The Bastard Moment and the Bastard Nation Moment

bastardsLast year I wrote about The Bastard Moment–those times when you are reminded that you aren’t “like” everyone else. At that time I was thinking that Bastard Nation had coined the term, but I’d forgotten  It came from BJ Lifton and was later promoted by OS Moses, an adoptee I haven’t seen around for years.  We owe much gratitude to those two Smart Bastards for naming our experience and placing our personal degradation into class and political perspective.

I wrote about my first and biggest Bastard Moment here. I may repost it since it’s certainly relevant to #flipthescript. My second big  Bastard Moment you’ll find in last year’s post which I might re-post, too,.

The above is my means of introducing the The Bastard Nation Moment? by BN co-founder and theoretician Damsel Plum in which she jettisons the Bastard Moment of adoption pain and dysfunction and replaces it with the Bastard Nation Moment of personal and political empowerment. It was published originally in the Winter 1998 issue of The Bastard Quarterly. Unfortunately, through a technicality, our BQs did not survive the transfer of our website to WordPress a couple years ago, but it was archived elsewhere. When time permits, I’ll be adding it permanently to “Bastard Bytes” on the Bastard Nation webpage.

It is sad and crazy that 17 years after this essay was written, we are still fighting the same battle.

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The Bastard Nation Moment?

by Damsel Plum

Many of you have read Betty Jean Lifton’s book Journey of the Adopted Self in which she defines the “bastard moment”. The bastard moment is an episode in an adoptee’s life which emphasizes some of the more negative aspects of being adopted: lack of entitlement, alienation and shame.

Experiences which might trigger a bastard moment include a family tree project in school, a doctor requesting your medical history, unwelcome remarks from strangers such as “Why did your real mother give you up?” and “You must be glad you weren’t aborted.”

The media often portrays adoptees as more suspect than your average citizen and editorials on open records for adult adoptees nonetheless refer to us as adopted children. The belittling remarks of a local government or hospital clerk when you request your personal records, an adoptive relative’s deliberate exclusion of you from her will, a birthparent’s rejection – all create the dreaded bastard moment.

Bastard moments make us aware of injustice and they challenge our dignity as human beings. Being adopted should not be shameful, yet these experiences make us feel ashamed.

I would like to propose a new term: the “Bastard Nation moment”. The Bastard Nation moment is an episode in an adoptee’s life which makes you proud to be a Bastard. It’s when you realize that you are not alone, that there are many millions of people in this nation and around the world who do not consider being adopted shameful and who do agree that adult adoptees should have the same civil rights as the rest of the non-criminal adult population.

Whereas the bastard moment makes us feel helpless, the Bastard Nation moment empowers us to stand up for what is right and against what is wrong. Being adopted is not shameful. Adult adoptee civil rights are being violated in 48 of the 50 U.S. states (note: as of 11/25/14 the number is now 43 of the 50) through archaic sealed records laws. Unscrupulous special interests are trying to pass laws such as article 6 of the Uniform Adoption Act which would seal adoptee birth records for 99 years and criminalize searching.

Bastard Nation moments give us the strength to stand up to the lies, misinformation, secrecy and shame which some would like to see persist in adoption. We have the power to educate the public and legislators about adoptee rights issues and it is our duty to all adoptees that we do this.

And so I leave you all with the following wish: May many Bastard Nation moments come your way today and every day until adoptees are afforded the same rights and dignity as every other citizen of this nation and the great planet Earth.


Copyright 1997 by Bastard Nation All Rights Reserved

Damsel Plum, M.A. is reunited adoptee, mother of two and Yale-educated linguist who resides with her husband and two sons in Marin County, California.


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