Sounding New Depths, Exploring New Channels:
The 1998 AAC Conference
(A Participant’s Report)

by Lorraine Wheeler

     Seattle, WA—I brought back a bumper sticker from the AAC: “Let My People Know (Adoptees Origins).” It is with an attitude of gratefulness that I write about the supportive, kind, loving people who gather together annually to work for adoption reform in our country,
     Beginning with the incredible energy of Japanese Taiko Drummers and Tsimshian Native Dancers who opened the conference to the tears and hugs shared in workshops, I have a sense of belonging here. I am comforted being with people who grew up as I did, leaving lots of questions about my adoption.
     Listening to Wayne Carp, author of Family Matters: Secrecy and Disclosure in the History of Adoption, gave me perspective on why I encountered difficulties on my adoption journey. Jim Gritter’s presentation, “Terrifically Terrible Truths,” was a sober and honest look at how adoptees’ needs were overlooked by adoption professionals in the past. Jim Caldwell, speaking about differences in Native American adoption traditions, awakened feelings of my own extended family and their role in my adoption.
     My favorite trio of women—Lifton, Verrier and Schaefer—engaged my heart as they related from all sides of the triangle in “Together We Stand, Divided We Fall.” Workshop topics ranged from activism to education, identity, and loss. They provided a safe and intimate setting for sharing feelings. The Art Exhibits were powerful depictions of shared emotions. It was hard not to pass the Book Room without one last stop for a title I may have missed. The Town Meeting, with an opportunity to question AAC Board Members, was well-attended, well-moderated and informed us all of the important work quietly being done throughout the year. Joyce Pavao’s closing keynote, “Endings As Beginnings,” motivated everyone to own and tell our unique story.
     Reggae music, great decorations and a delicious meal set the tone for a good time on Saturday night. After all the work, it was fun to let loose and the dancing was terrific, right down to the limbo. Christina Crawford, author of Mommie Dearest, enlightened us about adoption and Hollywood’s “trophy children” as she experienced it growing up as Joan Crawford’s daughter. A special moment arrived when Caprice East introduced Randy Moore, who had flown in from Nashville, TN, to perform an original song, “A Birthmother’s Dream.”
     The AAC Conference in 2000 will be held in Nashville. Meanwhile, save your money now to attend the 1999 AAC Conference in Tysons Corner, VA, just outside Washington, D.C. It will be one of the best investments you can make in yourself. If you can’t get that far east, PACER is planning a great Regional Conference in San Francisco, November 12-15, 1998, at the Holiday Inn Golden Gateway, with a special pre-conference for professionals.
     As your New Mexico Representative on Legislative Issues, please help keep me apprised of any legislative issues around the state. You can call or E-mail me at (505) 474-8997 or rainwheel@aol.com.

Excerpted from the July 1998 edition of the Operation Identitiy Newsletter
© 1998 Operation Identity