I'm reading a book right now and there's a recurring theme that's pissing me off. The reason it's pissing me off is because I see this same theme in society around me, and it happens to be an extremely personal issue. The issue is adoption.
We have an incredibly fucked up idea of family and parentage in our society. People are really, strongly, obsessively invested in who has whose genes. And I don't mean the biological drive to procreate. I get that we have this drive to make sure we have progeny to ensure the continuation of our genes. But we have lots of ways of making sure that we continue on, and our genes do just fine on their own without our interference. For instance, it turns out that homosexuality actually *helps* procreation. Let's say that Sam and Suzy have 2 children, Bobby and Betty. Bobby is gay and Betty is straight. Betty gets married and Bobby doesn't, because he's gay. That leaves Bobby available to assist Betty and her husband Johnny raise their little tykes, with babysitting duties, gifts, maybe even more substantial contributions to the household. Bobby is Sam and Suzy's insurance policy to make sure that Betty's kids (Sam and Suzy's grandkids) have an edge and therefore out-compete the kids growing up next door, who don't have the benefit of an extra uncle to dote on them.
That's an oversimplification of course, the point is that we have a variety of ways to ensure the propagation of genes, and some of those ways might not seem, on the surface, to be beneficial, but they are.
So, what does that have to do with adoption? Well, my position is that this obsession with whose kids are whose goes far beyond what can be explained with genes. It has to do with memes. Social memes. Those nasty little mind-worms that infect societies and dig in deeper than some biological viruses. Somewhere along the line, we collectively decided it was appropriate, desired, and necessary for men to guard the vaginas to make sure that nothing went in and nothing came out that didn't "belong" to the men guarding them. This idea gained traction quickly and took root deeply to the point where we are now looking for biological justifications to excuse the brutality of men against women and against other men (but mostly against women).
And this meme works going the other direction too - children who are socialized with this kind of bullshit are terrified at the thought that mommy or daddy might not be their "real" mommy or daddy. Even adult children are terrified about this. The worst insult a man can be given is that he doesn't know who supplied half of his genes (bastard). Even as adults, the mere thought that one's parents might not be one's "real" parents is enough to make grown adults resort to violence.
I am adopted. I have always known that I was adopted. Although I did not meet my biological mother until I was 30, and I have never met my biological father, I grew up knowing the story of my birth and my biological lineage. I knew that my bio-parents were teenagers when I was born, and that was the reason I was given up for adoption. I knew that I had European ancestry on my mother's side and Latin American ancestry on my father's side. I knew that my birth-mother was given a choice as to who my adopted parents would be and she chose the couple who raised me, although they never met. I knew all of this from the moment I was able to understand it. And I was always OK with it.
My adopted mom (whom I always call "mom") has always made it very clear to me that I may not have come from her stomach, but I did come from her heart. My adopted parents raised me from the time I was 15 days old. They stayed up with me at night when I was sick, they helped me with my homework, they dried my tears when I was so panicked at the thought of spending another day with the school bullies that I made myself sick. My adopted parents have always been parents in every sense that matters.
My birth mother (whom I usually refer to as "mother") was also held in high esteem. Something else that my adopted parents made sure to instill in me was a deep and profound respect for the woman who made the ultimate sacrifice in my adoption. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to have carried a baby to term, given birth, and then given that infant to someone else, knowing that she would never see her baby again. She never did see me. She asked not to, afraid she would change her mind if she did. This woman, this girl, didn't abandon me. She made the best decision possible - to allow someone else to raise her child so that her child had the best possible chance for survival, because she was not the best possible choice.
In the book that I'm reading, the main character was raised by his father in a small village. His mother died before he had any real memory of her. The main character doesn't look anything like his father, and in fact, doesn't look anything like anyone in the village. He stands out like a Norseman raised in the south of Spain. But as he travels through the story, he learns hints that he may not be genetically related to his father. He learns that his father left the village for a couple of years and returned home with a baby. His father told him that he had been born in that village, so he vehemently denies this rumor. Every time it is suggested that he may have been a foundling, he shouts his name and that he is the son of his father.
And every time he does that I want to reach through the pages of the book, grab him by the throat, and throttle some sense into him. Of COURSE that's his name; having different genetic donors doesn't change that! Your name is what people call you, and having some other ancestry doesn't change what people call you, or what they have always called you in the past. Of COURSE that's his father; having some stranger impregnate some other stranger doesn't erase the last 20 years of the man he thinks of as his father, as he taught him to read, taught him to farm, taught him to fire a bow and arrow. That his genes come from people he's never met DOES NOT CHANGE WHO HE IS OR WHO HIS FATHER IS. It *might* explain some things about himself that don't make sense without that information, such as his coloring. But it does not change history and it does not erase those relationships with people he currently has.
And this book keeps pissing me off because I see people going through this same situation all the time. I see people panic at the thought that the people they love, who raised them, might have a genetic code that is 3% different from theirs, instead of 2.9% different. And the reason why that reaction pisses me off is because it is a direct accusation to people like me, people who were raised by someone other than their genetic donors. Every time I say I don't want children, and people ask what happens if I change my mind, and I say that I'll adopt, every time they say "but what if you want children of your own someday?" Fuck you. Any child I adopt WOULD be my own goddamn child. I think it's frighteningly telling that these people actually believe that someone could possibly deliberately raise a child and not love it as one's "own".
It's so terrible, so awful, this idea that we might not be blood-related to our parents. Someone who really thinks that is so busy freaking out over that thought, that he doesn't usually stop to consider that, if it's so awful that he is not related to his parents, then it must be just as awful for me to not be related to my parents. And I am deeply resentful of the idea that my parents are not my "real" parents.
My parents are every bit my "real" parents. Not giving birth to me did not make their sacrifices for me any less, or diminish their love even a single iota. There was never even a single moment of "she's not my REAL daughter, so I only love her a little bit". I, and my adopted sister, were the children my parents always wanted. We gave them every bit as much love, and as much grief, as any "natural" child ever gave her parents.
This idea of "natural" offspring is, I think, one of the most harmful, destructive memes we have the misfortune of propagating. It causes men to turn violent, to destroy women's bodies, to kill. It causes women to doubt their very humanity when they can't have children "of their own". It causes relationships to be destroyed at even the suspicion of other genetic material in the vicinity. It causes children to doubt their very identities because we do not encourage people to develop identities on their own merits and personalities, but on their relationships to other people. Who is this strange child if it's not "mine"? Who am I if I'm not related to my parents?
That child is the same child he has always been, and I am always me, no matter who my parents are. Regardless of where my DNA came from, my parents raised me and shaped the person I am now. I am the culmination of biological matter, values instilled by the people who raised me, exposure to ideas from society around me, and my own accomplishments. I am Joreth. Adult human individual and daughter of my parents. All four of them.