When I think of WLWs (White Liberal Women) in the context of adoption, it is hard not to think of my Birth Mother, my Biological Grandmother, the WLWs I sling gluten-free beers and pinot grigio to on the regular with their families looking more like Brangelina’s than the typical Midwestern portrait of fair-hair and skinned Scandinavian Idolatry. I think of how those WLWs look at me like, “Oh, what a dream she is? With her nice hair, slamming bod, and her generally smiley disposition. Or so I imagine as I receive a smile filled with the smug gratitude, “Thank you for being you” of someone who maybe had a token Black Friend from college and has listened to Bey’s new album a few times.
Listen: I had a customer a few weeks ago that I thought was flirting with me. She wasn’t. As a single person and self-identifying lunatic, as well as having a good memory for names, I did a pretty in-depth Facebook creep. I found her to be very much a Lesbian, yes. That read wasn’t wrong and my gaydar intact (pats back). But, instead of an aspiring lover, she was very much the mother of an adorable little mixed-race daughter. Her eyes were shining with the fervor of, “So that’s what she may look like all grown up!” and not, “Hey girl, whatchu doin’ later?”
I am generally conflicted, because while I love and have loved WLWs, I also hear them say, “Yes, but what you don’t understand is. . .blah, blah, blah. Insert Caucasian-Cisgengered-Heteronormative-Experience Layered Apology Here”. I see them trying desperately to find a sense of normalcy for these youth that they know are different and rearing them as colorblind as possible or sending them to these culture camps or silencing their needs by telling them that they are not like other _____ people. Or the WLW who has an emotional outburst when there is an incident concerning race that involves the child because this child doesn’t have White Privilege. It is my tightly held theory that White Privilege is simply a heavily promoted myth in Transracial Adoption. An opiate of the masses, if you will that will survive until we are comfortable accepting that WLW and WLM are the only ones who experience White Privilege within any adoption narrative. When the rubber hits the road and that is brought to light for the WLW and life is realized to not in fact be some crystal stair? There will be tears have no doubt. Or, or, or. . . I could go on and on.
I believe that we need to approach today as an opportunity to establish pathology surrounding the WLW and her place in the adoption narrative. After all, there is longstanding history of Adoptees as beings a part of an empirically studied group by non-adoptees and are heavily attributed with various pathologies. Let’s turn the tables.
I was given up by a WLW who was given up by a WLW. So, it runs in my family. All of the above was preamble. I sat down and wrote three other terrible essays to get around writing that statement; saying my truth. This particular WLW was just entering her early 20s when she found herself with child from what we’ll call a short-term relationship. She attempted to terminate the pregnancy. She did not succeed. She gave birth to me 10 weeks premature. I survived. Her parental rights were terminated quite promptly, even while my biological, African-American father fought for months to retain his parental rights even though she kept her pregnancy from him until two weeks before my birth. That fact flies in the face of the dominant narrative surrounding African-American men as father figures in or outside of the Adoption Cycle. In fact, had he not been caught up in something with a WLW, he may not have lost his child. Blacker the Berry, more likely you get to play Daddy. I mean, it’s not necessarily catchy, but I think it’s pretty accurate.
My Birthmother had been given up for adoption by a WLW who became pregnant within the context of an affair 20 years previous. WLWs are not big on monogamy when it’s not convenient. She tried to have an abortion, even left the country to try and do so. WLWs are tenacious and prone to cross-hemisphere travel. When it became evident this was not an option, the decision was made to give the child, my Birthmother, up for adoption. A decision she has written about at length and still haunts her, as far as I can tell. WLWs are sentimental and emotionally bruise easy. They make decisions in haste and then may spend lifetimes full of regret for their behavior.
Based on these instances of WLWs within my personal adoption story, it is my observation that WLW tend to be short-sighted and impulsive. They tend to be sexually permissive and promiscuous. They don’t have access to proper contraceptive methods or do not believe that they are likely to become pregnant if they participate in un- or under-protected sex. Perhaps protection methods simply do not work for them. They do not believe consequences exist for WLWs in the same way they do for other groups. They are more likely to access secondary means of avoiding said consequences through early termination and abortion, then finally adoption.
But what about that adoptive mother we were talking about earlier, you say? She’s a WLW after all. As a WLW with a non-heterosexual lifestyle, this savvy WLW found a way to become a mother in the face of the near impossibility. No dick, no baby. Or so we thought. Not only did this WLW find a solution, she also found a way to find the family she was entitled to have her entire life as a WLW and much more cost-effective. She might not get her Brad Pitt, but she definitely deserves the extension pack for her fate-prescribed Polly Pocket life. Like the woman that spends her best years educating herself, finding the partner for whom she is best-suited, or building her career. Or like that poor pair of WLWs from Ohio that has sued an Illinois sperm bank for Wrongful Birth!
I think the real take away is that it is hard out here for a WLW. They have mistaken babies too young, they can’t get rid of quick enough, and have to give away after birth. Times is tough. They get the wrong babies, or worse yet, difficult to raise adoptee babies, or babies that don’t match them (making those babies extra difficult to raise). The mind boggles. All this is to say that in the game of the Adoption Cycle, the WLW has found a means of self-preservation. They offer hope in their ability swap children like Pokémon. They offer an example in resourcefulness with their willingness to call their parents in- the lawyers, doctors, and childbrokers- to settle the dispute of who is deserving of which card-children. It’s a survivor’s tale, really.
For those of you out there thinking to yourself, “Hey, that’s not all WLWs!” You’re right. It’s not and it is absurd to make these sweeping generalizations about a whole group on these individual sets of circumstances. I profess, there are some truths up in here and it wouldn’t be funny if what’s been written wasn’t true in some way. I’m not Swiftian enough to keep this line of ridicule up. I have loved WLWs since I knew how to suck a tit. I’ve loved them since I knew how to love in general.
My adoptive mother is a WLW. My first and reigning BFF is a WLW. My first crush was a WLW. I love them individually. It would happen that I am not a WLW, though I do love yoga pants and pumpkin lattes (go on and judge me and I’ll take it on the chin). It is not necessarily my style to talk seriously about any group, especially a group of which I’m not a part, as though they are some sort of malicious monochrome. This group’s problem of entitlement has tampered with my life and the lives of many adoptees, but it’s not just a WLW issue.
This WLW entitlement is a symptom of an American cultural issue in regards to the capitalist-parenting culture in which we exist. It won’t be erased by diagnosing this group as diseased and unfit. But maybe, just maybe, a little bit of light and a taste of one’s own medicine will offer an opportunity for group consciousness and some social change. Cute idea, I know. Until then, it’s likely game on to the distress of the adoptee and the supposed benefit of the WLW.
~ Lisa Brimmer