A while back I did a rather extended consideration of adoption and ART–how are they the same and how are they different? (I’ve arbitrarily chosen to link to a post in the middle of the run–there are some earlier ones, some later ones and tons of discussion in comments.) I suppose no task like that is ever finished–and notably missing is the “so what?” discussion that I think the whole exercise cries out for. I mean, once you go through all the discussion, what are the implications?
But all that aside, it occurred to me that there is another angle from which to view the topic and I thought it was worth returning to it for that reason. (Actually, I’m sure there are countless other angles, but this one leapt out at me earlier today.)
My daughter goes to a school where there are affinity groups organized around aspects of the girls (it’s an all girls school) identity. There’s a Jewish affinity group and an alphabet alliance (that’s for kids who might identify as LGBTQQA, I think) and there is an adoption affinity group.
This got me thinking. The idea (and here I should stress that I am now moving into my own speculations and no longer speaking about my daughter’s school) is to create groups where kids who share identity traits can talk about them or just take them for granted and do whatever they want. That seems like something really helpful for kids in adolescence–never an easy time.
It makes total sense to me that you’d have an adoption affinity group. I would think that middle-school aged adoptees would have common questions and concerns and that it would be great to be able to talk about them with other kids who “get it.” (As an aside, note that only kids whose parents are open and honest with them about adoption will be in these groups–if there are kids who don’t know they are adopted, they obviously won’t join the group.)
But there’s an obvious question that I’ve actually thought about for a while. (Call me dim, but I didn’t think about putting it up here till today.) Who should get to go to this group? Who shares the identity?
Suppose there is a girl who has two mothers–one gave birth to her after conception with sperm from an anonymous provider, the other adopted her. (This hypothetical girl might be interesting to think about as she is both donor conceived and adopted.) She is an adopted child–at least as to one of her parents. Does this mean she will fit in with the adopted affinity group?
What strikes me is that if you focus on the adoption part, I find it hard to see similarities between this child and the other imagined members of the adoption affinity group. The girl has been the subject of what is called a second-parent adoption, akin to a step-parent adoption. Adoption in this context adds a parent, but you’re still left with the original parent. So this girl is still being raised by her birth mother (to use the term used in the adoption context, which is not typically used in the second parent adoption context), just in concert with someone else. There are many important differences between this child and the more stereotypical adopted child who is being raised by two parents neither of whom is genetically related to her. Ultimately, the fact that she is adopted doesn’t seem to me to be an important enough commonality.
But if you go back to my hypothetical child, you’ll see that she was also donor-conceived. So here I’m on the verge of rehearsing the earlier post about the adoption/donor conception distinction from the child’s perspective. Better just to link to it I think. And to remind everyone that there is both sameness and difference here.
Is there any way of generalizing about what is most important? Not only will it vary child by child, but my guess is also age by age. Will the adolescent donor conceived child have enough in common with the adolescent adopted child so that they can form a single, mutually supportive community? Maybe it depends in part on how many kids you’ve got to work with? If there are only two or three, can there be enough commonality while if there are twenty the group will naturally split because of differences?
I find myself with a host of other questions about how being donor-conceived works as an identity and the extent to which the identity is congruent with that of being an adopted child. I know we’ve talked about all this before–quite a lot–and maybe there is nothing new here. I don’t feel like I’ve tied this all together well at the end–maybe this is what I get for trying to write before I’ve thought about it long enough. I think what struck me this AM is that the adoption part of this child’s experience is not what gives her commonality with other adoptees, which seems just a bit odd. If there is commonality (and it remains an if for me) it is the donor conceived part. Which leads me to wonder if there is enough commonality so that the donor-conceived should be a part of the adoption affinity group or is whether instead there is a need for a separate affinity group?