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When Romney Said “Your Adopted Daughter”

This is not about politics.  Set that aside for a moment.

People get things wrong from each other’s lives.  The details which seem so obvious to us — that define us — are glossed over by others when they speak to us, speak about us.  How many people who have lost a child have been introduced as someone without children, as if that human being never existed?  How many people have had aspects of their identity erased — their partner described as a boyfriend or girlfriend?  So that part of this quote didn’t exactly shock me.  It’s part of human nature; as we collect up and file information in our brain that we get bytes of it wrong, misplaced.

What did shock me was Romney’s insertion of the adjective “adopted” when talking with Julie Goodridge, the biological mother, whose partner at the time, Hillary, was not allowed visitation rights in the hospital following the birth of their daughter, Annie.  Goodridge was meeting with Romney over the topic of same-sex marriage,

“I looked him in the eye as we were leaving,” recalls Goodridge. “And I said, ‘Governor Romney, tell me — what would you suggest I say to my 8 year-old daughter about why her mommy and her ma can’t get married because you, the governor of her state, are going to block our marriage?’”

His response, according to Goodridge: “I don’t really care what you tell your adopted daughter. Why don’t you just tell her the same thing you’ve been telling her the last eight years.”

The adjective was wholly unnecessary, and in its glaring extraneousness, it feels inserted as a statement.  About what, I have no clue.  But when the sentence begins, “I don’t really care…” I don’t think the insertion of that adjective is accidental, non-meaningful.  It is a rewriting that is more than a rewriting.

Goodridge was upset that the details of her daughter’s life were completely rewritten by an adjective, but — to me — these recorded moments speak to something so much greater; the way the general public views assisted family building.  And it shocks me perhaps most of all because Romney is on the front lines of infertility: his sons have used IVF and surrogacy to build their families.  And when we can’t even get a modicum of understanding and sensitivity from someone who is staring down assisted family building six inches away from his face at home, how can we expect someone with no tie to infertility to understand the enormity of being responsible for explaining your child’s unusual origin story to them?  And, for that matter, to others when they ask why your child doesn’t look like you or do twins run in your family?  How can they understand the enormity of balancing two families for your child in the case of open adoption or an on-going relationship with a gamete donor or surrogate?

We are a generation that more than any other generation is charting a new path through assisted family building, and we’re doing this with only a flimsy framework of support  and research in place.  Other generations will be able to use the knowledge we glean, but right now, we’re passing it from mother to mother, from father to father, from hopeful soon-to-be-a-parent to hopeful soon-to-be-a-parent.  It is all linear, without the benefit of retrospect.  And we do this because it is the way we reach parenthood if we want to reach parenthood; the traditional doors to parenthood closed to us either due to physical limitations or circumstance.  I am speaking about myself, and I am speaking about you.  I am speaking about the millions upon millions of people around the world who cannot build their family without assistance.

The support comes from within, we are shored up with information that comes from within and is used from within.  I am still waiting for the day when our strength comes from having billions of points of support coming from outside the ALI community, knowing that every person we bring into the world or raise becomes another member of society down the road, so it is within all our best interests to aid in their creation or existence.  That child you ignore today will become the adult who will affect your life down the line.  That is why we should care, and why I don’t believe anyone should begin a statement with “I don’t really care…”

Please do not reduce this to a political post.  This is not about Romney or Obama or any other candidate.  This is about humanity; about asking for a tiny corner of understanding in the general world where family building comes easy.  In giving us support when we ask — quite plainly as Goodridge does — please help me.  Because what she is saying with her words is that reality is hard enough for families who have come together with assistance without having something simple — such as marriage — withheld to create yet another layer to add to the story.  Overcoming the limits of biology is hard enough; we don’t need to add insensitivity to the burden.

23 comments

1 Stupid Stork { 09.11.12 at 8:41 pm }

I’m adopted, and it drives me bonkers whenever I see anyone describing anyone’s child (they do this all the time in celeb rags) as ‘their adopted child’.

