I don’t even know where to start. So for now, I’ll just post the link to this morning’s NY Times opinion piece by adoptive mother Drucilla Cornell, and get back to my own commentary later.
There is a voluminous literature arguing that the act of child adoption itself constitutes a trauma. For example, the writer Betty Jean Lifton argued that no matter what adoptive parents do, an adopted child has undergone a foundational trauma. I have argued against that position because for Lifton, biological connection is the only way for a family to constitute itself through a foundational narrative of belonging. On that view, an adopted child will necessarily be robbed of such a narrative, and will be without answers to basic questions like “When did mommy meet daddy?” and “What happened on the day I was born?”
But of course it is not only adopted, children who lack such narratives. Those who do not live in conventional heterosexual families are also cut off from them. The normalization of the heterosexual family — mommy and daddy and baby makes three — does not describe the majority of families. If one narrative of family belonging — in this case traditional heterosexual — is treated as the only valid one, it cuts off other possibilities for other stories of how one becomes a family and belongs to a family. Thus, the very argument that adoption is foundationally traumatic shuts down possibilities that would allow adopted children to tell different family stories and be part of different kinds of families. The argument itself becomes exclusionary.