Four Years Since My Trans Adoptive Dad’s Death

Today is the four-year anniversary of my father’s death. I’ve been dreading the day for the way it reminds me of our shortcomings. He died a woman and left a daughter who could never accept the anomaly. Gender was one more dysfunction to add to the avalanche waiting to bury me, and so I refused to see Joann when she drove from her home in New York to Hilton Head, South Carolina for a surprise visit.

No longer a child rolling with the punches, kicks, and angry outbursts, I needed some warning to help me see Joann. Perhaps, had she let me know she was coming, I might have witnessed her bent posture in the old lady frock, as she limped along with a cane. Truth says, “Not so.” I would not have seen her. No matter how long one considers a coming tsunami, it will never be welcome.

Once, we danced, my tiny shoes atop his feet to Daddy’s Little Girl, and I was whole. Then it was crap. A battle fought too hard by a child too small. I could not get him to be the man I needed, for she lurked there under the calloused skin and hard edges. She did not love me for the daughter I became, but for my girlish things and female life. She wanted to be me.

Writing this today is so different than writing my memoir The Killing Closet. Our story is tragic and yet I have painted a thousand mental pictures of it in heroic beams of survival. Turning beatings into strength-building, honor. Truth says, “No. The character-building benefits do not surpass the suffering.”

It was a childhood no one would choose.

Joe was the father no one wanted.

Joann was a secret and we all suffered for her existence.

What have I learned in these four years since Dad’s death? I have learned that I loved my father. I have learned that he did not exist. I have learned that forgiveness comes with a price. One must pay with regret. I can’t forgive a man that never was but have come to forgive the woman tucked beneath the cloak of masculinity.

I have learned that the madness that was my childhood was born of a broken adoption process. That too requires a heavy mask of introspection. Love your captors. Love your saviors. Love the system. The adoption message bleeds for the childless. Forgiving them is distant, remote, untouched, as were the infants they placed in hell. Our fate makers were social worker Helen Steinman, Children’s Aid Society, money, income, the barren womb.

Four years and tears still run at the loss of innocence. My brother’s and mine. My father, miscast in a gender strict world, had no escape for Joann. They were beaten before he took a breath, or twirled in a sister’s skirt, or underwent the knife to make the gender correction.

I have learned that who we are inside often collides with exterior appearance. That we can never really know the heart of another human, and that to assume heartlessness is to deny the human condition. Joe’s heart was born with Joann’s being, or so I have heard.

I gave my father an opportunity to admit the way gender devastated our lives. She declined, blaming my mother for the violence instead. Joe spoke then, in defense of Joann. I did not know it was the last time. I got no closure, no admittance, no apology.

I have learned that Joann and Joe melded into one and that in the end, the angry man took up the cloak once worn by the woman. Hiding, blaming, hurting internally and externally was my father’s life fate.

I have learned that no relative has visited Joann’s grave.

I have learned to move forward, tip-toeing around Father’s day and the lucky ones born to men who put them first.

I have learned to breath when the thought of my father tries to steal my air.

Rest, Dad. I am still learning.

V.L. Brunskill

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Sibling Bonds- Formed in the Belly of The Beast

I had a surprise visit from my baby brother over the weekend. Spurred by a recent health diagnosis that is not life-threatening but is life-altering, my brother decided I needed some cheering up. So he hopped on his motorcycle for the five-hour trek from North Carolina to Savannah. It was the best gift I’ve received in some time, for along with the familiarity of family, his visit gave me a new insight into suffering.

As most of you know, my memoir Transgressions in Rouge in almost complete. I’ve been working on it for eighteen months. It’s the story of my adopted father who beat, blamed and denied our family without remorse. It is the story of the family secret that made fists fly and turned suppressed identity into constant rage. My father Joe became Joann in her late seventies and died on the very spot where I had planned to kill her. His gender was my family’s albatross.

But, was it also a gift?

My brother’s surprise visit convinced me it might be. Re-framing the darkness of our childhood in the calm of sibling care, I found a long overlooked purpose for our suffering. In addition to a life estranged, the evil of my childhood gave me a life attached.

