Someone on Twitter asked, ‘where are the male adoptee voices?’ I tweeted a few responses. Then I decided to write a blog post about why I think this is true.
As a male adoptee voice for the last decade, the number of men that I have met or hear about who are active in the space is tiny. This includes both adoptees and adoptive fathers.
Here are some reasons why;
- Women dominate the entire adoption industry. The heads of adoption agencies, the leaders of adoptive parent groups, the social workers, the academics studying adoption, the adoptee-led support groups, the adoptee bloggers, the list continues. Women lead most adoption groups.
- Adoption language targets women, birthmothers, adoptive mothers, etc. There is rarely a mention of biological fathers and minuscule focus on male adoptees. Furthermore, adoptive dads are not typically blogging about their family experiences.
- Though adoption is marketed and discussed as a family issue, it is mostly a women’s issue. Father’s are part of the story and may have huge impacts, but one sees them mostly posing in family pictures. They are rarely part of the adoption narrative. Sadly, I feel they are usually ornaments, conveying stability and safety in their families.
- Male adoptees are not raised to discuss and explore their feelings. Historically men have no outlet to unpack their complicated emotions because vulnerability is perceived as weak.
Most adopted guys do not know where they fit into the broader adoption landscape. And they feel like aliens in it.
Male adoptee voices are usually absent in adoption media coverage. One rarely reads an adoption piece and sees the male perspective.
In adoption, it is almost as if men are merely there as a prop; but serve no real purpose.
I contrast attitude and perception with the many people I have interacted with who are thrilled that I’m telling my story. They recognize my vulnerability and applaud my honesty in expressing my adoption struggles.
They are thankful, for me genuinely sharing my feelings about growing up in a transracial household. And they find me thought-provoking, challenging them as I do, to think about entrenched issues of race and culture.
The Need for Male Voices
There is a real need for men to speak out about their experiences with adoption. Our voices are valuable.
There are many adopted kids, who lack male adoptee mentors, especially boys of color. This is certainly true in domestic adoption and more pronounced in international adoption.
Most adoptee groups I have been a part of during the last decade are majority female. All the international adoptee support groups I have ever heard about are comprised mostly of women and those identifying as female.
It makes sense, female adoptees far outnumber males.
In my case, there are very few adopted Indian males because Indian society is patriarchal. Indians generally view females as expendable. Families keep their boys because they are seen as ‘valuable.’ Variations of that reality are replicated across the nations active in international adoption.
A guy like me, an Indian adoptee who talks and shares his story in the adoption arena is rare.
But being one of few makes me sad and disappointed as well.
Society still expects guys to display confidence and a tough exterior because they are male. But that can be significantly more difficult to do, as an adoptee.
The adoption arena must have both male and female voices.
Adopted guys need to tell their stories, without being judged for being ‘soft’ or ‘weak.’ People need to hear male perspectives on adoption issues.
Thankfully, I think this perception is changing among those who understand adoption. But society in general when hearing about adoption listens to female voices.
To my female adoptees, as you have the most visible voices, I encourage you to get the word out. Question why all the adoption groups are majority female. Try and draw out the rare guys who participate in adoptee gatherings. Not only because they are male, but understanding that dialog is richer with both groups participating.
Acknowledge that male adoptee voices are absent.
Men — Stop hiding and pretending adoption does not affect you. Speak up!
Do not be ashamed about your adoption. It’s a facet of your life. Share your hurt, anger, and fear about adoption. Tell your truth and your stories.
The more that men begin to speak out, the greater the encouragement we can offer one another.