Writer Dan Chaon on being adopted

Last year I read Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon and I made note of this on my Kindle then but am just now going through my stored notes. Here’s what he said about his own experience as an adopted person:

 For the most part I am pro-adoption, but for better or worse it’s definitely a form of identity theft, at least as it was practiced during the time I was born. My birth certificate has the names of my adoptive parents, and my original, “real” birth certificate is weirdly, permanently classified. When I apply for a passport, for example, the state of Nebraska must act as an intermediary for me — and in that way, I’m a little less real than a nonadopted person. the bureaucracy that surrounds closed adoptions has the effect of creating this secret, ghost life that I trail along behind me, even though I have actually met my biological parents. Nevertheless, I will go to my grave without my official right to this basic information about myself. It’s just one of those odd things.

As many of you know, just this past spring Ohio finally gave all domestically adopted adult adoptees the right to access their original birth certificates. It was the right thing to do and I hope that other states follow suit because it is a form of identity theft and it’s my strong belief that every adoptee has the right to define his or her identity as they see fit and not how the state (or anyone else) sees fit.

Interestingly, if you check the history secrecy in adoption is relatively new here in the states. Originally and historically privacy has been the norm with access still allowed for “parties in interest” (i.e., adults and children-turned-adults who were part of the adoption).

Nearly half a million birth certificates can theoretically be accessed now here in Ohio, which means that thousands upon thousands of people — adopted adults, birth parents, adoptive parents, other family members including siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. — stand to have their lives changed as the original birth certificates come to light.

For those of you who might be reading and who might be impacted by the law, it’s important for you to know that there is support out there. There are in-person groups here and in Cleveland and one starting in Cincinnati. You can learn more about them by going to Ohio Birthparent Group and Adoption Network Cleveland.