permission, grovel before a judge, join a government “reunion” registry, seek mental health counseling to prove they are sane enough to acquire their OBCs, or spend years getting a bill passed to get them. The not-adopted have a presumed right to their own birth certificates and can do with them what they please. All arguments for access, therefore, must flow from the presumed right of all citizens—not just a majority class–to unrestricted access and possession of their own true birth certificates. Otherwise, the right of anyone to possess their own birth certificate is not a right but a privilege the state grants to some. The real issue, therefore, moves from personal desire to political rights and adoptees’ relation to the state. Who owns your identity: you or the state?
In Oregon, two years after Bastard Nation was founded, we had our first victory with the passage of Ballot Measure 58 in which The People decided to right a government-wrong perpetuated on the state’s Class Bastard. The right of all adoptees, without restrictions to their own birth certificates was restored by an overwhelming majority of voters. When Bastard Nation and Helen Hill initiated the Oregon campaign , adoption reformers and corporatists, some from organizations attending the Hard Rock Cafe event, neglected to mention that in their (then) 20 years of hat-holding they had failed to open one single state to full access—and in fact, had mucked things up so badly with conditional legislation such as disclosure and contact vetoes, “reunion registries,” and tiered access release that it would be virtually impossible to re-gain unrestricted access in those states without a protracted expensive legal battle. If then.
Our victory in Oregon was followed by legislative restoration in Alabama (2000) and in New Hampshire (2005) where we worked with others to pass unrestricted access. Bastard Nation Executive Committee member Janet Allen a member of the New Hampshire House, and with her lifelong friend, House Speaker Mike Colley were instrumental in securing passage. In 2008, activists in Maine, not connected to Bastard Nation, who had previously considered restricted access, got a clean bill passed. (NOTE: In July 2011 Rhode Island enacted unrestricted access (unfortunately with an access age of 25) Exact figures are unavailable, but since 1990, at least 17,000 (NOTE: Now 21,000) adoptees have received their birth records under the No Conditions-No Restrictions-No Excuses policy initiated by Bastard Nation. The adoption industry and its special interests were soundly defeated.
We have proven that focused, energized civil rights campaigns can win. Yet, today we are sitting in the midst of corporate America–the Hard Rock Cafe– amongst a sea of adoption tweakers, self-defeaters, self- promoters, and neocons, who have never passed a “clean bill,” having a bizarre discussion over what we can learn about adoption (or open records?) from Oprah Winfrey–or so it was billed. This is the most bizarre adopta meeting since Ron Morgan, Bill Pierce, and Troy Dunn hooked up in LA to go on the Dr. Laura Show. We know how to restore adoptee access to our OBCs.. The only question now should be: why isn’t everybody following the model?
The corporate adoption reform movement, (the corpos) is closely aligned ideologically with the adoption industry’s child acquisition agenda. Overburdened with a taste for non-critical problem solving and strategic planning, and exhibiting a liberal enthusiasm for adoption normalization, corpos are represented by a number of organizations and individuals including the American Adoption Congress, NJCare, and , The Evan B Donaldson Adoption Institute.
The corpo belief system is antithetical to the genuine adoptee rights movement, which simply wants to restore the civil rights of adopted people through OBC access and to stop the government from stealing our histories and mediating our relationships. Mired in mid-20th century sociology, therapy, social engineering, exaggerated sensitivity, and liberal earnestness, corpos busy themselves with legalisms, and a near obsessive focus (which they deny even as they agitate for) on tangential desires (reunion, medical history) and feel- good junk science, analysis and solutions to individual problems (primal wound, PSTD) not core civil rights, class critique, and individual adoptee autonomy, the focus of successful OBC campaigns. Corpos value paternalism. We value autonomy.
This corpo busy-ness, created by the hardcore adoption industry to keep those exploited by their business practices in place, has been deeply internalized by corpo reform culture which (appropriately) denies its own origins. The Donaldson, for instance, was founded by Spence Chapin. This system of denial maintains a complicated— but false—linguistic structure of adoption industry-constructed tensions between what they like to call “the triad” (adoptive parent(s), natural parent(s) and Baby Bumble ( adoptee) that ignores how adoption really operates. The “triad hides people (grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, current or future siblings, fosterers) and the institutions central to the adoption experience (adoption agencies, Children’s Services, social workers, facilitators, therapists, doctors, lawyers, courts, politicians, marketers, and the marketplace.) It calls for individual solutions to class problems and systemic rot.
