I have used this phrase on several articles about the Veronica Brown case and several times I have been called names for it. Many people do not even take time to think about it. Perhaps it’s time that they did.
So what is biological privilege?
Biological privilege is never having to doubt that the information on your birth certificate is correct. Adoptees in many states in the USA do not have that privilege. Their original birth certificates are altered. Their name at birth is removed and the name changed upon adoption is placed there instead. The names of the natural parents are removed and the adopting parents are placed in. The original birth certificate is often locked away forever. In Canada many adoptions allow you to keep your original birth certificate however a new one is still issued with your new name which becomes your legal birth certificate.
Biological privilege is being able to go to your parents, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles to discuss your family heritage. Adoptees do not have this privilege. People do not adopt entire families, they adopt a child. The aunts, uncles, grandparents and family do not come with them. The knowledge of their family heritage is lost when these connections are severed.
Biological privilege is never having to worry about being raised in your culture of origin and heritage. Adoptees do not have this privilege. Adoption does not bring culture with it and while many adoptive parents make noble promises of continuation of culture, two people alone doth not a culture make. It’s difficult to partake in your original culture when you have been moved hundreds or thousands of miles away from it, when your adoptive parents know nothing about it and also have little to no support from anyone who knows anything about it, when schools you attend know nothing about it and even teach misinformation about it.
Biological privilege is taking for granted that you are a person and not a commodity. Adoptees are commodities. We are purchased with expenses justified under the guise of ‘necessities’, ‘agency fees’ or ‘expenses’. How much would you pay for an asian child? A private adoption agency in Ontario says that child’s worth is $32300 if that baby is from South Korea, $26500 if he or she is from Vietnam and around $12000 for a child from China. For a private adoption agency in Texas a child from China is $14400. Black children are often cheaper, a child from Ethiopia is $7000 to $9450. How would you feel to have a price tag attached to you? To have to ‘live up to your cost’ when you know that your parent(s) purchased you for a large sum of money?
Biological privilege is the assumption of access to all your rights when you need them. Adoptees don’t have this. Many rights are tied to lineage and family, especially in trans-racial adoptions. Registering with your culture’s tribe, group or organization often requires specific data and documents, documents and data that is sealed away from you at the moment of your adoption. In some places this is forever. In others you can access this data but only after jumping through many bureaucratic hoops that can take months or even years and often at-cost. Many private agencies destroy records after a few years. Governments have routinely fought against adoptee rights to access their own records and information.
Visit: Adoptee Rights Coalition.
And perhaps most crucially, biological privilege is knowing that you are truly you. If a stranger gave you a piece of paper with a new name and list of strangers names and told you that that was who you were and your new family, would you accept it? Would you feel grateful? Even if the people on the list were ‘nice’ to you would it make any more ‘real’? Of course not. But this is the job that adoptees are saddled with, often before we can even sit up or count to two. Our job is to provide an infertile person or couple with a family. To go from being the individual we are at birth to whatever person they wish to create through name changes, alteration of the birth certificate, the residential change that occurs as part of the process and even language and cultural shifts. It legally terminates the person you were at birth while you go on living. Who you were at birth is issued what is essentially a death certificate while your new identity with your adoptive family issued a new birth certificate. The problem is that you never actually died but everyone treats it that way. This fake persona that is little more than a facade is a burden we carry every day of our lives.
Obviously this list does not fit everyone. I’m sure there are adoptees out there that are pleased with their adoptions but I find them to be the rarity and whenever I come across one I can’t help but wonder if the over insistence of happiness is simply denial. The lady doth protest too much comes to mind.