What is Bastard Nation?
Bastard Nation was born in early 1996 on the Internet Usenet newsgroup alt.adoption (a.a.). Our founder, Marley Greiner, coined the term “Bastard Nation” and started signing her posts with it, with others soon following suit. In June Damsel Plum came up with the idea to create a Bastard Nation website. She collected material from people on a.a and on June 19, 1996, we announced the Bastard Nation website to the Internet community. We created a variety of alternative story pages: “True Tales of Revolting Reunions,” “Adoptive Parents Speak out in Favor of Open Records,” “True Tales of Atrocious Adoptions,” “Bastard Moments,” as well as links to the standard search and reconnection resources available on the Internet. As we grew we included accounts of our adoptee rights activism, coverage of negative portrayal of adoptees in the media and popular culture, information on adoption law and position papers on a variety of adoptee-related issues. We have clocked up to 50,000 hits a day to our website, attesting to the popularity of a resource which caters to an invisible and underrepresented minority — adult adoptees.
Bastard Nation was incorporated as a 501c(4) non-profit organization in December 1996 by co-founders Marley Greiner, Shea Grimm, Damsel Plum and Lainie Petersen. Since then we’ve been labeled anti-adoption, anti-birth mother, anti-reunion, stalkers, whiners, professional victims — you name it. Not one of these portrayals is accurate. The only unifying concepts of BN are those of being for equal access to our own original government-held birth and adoption records, combating negative stereotypes of adoptees and providing a forum for the wide spectrum of adult adoptee experience. Otherwise, the opinions on adoption issues of our individual members vary greatly. In this way we are unlike any other adoption organization; we are truly a “big tent” without a whole truckload of associated positions on adoption and adoption reform.
Adoptee birth records are sealed because of an attitude of shame towards adoption. The language in the original laws which sealed adoptee records specifically stated that it was to protect adoptees from the shame and embarrassment of their illegitimate (i.e. Bastard) status. The later justifications we hear for adult adoptees’ birth records being sealed are: 1) to protect the birth parent (unspoken assumption — from the shame of the unwanted birth coming back to haunt her); 2) to protect the adoptee (unspoken assumption — from the shame of being reminded that one was born of an unwanted pregnancy); and 3) to protect the adoptive parents (unspoken assumption — from the shame of their infertility). In reality there shouldn’t be anything shameful about adoption. Sealed records preclude that possibility.
Bastard Nation explodes the myth of shame by reclaiming the word “bastard” and all of society’s myths and fears regarding adoption. We make fun of the unspoken shame, joke about illegitimacy and tell the untold tales of our sisters and brothers which the media have not been willing to tackle. We give adult adoptees a place to come and express themselves, share their experiences, read about others like and unlike themselves, find search and reconnection resources and learn how to fight for their rights as adult adoptees.
In the years since our founding Bastard Nation has redefined the adoptee rights struggle in terms of civil rights, empowerment and tactical activism. The following are just a few of the many examples of this activism, the most profound, of course, being Bastard Nation’s role in inspiring and supporting Oregon’s Measure 58: the Adoptee Rights Initiative in 1998.
- “Secrets and Lies” — a series of national “positive pickets” of the Oscar-nominated pro-open records film 11/96 — 3/97
- American Greetings pulls card after intense Internet-spawned campaign
- American Bar Association Protest against the Uniform Adoption Act (UAA) 8/97
- Bastards at the Bell Rally — “Our Records, Our Rights!” — Philadelphia, PA 11/97
- First National Adoptee Rights Day 12/98
- NCFA Protest — Washington, D.C. 5/99
- Opposition to legalized anonymous infant abandonment
- Restoration of adoptee rights in Alabama 8/00
- Protection of rights of internationally-adopted persons