Bastard Nation

Source: Courtesy of Bastard Nation: The Adoptee Rights Organization

Bastard Nationals demonstrated in Atlantic City, New Jersey, 1999



A feisty organizational newcomer to the landscape of adoption reform, Bastard Nation was a term first coined by Marley Greiner, a contributor to the Usenet newsgroup, alt.adoption. The group was formally incorporated in 1996 by co-founders Marley Greiner, Shea Grimm, and Damsel Plum. Influenced by the Internet and by the in-your-face activist style of AIDS-era groups such as Queer Nation, Bastard Nation had a website before it had a significant membership. Concerned about negative media portrayals of adoption and, above all, about the issue of confidentiality and sealed records, Bastard Nation is made up primarily of adult adoptees, although birth parents, adoptive parents, and others who support the group’s platform of unconditional adoptee rights are allowed to join. Bastard Nation has a reputation for refusing to compromise on its principles. Its radicalism has elicited reactions ranging from admiration to shock and dismay.

Bastard Nationals, as they like to call themselves, are fiercely determined to accomplish two primary goals: open access to records as a matter of basic civil rights and unfettered expression for adult adoptees. Unlike some other adoption organizations, who argue that reforming confidentiality and sealed records is important in order to promote adoptees’ mental health or who advocate mutual consent registries as a compromise between the rights of birth parents and adoptees, Bastard Nation maintains that adoption secrecy must end because it is a symbol of shame about illegitimacy, infertility, and adoption itself. Members deliberately use the term “bastard” in order to ridicule adoption stigma and contend that stigma will diminish only with more frank, angry, and humorous sharing of experiences among adult adoptees. They militantly oppose their second-class status, insist that they should have exactly the same relationship to the state (and the information it possesses) as other citizens, and deplore the tendency to cast adoptees as perpetual children regardless of their age.

Members of Bastard Nation have participated in numerous public demonstrations against confidentiality and sealed records and in favor of adoption dignity, including protests against reform organizations, such as the National Council for Adoption, which opposes open records. The Bastard Nation website offers information about state laws, search and reunion, and resources for effective grassroots political and media activism.

The high point of Bastard Nation’s own effectiveness was the passage of an open records law in Oregon in 1998. Ballot Measure 58, the first such law in the country to be passed by voter referendum, gave adoptees twenty-one years of age or older access to their birth certificates upon request. This policy has been in effect in the state since June 2000. Since then, adult adoptees in Oregon have been entitled to information about their births that remains off limits throughout most of the rest of the country.


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