My Cliff Notes of What I Say by Request Part 1
I have the honor of serving time in the Adoptee Rights Coalition’s Exhibit booth every year at the National Council of State Legislator’s Annual Conference every year. During those three days, I talk nonstop adoption to various state legislators about the need for supporting or introducing legation that would restore the adult adoptees access to original birth certificates.
With so many pending adoptee rights bills this year and so many opportunities, I was asked to share my spiel.
Now it might sound daunting – speaking to various state legislators – but really, what I have learned over the years is that they are just regular people, too. And really, we are just having a conversation. I know, going in, that I probably know more about the issue and more about their current states laws than they do and so I am just sharing it with them, the truth. It’s simple. It’s logical and there is no need to get anxious about it. I had really no idea what I was doing either when I first started out. The phrase “fake it ’til you make it” comes into play here.
It’s just a Conversation About Adoptee Rights
The thing is; I’m not a super woman. I don’t have better speaking skills than the rest of the world. I don’t do anything spectacular. I just talk to people about adoption and most specifically adoptee rights; a lot. These same conversations and discussions can easily be adaptable to speaking to ANYONE about adoptee rights; Congressmen, shop clerks, your neighbors, your mother, newspaper reporters… get the idea? Don’t be so worried about saying it “wrong”. These conversations are only wrong are if you DON’T say or DO anything.
And if I don’t know something I say that but I tell them that I can find out and will let them know.
“You know, I don’t have those numbers, but I can get them. Can I get your email address and I’ll send that to you.”
So what do I say?
First off, it’s how to say it.
I always smile. Pretty much nonstop. Like my face hurts from smiling, unless the senator or assembly person is talking, then I look at them with my “very intense listening” face. I look into their eyes a lot. I laugh and joke. I find that especially with the older (male) legislators, they respond best with an occasion touch of the arm. Yes, it’s often almost quite flirty. What can I say? I will pimp myself out for adoptee rights. I make sure I look nice, respectable and business like. I wear lipstick and cover(most) of my tattoos.
I also do not ever ever get angry. I do not argue. I do not debate. Oh, I counter point for sure, but again, always with a smile. If one happens to say something really ignorant or hurtful or just plain stupid (and yes, that does happen) I still smile and try to get around that. I will say things in that lobby booth that I will probably never ever say in real life and sound like I actually mean it.
If Mr. Senator tells me that his son just adopted a baby from China, I smile and say, “Oh, how wonderful for them and you! I bet she’s a little doll.”
If another tells me about his friend who adopted and the birthmother was just an awful drug addict who cared nothing about the child, I make tsk-tsk noises and shake my head with disgust often followed up with “Well, thank goodness, she’s better off now!”
And if I hear an story about a reunion gone bad and how so and so wishes they never had searched, I say “Yes, well that does happen sometimes, but at least, now, they know. They had that chance and hopefully got their medical records? At least they had the choice, the opportunity.”
No Anger, Just Adoptee Rights Education
The thing is, I do not position myself to be here to oppose them. I am there to educate and help them. I make it clear that I am on their side and really want THEM to be successful in their districts sponsoring or supporting important state legislation.
I do NOT go into any attacks on the adoption industry when I am talking about adoptee rights. I do not talk about the coercion of mothers. I do not talk about profits, unenforceable contact agreements and the carrot of open adoption UNLESS these issues tie in to adoptee rights. I, personally, do not really tread into my own story either. It’s NOT about my loss or grief, it’s about adoptee rights. If they ask me why I do this work, I explain that I did relinquish my son at age 19 and have since found him and we have a happy reunion, but MY choice denied HIM his CIVIL rights and THIS is what I can do to fix that because it is unfair.
So again, what do I say?
First the issue needs to be stated:
“We are here to talk about Adoptee rights. Did you know that your state, XXX, currently has legislation in effect that discriminates against adult adopted people?”
Yes, it helps to know the state laws in that particular state, and I can guarantee that MOST legislators will be less informed about the particular states than you are.
Now, some might be aware of past efforts and will say so:
“Oh I heard about that. I think we had something go through a few years ago.”
This is because there have been a great many efforts in the past decade in the various states, so if the legislator has been around for a while the issue might ring a bell. Now, some don’t know adoptee rights from baby safe haven law ( or some other adoption “reform”) and it gets them confused. If they don’t know about the right to access an original birth certificate, then that gets stated.
“Hmmm. I think that might be another area of adoption? ( quizzical face) I believe that bill might have been to make adoptions easier? ( or whatever) Adoptee rights legislation is at the other end; (gestures with hands.. I’m Italian. Talking with my hands is unavoidable) when the adoptees grows up. Once they are adults, the current state laws continues to treat them as children just because they were adopted! It’s a crazy outdated law and that’s why we’re here. They have got to be changed ( looking just amused and shocked by the atrocity of this old ass bill).”
Now if said legislator really is familiar with the issue, now is a good time to ask outright;
“Did you support it when it came though?”
If they say yes, then you ask “What held it up?” Then listen. Here is a chance to get an insider’s view of what happens and what the holdup was. What didn’t work on the last attempt at legislative reform? Ask what can be done to help to help it go through next time. Yes, seriously pump for information. It’s a potential gold mine!
If they say that they did not support the bill, then look surprised that they would do something so illogical and ask why not “What where your concerns? Can you share with me why you felt it was not beneficial legislation? I’d really like to help you feel better about and answer any questions so when it does come around again, we can count on your support.”
Again, listen. No argument, just listen. I’ll get to rebuttals to their beliefs.
- Talking About Adoptee Rights To Legislators or Anyone Else Part 1
- Talking About Adoptee Rights To Legislators or Anyone Else Part 2
- Talking About Adoptee Rights To Legislators or Anyone Else Part 3
- Talking About Adoptee Rights To Legislators or Anyone Else Part 4
- What NOT to do When Talking about Adoptee Rights or How We Get Better Part V