To me, as an adoptee – it’s your kid, period. It’s equally as disgusting and offensive to me as it would be if someone were talking about a mixed race couple and said “your black husband”. The only purpose of saying “your adopted child” is to point out that they are different, and possibly that they are less than.

And I know it’s not a political post – however I’d also like to chime in that as an adoptee, had I ended up stuck in the system at no point would I have said “I know I’m still in foster care, but thank G-d I’m not with a loving gay couple”.

Okay, now I’ll abandon the political. ;)

2 tigger62077 { 09.11.12 at 9:49 pm }

I…am astounded. Or at least, I’d like to be, but I’ve ceased to be shocked by the things that come out of politicians mouths. You’d think that they, of all people, would watch where they step – and this goes for both sides.

As SS said above, throwing “adopted” in there is akin to adding race to…well, anything. Your black child, your Asian spouse, your mixed race whatever. You don’t DO that. It’s taboo in polite society. I don’t see how adding anything regarding how a person came into being is at all productive.

3 Stupid Stork { 09.11.12 at 9:58 pm }

Last sentence above said it more eloquently than me! You don’t see anyone saying “your c-sectioned child”.

4 a { 09.11.12 at 10:11 pm }

Romney: Reinforcing my opinion that he’s a clown on a weekly basis.

Sigh.

Of course, I am sometimes guilty of telling people that my nieces were adopted from China. But I don’t refer to them as my adopted nieces.

It’s really, really hard for me to not turn this into a rant about how this attitude can be extrapolated to politics. Really hard. For anyone, that dismissive statement shows a distinct lack of empathy for the plight of another. I hope that we can all find that empathy for each other, whether we agree with their lifestyle or not. It costs us nothing to acknowledge that things are difficult for other people.

5 KER { 09.11.12 at 10:22 pm }

a, I feel like that is different. When you tell people your nieces were adopted from China, you are sharing part of their heritage. If you referred to them as your adopted nieces, it would make them “less than”. Maybe I’m splitting hairs, but to me, it seems very different.

and Romney’s response, coming from any politician, any HUMAN, is repellant.

6 Jess { 09.11.12 at 10:46 pm }

I noticed this a few times on the Olympics, or on the news, the press seems to like this a lot… it drives me and Pete crazy, like why does it matter? It implies less than or different and as an adopted mom, I just don’t get why it even matters to the outside world. In our home and to our daughter, of course… and she can decide what she wants to share with the world. But for strangers, we don’t feel the need to tell them how she joined our family unless it’s relevant (i/e doctor)… not that we are not proud, or don’t like to share, but it’s for precisely this reason. The world still doesn’t “get it” and words like these above hurt more than help…

7 Seriously?! { 09.11.12 at 10:51 pm }

Here, here!!!

If ANYONE ever refers to my daughter as ‘my adopted daughter’ when introducing her…I will bite their head off with my massively big razor sharp teeth. I will then spit their head out, watch it roll across the floor, then run up to it and kick it like a field goal.

Ugh, that must have been so frustrating for her, on so many levels.

Man…I’m pissed now. (You think???) What an Idiot!!!

8 Becky { 09.11.12 at 11:07 pm }

Okay, you know what pisses me off? Being adopted is a way someone joins a family. It is not a constant state of being. Just like many children join a family by being born. My children joined my family through adoption. They WERE adopted. It’s not something that happens constantly. And I totally agree with Tigger. For the vast majority of times, there is no good reason to put those kinds of labels on people. I can’t count the number of times I’ve corrected people. I can’t count the number of times I’ve corrected people who should know better, these particularly piss me off. Also, my children’s adoption status is THEIR information to share – or not – with people. For someone to make the decision to share this without their consent, not ok. (And this is all very unorganized, because I am so damn irritated by this whole thing!!!!!!!!!!!)

9 Alicia { 09.12.12 at 12:30 am }

Great post and comments!

