Simple statement, yes? But even seeing the title and the opening lines, even before reading the rest of the post itself, my gut was protesting. No, DNA alone - whatever that could possibly mean - does not equal Family.(The asterisk is to Anne's recognition that she is not the "spokesmodel" for all adoptees, and that other adoptees might feel differently.)
But DNA is almost always more than just DNA.
I understand the importance of the nurture portion of the equation. It's what my parenting decisions are based on, in fact. But the ability to make statements like the above is a luxury that only non-adopted people* can make.
Anne's statement really resonated with me; being dismissive of DNA, ancestry, biological connections, is something done almost exclusively by those who are quite aware of their ancestry, who can look at their parents and see a mirror of themselves. Having my dad's eyes and, heaven help me, the Mississippi-farmwoman physique that was my biological destiny, is something I've always known simply by knowing him and my grandparents and my aunts and uncles. It's something my children don't have, and it's something they long for, especially Zoe, who so wants to know what her birth parents look like.
Then in talking about a film her birth sister is making, Anne makes this insightful comment:
So, returning to the post that got my own wheels turning. During my own interview process, both on film and in outside discussions, Kate and I spent some time discussing the Standard Public Narrative of adoption, the one where adoption is an inherently virtuous act, where adoptive parents are the shining armor benefactors, the baby is lucky to be rescued from what would surely be a terrible fate, and the birth mother is, if anything, an afterthought - an afterthought who is often commended for her courage and/or thanked for her sacrifice, but ultimately doesn't really count. Because DNA doesn't make a family.See the power of this simple statement -- DNA doesn't make a family -- in the standard adoption narrative? Anne notes that that is what allows for this kind of conversation:
Point out that it would be better if babies could remain with their mothers, in an ideal world - and people will seriously say "But what about all the wonderful infertile couples out there who can't have children of their own?"I've had those conversations, have you? "DNA doesn't make a family" allows us to forget that the natural order of things -- the thing that happens as God and biology designed it -- is for babies to be raised by their biological parents. In saying, "DNA doesn't make a family," we make family a social construct rather than a biological one, where mothers are fungible and it doesn't matter who raises whose baby.
I don't have a big problem with egg donation, sperm donation, embryo "adoption," gestational surrogacy, adoption, to build a family (so long as all ethical rules are followed and parents are prepared todeal with it, instead of ignore it, with their children). But when we say "DNA doesn't make a family," we don't need to concern ourselves with the biological beginnings of children. We can ignore birth parents, proclaim that as the "parenting" parent, "I'm the only real parent" in the equation, and ignore our children's loss and grief. Privileging nurture over nature grants permission to ignore what happened in our children's lives before we met them.
"DNA doesn't make a family." Not such a simple statement after all. . . .