Corpo over-concern with the “balancing of rights” amongst all these unequal players has been a major theme of hardcore opposition such as the National Council for Adoption, the ACLU, anti-abortion groups AND paternalistic “adoptee friendly” reformists such as the Donaldson, AAC, and reformist state organizations How this-plays out in the legislature and in the lives of real adoptees can be shown in the current legal and social status of Class Bastard, whose otherness and lack of documented identity places us in the ever widening pool of persons of questionable background and motive.
Here is a brief outline of the social and legal/legislative conundrum om which Class Bastard is currently sinking.
In the national security state, where the rights of all are jeopardized by overarching government scrutiny and control of our personal lives, Class Bastard is placed in particular danger. Since 9/11, especially, we have been denied passports, drivers’ licenses, pensions, Social Security benefits, professional certification and licensure, and security clearances due to discrepancies on our falsified government-created amended birth certificates, and inability to present true documents.
Adoptees without genuine original birth records could soon be barred from running for public office. At least 10 states have introduced legislation requiring presidential and vice-presidential candidates to present their original birth certificates to appropriate authorities to prove citizenship eligibility for office. Some of these bills go farther, mandating candidates for public office to prove citizenship through an original birth certificate. It is no stretch to think that someday soon adoptees could be barred from voting due to lack of “legal” identity over problematic amended birth certificates, and the perpetual sealing of the originals.
Bastard Nation believes that not only existing rights such as pensions and the franchise can be abrogated due to sealed OBC laws, but that our hard fought access in some states could actually cease. In February 2011, the Speaker of the Oregon House introduced HB 2843 which would have repealed Measure 58, upending the entire historical adoptee civil rights movement, and in effect, making adoptee rights moot. Though quick behind-the-scenes work by Helen Hill and Bastard Nation, we were able to have the bill pulled within three-working days (five days total). Although word spread quickly about the crisis, at no time did Class Bastard or Bastard Nation in particular receive one word of concern or support from adoption reform corporatists though there was plenty of opportunity through Facebook, blogs, and Internet forums.
So far, M58 is the only law that has been challenged, but bastardphobic bills have been introduced across the country this year. Absurdly, in many cases, corpos, lacking the nerve and stamina –or perhaps failure to actually believe what they say they believe– to ask for what they allegedly want– endorse, testify in support of these degrading, anti-adoptee bills while calling them “adoptee rights” measures.
In the last t year approximately 20 bills have been scheduled for hearings or votes—all but one were built bad or went bad in committee, or died. These bills include:
- Release of the OBC if the adoptee knows the date of birth and name of mother;
- Release of the OBC prospectively with disclosure and/or contact vetos; some vetoes are called “a contact preference” even though the “preference” is made legally binding.
- Release of the OBC but with disclosure veto extended retroactively.
- The establishment of an anonymous medical registry with no OBC access.
- Tiered access unsealing OBCs for adoptees born or finalized between specified dates.
New Jersey A1406,* (NOTE:passed but never signed) heavily promoted by NJCare, the Donaldson and the AAC would, under certain conditions, create another “amended birth certificate” in which identifying information of a biological parent would be redacted by white-out and a mutilated copy given to the adoptee. Another provision would create a new class of sealed records adoptees; children processed through the state’s “safe haven” –“legally abandoned through state-facilitated baby dumps. Those not adopted who remained in the foster care system would have no viable birth records. Still another provision treats a “contact preference” as a disclosure veto and forces some women under certain conditions to turn over their health histories to the state. This bill is currently awaiting a decision from Governor Chris Christie. The final committee meeting at which the bill was passed on to a floor vote, Adam. Pertman, director of the Donaldson, gave testimony on his belief that all adopted persons should be restored access to their OBC without condition,–but asked the committee to pass the bill. A NJCare official testified at the same hearing that Bastard Nation “has it right.” If so on both counts, why did A1406 even exist and why was it flogged continually at the Hard Rock event?
Some of the enemies of adoptee rights sit in this room today. They continue to abrogate and outright deny our rights through this advocacy of sealed records far more than NCFA in its prime ever dreamed. These soft paternalists obstruct Class Bastard by co-opting our language and erasing our revolutionary history and achievements. In their rush to reach short-term reunionist goals and to get “something passed” on their watch, reformist corpos promise positive adoption language and images. They drop substantial numbers of adoptees down the black hole, weighed down with disclosure and contact vetoes, white-outs, and other measures to keep us from fully restoring our rights. They are not the genuine adoptee rights movement.
Institutes, foundations, and celebrities do not speak for us. Our rights will not be trivialized, exploited, or Oprahized. They are not for sale. We have already proven we can win. Whose side are you on?
Thanks, Joanne! There is just so much to say.