As I chatted with my brother about work, health, life’s struggles and triumphs, I found myself listening. I mean the most beautiful kind of hearing; an audio experience that transports one from inner ramblings and into the cosmos of another. I find that of all the people in my life; I listen to my brother best. Mostly because once upon a time, the ability to sense his state of mind and body was essential to avoiding death.

This weekend, I rode the waves of our conversation keenly. My brother’s presence calmed me. He was aware that it would. To have my brother nearby enveloped me in the same peaceful state I felt at ten years old, sitting behind my bedroom door, peeking through the crack, on guard for Dad’s approach.

Sibling love, when born of shared experience and years living under the same roof is a powerful bond. No other relationship can compete with the sharing of childhood wishes, secrets, survival tactics. We never have to explain the past. We know its scars and escape routes. Adopted from two different families, we are closer than any siblings I’ve met. Like Sully’s Hudson survivors, we faced what we knew was the end and survived.

Thank you, Rob, for visiting and for reminding me that sometimes suffering breeds miracles.

V.L.

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‘Ohio parents accused of confining, abusing adopted kids’- Is Abuse Common among Adoptees?

Were you a victim of abuse at the hands your adoptive parents? I am researching the prevalence of abuse among adoptees. abuse

Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

The story below is from March 2015. Appalling, but is it unique?

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For all but a few hours each day, a husband and wife kept their two adopted daughters in northeastern Ohio locked in a bedroom, where they were beaten, given little to eat and sexually abused by the man over at least two years, prosecutors said. The girls, now both teens, reluctantly told authorities about what had happened only after they picked a lock on their bedroom door in August 2013, slipped out of the house and crashed their parents’ vehicle, according to the Ashtabula County prosecutor’s office.

Source: Ohio parents accused of confining, abusing adopted kids

Blessings for peace and revelation of your truth,
V.L.

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Waving Backwards book trailer- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ufjmq0l-U

Adult Adoptee’s Messages to Adoptive Parents

Earlier this week, I shared things that adoptees would like to say to their birth mothers.  As moderator of the Facebook page –Adoptees who have found their biological relatives, I ask members to comment on reunion-related questions. Community members share their feelings with insight and honesty.

2953403454_7dd3a9740c_zToday, we look at the opposite end of the adoption coin, with answers to this question-

If you could say one thing about adoption to your adoptive parents (without guilt or censorship) what would it be?

  • “I love you. I’m thankful for the life you afforded me. I wish you’d been able to know me rather than trying to make me the child you’d wished for- who was more like you.”
  • “I wish you’d known how to act like parents. But we loved each other and in the long run you probably did me a solid. You weren’t a good mother. Dinner on the table every night, house so clean it shined, every game/toy that came out and I wanted, check check check. Love, kindness, understanding, acceptance, affection- not so much.”
  • “The one thing I would say to them again, and to ALL adoptive parents (and I am an adoptive mom myself) is ALWAYS be honest with a child about their adoption.”
  • “Thank you for being my mom and dad.”
  • “Thank you for always being open about it and giving me the option to search for my biological parents, and have a relationship with my mom.”
  • “Very simply, Thank you for being there with me every step of the way! Miss them oh so much!”
  • “I am thankful. I hope nowadays adoption is taken more seriously and they do home checks for years. Make sure the child is in a loving environment and not abused! Yes, that means you Catholic Charities!”
  • “You gave me a loving home & opportunities in life I would never have had with my biological mother. I will always love & respect you as my parents! Even more so after having met my biological mother! I now know what a lucky baby I was 45 years ago to be put in your arms!”
  • “Why did you go along with the farce, when there were far more willing and acceptable contestants available? I love you and I wish you could have loved and accepted me. All you left me was a sense of uselessness, hopelessness, lovelessness and death. I feel so sad for you. You don’t even REALIZE what you have missed. Thank you though for all you managed to do. I truly wish you all the very best. Love & Prayers.”
  • “To prospective adoptive parents: When you have a child for a reason, you better make sure that reason never ceases to exist, or it will be hell for that child.”
  • “Why the need for secrecy? You should have felt secure enough to share and be open.”
  • “You should never have adopted, but should have learned to live with your infertility. Saying you “love” an imaginary child who you pretend is your own, while lying to your adoptee about information you have about their real name, and referring to their mother as “that whore” is NOT love.”
  • “I love you both until the end of time. You taught me how to never give up or give in and thank you most for loving me when I was most unlovable or feeling unworthy of love.”
  • “I wish you would have filled in all of the gaps regarding the things I don’t know.
  • “Thanks Mom and Dad for being so forthright and open about my beginnings. You always allowed me the positive memory of my biological mother, Emma. Everything that I am or will ever become is because of your love for me. Now it is my great privilege to “pay it forward.” With love and gratitude, your daughter.”
  • “I love you and I miss you. I wish we had more time together.”
What would you like to say to your adoptive parents?
Leave a reply below.
Blessings for honest adoption conversations & healing,
V.L.
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Waving Backwards, a Savannah novel (SYP Publishing)
Imagine not knowing who you are,
until you find yourself in a statue 800-miles from home.

