I was at a meeting of fellow adopters and was surprised to hear a parent say how unhappy they were that their child’s school had outed them as being adopted. They were clearly upset and concerned and stated that they had made an official complaint.
On a number of occasions since I have heard similar comments and concerns from adopters who were saying that they felt a need and a desire to keep their child’s status secret in certain situations.
It surprises me greatly and I have to say that I am confused as to why any adoptive parent would feel a need not to be totally open and honest about their adoption in all circumstances, as surely that is an essential part of making an adopted child understand, appreciate and embrace exactly who they are.
Isn’t keeping a child’s adopted status a secret suggesting it’s something… well, to be ashamed of? I appreciate that ashamed may seem a little heavy, but to have a child – by default – denying they are adopted is far from instilling any sense of pride.
Having something that you have to keep a secret because of what others may think can only be creating a degree of shame and no matter how open and honest you are around family and friends I can’t see how it would fully eradicate that.
I understand the reasoning – that is sets their child apart and that it may give bullies something to use – and I understand that a parent is supposedly trying to protect their child, but surely what is far more important it how the child feels about themselves.
Regardless the fact that you are keeping it a secret means that you are potentially giving the bullies ammunition to use against your child, to them justifying their bullying. Teasing a child who is secure in an adopted family and secure in their knowledge of being adopted is surely going to have far less impact than teasing a child who has had a secret exposed.
As gay adopters I am fully aware that we don’t really have a choice over being ‘out’ as an adoptive family – as it’s pretty self evident that it was unlikely to have happened naturally – and as such we are not faced with a choice over this. However, I should imagine we would be far less likely to decide to be anything other than fully open.
Gay people know what it’s like to live with a lie, we know how it confuses us and creates a shame – in some cases a self loathing – that is often with us for our entire life. We know how better it is when we ‘come out’ and live openly and freely as the people we are, when we face the world without fear or shame.
Our sons at 7 and 8 declare their adopted status openly and freely to anybody and everybody, just as they declare that they have two daddies. They need to be proud of both and every time they state either fact they are acknowledging and affirming their pride. If they were encouraged to keep either fact a secret surely every time they stopped themselves from exposing it would diminish that pride.
We know that as they get older and are with peers who have been fed prejudice and hatred that it may not be as easy to be so open and in fact that is exactly
why they need to be so comfortable with it now, so they are prepared and can handle the possible abuse with knowledge and confidence.
I think possibly the denial in some straight parents is far more to do with them and their journey to adoption. Declaring your child as adopted is possibly giving out a lot of very personal and intimate details about you, information that maybe just feels wrong sharing with anybody other than family and friends. However it is a reality and absolutely one to be proud of.