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Dismissive Language: Tone Policing and Other Damaging Habits

Dismissive tactics are fairly well understood, especially in social justice and debate circles. In the adoption arena, however, these tactics take on a willful blindness and venom which is truly disturbing. Let's explore some of the most commonly used phrases.

"Not all adoptions are the same."
"What if the mother won't parent?"
"Well what do you suggest, then?"
"I'm sorry you had a bad experience, but..."

Really, I could fill a blog with "phrases commonly used to dismiss anyone who has anything negative to say about adoption" but I won't waste my time or yours reiterating that familiar drivel. We all know the phrases. We've all been told we "just had a bad experience".  We all have experience with those that dismiss because they don't like our tone.

Dismiss being the key word. Phrases like "not all...", "what if...", angry, bitter, bad experience, and "can't we all be nice to each other?" are dismissive. They are disrepectful. They minimize our experiences and make them small and insignificant. 


When you say to me, "Not all adoptions are the same", do you want to know how that translates? This is what it sounds like. 

"Well, I see your adoption experience sucked. I don't care, because I know someone it didn't suck for. Your experience is insignificant, and your perspective is wrong. Neither they nor you matter. Nor does your shitty experience, because my good one cancels yours out. What you experienced is meaningless, because everyone did not experience it."

What a nice, respectful approach! I think "#notall" is extremely dismissive. It indicates that a few good stories justify all the abuse and misery of our cribmates. It says, "It's OK that adoptees are belittled, abused, and murdered, because I wasn't. And the fact that I love adoption renders all the suffering it causes meaningless. Less than meaningless; you shouldn't dare speak negatively about adoption at all. It gives general society the wrong idea." 

*"What if...?"*

What if questions are a waste of all of our time, and while it's a worthy diversionary tactic to derail the point, that is literally all that it is. You don't care about my opinion on your question. You are using it to either A) derail and divert, or B) to try to prove that I am ignorant or don't know what I'm talking about. Nor do you intend to listen to or consider my answer. You want me to expend endless amounts of emotional labor to answer defensive questions meant to derail a point you don't like. 

On the off chance you do *listen* to my answer, the most likely follow up is another dismissive comment or question to further derail the original point. Very sldomly is there any genuine interest in these lines of questioning.

*Further Common Tactics*

Angry, bitter, bad experience, et cetera. All terms meant to project instability, prejudice, and unsuitability of opinion. Phrases meant to damage the credibility of the speaker. Terms meant to make us look like screeching harpies. Yet more not-so-subtle gaslighting, meant to make others, or ourselves, question our sanity. What I find so funny about it is this: you act like we are unstable because we are angry to be adopted. But let's take you from your family and steal your identity and see how pissed off you get. The whole thing would be hilarious if the intent wasn't so completely nefarious.

Besides, attempting to shut down one who is angry about wrongs done to them? Dismissing and belittling a person who has experienced very real trauma and mistreatment at the hands of the system and greedy, amoral adults? Low class. Like, sewer low.

You may not believe us, or agree with us, and no one says you have to. On the other hand, trying to poison our perspectives with accusations of irrationality smacks of insecurity and blindness.

*Tone Policing*

Now let's talk about tone policing for a moment. That good, old fashioned, Rodney King style, "Can't we all just get along?"

The fact of the matter is we can't. There are too many problematic people, too many lies, too much bullshit. There is no trust in adoptionland, and almost no one is trustworthy. The adopters are in constant need of validation and parenting correction. The relinquishers consistently demand blameless sympathy, because EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM was coerced. (There are a rare few that own it, but it's pathetically rare.) There is too much pain that has to be processed, too many problems that simply cannot be fixed. Not until those feeding the system stop caving to their desperation and saying, "fuck adoptee rights! I really want a kid.", and start standing up for the humanity and autonomy of those children they claim to care so much about. So no.

We can't all get along. We don't always have to be respectful and kind. We don't always need to use the Syllabus Of Approved Social Interactions when we have these impossible conversations.

And the fact of the matter is, you don't get to decide what kind of language I use to address you, any more than I get to choose whether or not you listen to me. 

"I would listen to you and engage, if you would just be nicer."

No you wouldn't . You'd find another way to derail and dismiss the points I'm trying to make. There are no soft cotton candy words that can accurately describe my, or many other adoptees', feelings. There is no gentle way to say, "I feel like broken bloody glass inside because my mother abandoned me and I grew up an alien with strangers." In addition, I have no intention of padding my truth for anyone's comfort, nor should I be expected to. People need to see how ugly adoption can really be. Me editing my truth to spare the weak is a betrayal to every adoptee who has or is experiencing the shitty adopted life I did.

So I suggest you put on your big kid pants and buckle it down . Because your comfort? Not adoptees' problem.

Just. Stop.
You are making everything worse, and harder than it needs to be.


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