No matter what country we’re cheering for during the 2016 Summer Olympics, everyone can agree that United States Gymnast, Simone Biles is a total boss. Her list of accomplishments in the sport is beyond measure. Yet, here we are defining her and her accomplishments based on who raised her instead.
NBC Sports analyst Al Trautwig set Twitter on fire when he insinuated that Simone’s parents were not her real parents because of adoption:
What Trautwig said was out of line, plain and simple. It was ignorant and completely short sighted. Not because it was mean or rude toward adoptive parents but simply because Simone is the only one who gets to decide who she calls Mom and Dad. She has chosen to call her Grandfather and his wife by those names. If she wants to also call her biological mother, Mom, she can do that too. This is Simone’s narrative, not ours.
End of story.
However, if this commentator had made these ignorant comments about Simone’s biological mother — That’s her biological mother, but not her real mother — would adoptive parents have lost their goddamn shit over it, too?
Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Even though I know there will be a rush to twist the situation into knots, while crying victim or an enthusiastic but not genuine, “Yes, of course!” We know that’s bullshit. There would have been a smug agreement and there wouldn’t have been any Twitter outburst or think pieces directed at Trautwig. Simply, there wouldn’t have been a story because birth parents are not real parents, right? Those outside of the adoption community wouldn’t have been enraged either because the narrative of adoption is as follows:
Adoptive parents are the “real” parents.
Adoptees don’t get to choose who their parents are.
Birth parents are proven failures, addicts who never stop being those things. They are definitely not parents.
It takes only a small amount of perception to register how that rhetoric was constructed.
The world views adoption this way because there are egos involved that are especially fragile. These are the same egos that relegate birth parents into the shadows, demand silence from anyone who doesn’t preach glitter and rainbows about adoption, and more relevantly, expect adoptees maintain loyalty only to the people who adopted them. There is little to no room for birth parents, and perhaps even more despicable, there is no room for adoptees to decide what they want to determine as family.
Adoptive parents are protected by a bubble that only a special kind of privilege allows. Their voices are more worthy to the world. When they are hurt by ignorance, like the aforementioned situation, they are surrounded by an army of people enraged with them. When adoptees and birthparents ask for this to be extended to us, there is no allowance.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard that I’m not a “real” mother because I’m a birth mother. Or how often I have to defend calling myself a mother when I speak about my son. I’m not even supposed to celebrate him on Mother’s Day because that’s taking up someone’s limelight.
What about the reinforced notion that birth parents and adoptees bow down at the feet of adoptive parents? What about the required gratitude and witness to the ‘sacrifice’ of adoptive parents, from those outside the adoption community? That pedestal that adoptive parents exist on was built by themselves, on the backs of women who were treated like nothing more than a womb, and children who were treated as a commodity.
Adoptive parents get full page spreads in magazines about how they adopted a child but then decided he or she was too difficult or hard, so they gave him away (this is called re-homing). Anyone who does this to an animal garners more criticism than adoptive parents do. Instead they’re comforted with headpats and biblical inspirations of Jesus and prayers. When I talk about relinquishing my parental rights, 13 years ago, I’m called a slut, a whore, a complete failure. But the people who literally treated a human being as though they were a defective product purchased in a store are safe from being told they are complete garbage. That’s right: I’m a no-good, waste of a life, slut who shouldn’t have kids because I gave one away, but they are an inspiration.
That’s fucked up.
And yes, I know, #notalladoptiveparents. Because, even when their ego isn’t that fragile, you know someone is going to point out that most adoptive parents are decent and good.
Adoptive parents literally have no idea what it feels like to be shamed or degraded. That tweet? It wasn’t even close to what it’s like to be a part of the adoption community and NOT be the adoptive parent.
Not that this is the Olympics of Who Has It Worse. But, if it was: Adoptive parents would lose. They wouldn’t even medal.
Who Simone defines as a parent was never about adoptive parents; even with the idiocy of the original tweet included. Again, we shouldn’t be discussing who Simone calls her parents; she should get to make that decision privately, on her own terms, famous or not. Co-opting her story because of insecurity or territorial insistence with being correctly defined as the “real parents” whenever adoption is mentioned is not on her, that’s not her problem to contend with.
Adoption, believe it or not, it isn’t always about adoptive parents, it rarely ever is. And yet, here we are again, witnessing a battle to lay claim on who owns the right to take a piece of her success as a young woman.
Personally, I think Simone has done a mighty fine job of showing the world that she owns herself and success, no matter who she calls Mom and Dad.
Image Credit: JARED WICKERHAM / GETTY via People.com