10 Mali { 09.12.12 at 12:31 am }

Weird. I came to your blog immediately after (coincidentally) reading that article. (I thank my US FB friends for keeping me informed). And I was furious. Furious at the implication that an “adopted daughter” was somehow lesser. I remember too my fury (long before infertility) at hearing my FIL referring always to some nieces as adopted (though partly that was a genealogy thing), and then more fury learning that in his will, grandchildren were only acknowledged if they were of “natural issue.” I wrote about it here – http://aseparatelife.wordpress.com/2009/08/29/nature-nurture-or-just-ego/ and you’ve now prompted me (in between writing this comment) to repost it with some added comentary here. http://nokiddinginnz.blogspot.co.nz/2012/09/naturenurture-and-general-ignorance.html

11 Geochick { 09.12.12 at 12:33 am }

Given that the statement starts with “I don’t really care…” I’d say he went for an intentional slam. So far, no one has tripped up with the “adopted son” statement when describing us (at least when we are present). I’d probably correct them if they did. And, just because Romney’s children have experienced infertility does not mean that he is automatically sensitive to these issues. Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. Just throwing that out there.

12 Brid { 09.12.12 at 1:06 am }

It’s maddening… but we can’t forget that Romney and his progeny probably see themselves in an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality… IVF is okay for ‘us’ because ‘we’re’ not part of the dirty masses. I am sorry to say this here… and I hope, Melissa, this doesn’t upset you… but, being Canadian, I am terrified to think that Romney could be your president. My heart dropped in 2004. It matters to us here too, and I am certainly happy to see that Obama’s polls are rising after the DNC speech. And, even if we don’t want it to be political; if we want to approach it from a humanity standpoint, it is still political. If Bob (sorry human Bobs) down the road had said the same thing, it would be political then too. It’s unforgivable for a public figure to not think. I love what Becky said about adoption not being a constant state of being… that it’s a moment in time; and likely that moment for the parents, the most crazy beautiful moment… is fleeting, so sadly and gorgeously fleeting. I can only imagine how I would rage if someone took the most beautiful moment in my life and diminished it to something less than what it was to me. All it takes is a little thought… even fuck compassion, at least think if you can’t love. Urghh…

13 Mud Hut Mama { 09.12.12 at 4:49 am }

That article makes me sad for humanity, Goodridge got it right when she said, “He completely lacks empathy” – but as you pointed out he is not the only one and it is not just about saying what he said in the context of his position. I think this ties into your last post about rude comments well. Maybe the world is becoming angrier because of a lack of empathy and an inability to see that we have many common bonds with people who at a first glance seem different to us. What really struck me reading the article was that Romney was not listening, that comment he made about an “adopted daughter” was actually about a biological daughter. I agree that even if that daughter had been an adoptee those words were irrelevant and used to solely to injure and negate but the fact that he also got his facts wrong because he was clearly not listening brings up a whole other issue. If we are shutting ourselves off to each other, even in a face to face meeting, and not listening and not drawing connections or empathizing with someone because we have labeled them as the other then there is no chance for understanding or even a chance to agree to disagree – there is only polarization.

14 Alexicographer { 09.12.12 at 11:48 am }

I can’t see how a person who cares about children and parents would tell a parent that they — the person — didn’t care what the parent told the child about, well, anything the child cares deeply about or might need an account for. I mean, I can see saying that that is none of (e.g.) my business, i.e., it is not my place to tell you what you tell your child about XYZ. But if my advice had been requested? To say I didn’t know … sure. But to say I didn’t care? Not OK, and I don’t care what the issue in question is, or who the speaker is, or who the parent seeking advice is.

15 AP2B { 09.12.12 at 11:54 am }

He obviously meant it in the pejorative as it is a completely unnecessary and extremely personal adjective. No one goes around saying “your IVF child” or “your surrogate child” (which would probably imply the person was the carrier) or any other such nonsense – because polite society knows better. Coming from such a well-to-do family, there is no way that he wasn’t taught social graces such as that.

