A complete fake. I don't know what I was doing on November 6, 2000, but I do know where I wasn't -- I wasn't in China giving birth to Zoe.
I have to admit I really hate that document. It makes me feel complicit in how adoption has been practiced -- to create these fake documents to replace real documents, to hide away the real documents, to pretend that the fact of birth to a set of natural parents just didn't happen, to change identity, to erase birth parents, to replace them with another set of parents as if birth and adoption can be equated, as if it doesn't matter who parents a child. [Click here for an overview of sealed original birth certificates of adoptees, and click here if you have time to watch a moving documentary on the subject.]
I know it's not quite the same thing -- after all, Zoe's Chinese birth certificate (such as it is! It's all of 3 lines long and doesn't list birth parents for obvious reasons; heck, since it was created for the purposes of adoption, you might call it a fake, too!) isn't hidden away. We don't pretend the Texas birth certificate is anything other than a fake. But still, it rankles.
I know all the practical reasons to get a state birth certificate -- I teach them in my Adoption Law Class! -- it's convenient for school registration, etc., so that you don't have to explain what the foreign document is and provide a notarized translation; it's easy to replace if lost, unlike the Chinese birth certificate which is irreplaceable; it keeps you from have to produce foreign birth certificate, foreign adoption decree and some American document of name change just to prove you're the parent of your child. But still, it rankles.
Maybe Maya will want one later. I don't know, maybe the practicalities will sway me in time. But for now, it rankles a bit too much.
I think framing ethical adoption as a justice issue changes the way we talk about it and expands who can join the conversation. It forces the point that anyone who claims to care about social justice needs to care about the way we practice adoption. We all have a vested interest, even those not directly involved in an adoption. Often ethical adoption--especially open adoption--is approached as a matter of compassion, with the argument that the players involved deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and as little unneccesary pain as possible. Which, yes, absolutely. I am all for compassionate adoption practices. But keeping the conversation at that individual level -- even if it brings about certain needed reforms--doesn't help us address the larger social issues that surround every reliquishment and placement, whether or not we realize it.
Whether we like it or not, the choices we make along the way--especially as adoptive parents--are in some ways political statements. Not blue or red statements, but statements about the definition of family, about the value of single parenting, about the extent to which one's personal moral values should be made universal. It's not that politics should dictate our choices, nor that everyone must make the same choices. It's that we need to see how our individual choices feed into and reflect the larger social landscape. Not everyone who adopts is going to agree with me about that. But I'd argue that once we've put ourselves into the web of interpersonal transactions adoption requires--no matter how many steps removed we may be--we're either reinforcing or challenging the way things are.