16 The Pussy Palace { 09.12.12 at 1:00 pm }

I can only imagine his children are ashamed of him.

17 Lori Lavender Luz { 09.12.12 at 1:04 pm }

I read this as not quite a slam against adoption, although adoption was a casualty in the conversation.

Rather, it looks to me that Romney was forced to dig in his heels about his views on same-sex partnerships and parenting. By throwing out the “adopted” qualifier, he was emphasizing the distance between mother and child.

He didn’t heed your sister’s advice, that you don’t solve one problem by creating another. Oops.

18 loribeth { 09.12.12 at 1:47 pm }

Ugh, ugh, ugh. “I don’t really care.” That just about sums it up, doesn’t it?

While I am in NO WAY trying to apologize for or minimize what Romney said, I do think it’s fair to note the conversation took place in 2004, when he was governor of Massachussetts. Not sure when his grandchildren were born, before or after this incident… one can only hope that, if it was since then, he might have had a change of heart (not to mention vocabulary). (But somehow, I doubt it. :p)

19 It Is What It Is { 09.12.12 at 4:10 pm }

As an adult adoptee from a closed adoption, I never understood why the press would refer to someone’s child as “their adopted daughter (or son)” and to this day, I feel great empathy for those children. I think specifically of Tom & Nicole Kidman’s children, especially because both of their parents have gone on to birth other children, so the distinction comes up again and again, but now in relative terms.

I do believe that his comment and particularly the ‘I don’t care’ portion came from his position on gay marriage and the ‘adopted daughter’ was meant to minimize her role as mother.

I was never introduced as an ‘adopted child’ and oh how it would have shaped who I was were I to have been (especially because my mother had two biological children that she birthed).

It does not surprise me in the least that the robot doesn’t care, he isn’t programmed to.

It’s the double edge to the sword, though. We applaud those who openly share how they created their families, but then they run the risk of the label preceding or succeeding their child’s name forever.

20 Queenie { 09.12.12 at 5:09 pm }

Don’t get me wrong–I loathe Romney–but this is an election year. What if Romney didn’t say “I don’t really care”, or “your adopted daughter”? This exchange allegedly happened in 2004, but I cannot find any story that mentions this that is older than 24 hours ago. Do you think that the governor of wildly liberal Massachusetts could really talk that way to the named plaintiff in a landmark class action case without blowback? It’s hard for me to imagine her attorneys wouldn’t have made a big deal about it in the media at the time. But eight years on and with a big election coming up, we have this story. Again, I loathe Romney, but I think a lot of people are doing and saying naughty things to try to sway the election. I am skeptical about this one.

21 sushigirl { 09.12.12 at 5:24 pm }

I was going to say, all American politicians are giant knobbers and we don’t get them like that over here. Then I remembered the George Galloway rape comments. But at least he’s generally regarded as a maverick rather than in the running for an important office.

I dunno… in the UK, politicians are nearly always at pains not to offend people. In the US it seems a bit more like a free for all. I think I prefer our system, but then, it’s marginally more difficult to tell who the bawbags are.

22 Mic at K Street (Formerly IF Crossroads) { 09.13.12 at 7:53 pm }

I’d like to make a comment but I can’t because I know I’ll turn it into a political comment. So instead I will say that I’m just shaking my head in disbelief … because I just don’t undersand …

23 Michaela { 09.16.12 at 9:25 pm }

Okay this has been sticking in my “craw” for some reason. It isn’t even the adopted daughter line that fires me up. It’s the “I don’t care what you tell her”

NO!! NO! You tell her you coward. I think you, the law maker, the one preventing it should look that little girl in the eye and tell her why you don’t want to give her mother the same rights as other human beings!!

That’s what bugs me. I don’t care what you tell her…UGHHH!! COWARD!! Because I bet he wouldn’t be able to look that little girl in the eye.

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