COMING TO A BOOKSTORE NEAR YOU AUGUST 2015

It’s Nightmare Adoptive Parent Week on Dr. Phil

So far this week, the Dr. Phil Show has showcased two horror stories about adoptive parents who harmed the children they pledged to raise. I am not a regular Dr. Phil watcher but this week’s story lines captured my attention since each episode showcases an absolute failure of the adoption system, and the need for better screening, enforcement and mandated checks on families AFTER the adoption is final.

The suffering shared on yesterday’s show made me so angry that I ended up yelling at the screen.  Well gosh golly, I found me a racist sexual predator and ignorant wanna-be mother! Gee whiz, let’s give that couple a kid. UGH!

There are many abusive blood parents in the the world too, but there’s something about the abuse and neglect of children at the hands of adoptive parents that makes me insane! When a couple is gifted and assigned to act as legal guardians of a child, they better be ready to walk-the-walk, talk-the-talk, and put in the hard work required to parent that child until they are 18-years old. Failure to do so is an unforgivable sin against the birth parents who could not or would not raise the child.

No matter the source, child abuse results in scars. However, the scars suffered by children adopted into ‘safe’ homes and abused by the very people meant to protect them is a scar on society and the entire adoption system.

Sharing the links and summaries from the Dr. Phil Show below.  The adoption system is just not working folks. If you are one of the happy, bappy, believers that the system is a wonderful fix for needy kids, watch these episodes

Turning a Blind Eye?

Thirty-five-year-old Tonya says from ages 5 to 15, her adoptive father, Bruce, molested her — and that despite her cries for help, her mother, Kathy, did nothing to stop it. Kathy admits that she believed her daughter’s claims but was too afraid to take action. Why did she allow Bruce to live in the same house as her daughter — even after he allegedly admitted to the abuse? Tonya says she was not only betrayed by her mother but also her half-sister, Sarah, Bruce’s biological daughter. Tonya claims that Sarah continued to support her father after he pleaded guilty to sexual acts on or in the presence of a child under 16 in a lewd, lascivious or indecent manner. Tonya faces Kathy and Sarah on Dr. Phil’s stage. Can she find forgiveness and finally heal the wounds of her painful past? Plus, hear from Bruce, who served one year in prison and 10 years of probation and is now a registered sex offender. Does he have any remorse? This show contains strong sexual content. Viewer discretion advised.

Tuesday – August 20, 2013

Missing or Murdered: Where is 15-Year-Old Erica?

In a daytime exclusive, Dr. Phil sits down with the adoptive parents of 15-year-old Erica Parsons, who was last seen nearly two years ago but was only recently reported missing — by her brother. Casey and Sandy claim their daughter is alive and well and has been living with “Nan,” a woman who they believe is Erica’s biological grandmother. So, where is Nan? And, why do these parents say they’re now being accused of murder? What really happened to Erica?

Blessing for placements that protect,Vicki-lynn

Russia to Suspend Adoptions to US: System Needs Monitoring

The adoption system in America is a wonderful idea, especially when it successfully places orphaned/needy children (no matter their origin) with caring, loving, forever parents. However, the system requires monitoring, and an adequate screening process for adoptive families.  Wanting a child, and having a big enough bankroll ( $8,000-$40,000) should not guarantee you a child.

Archer 10/flickr.com

Many believe that prospective adoptive parents are carefully screened, and subsequently monitored to assure the health and well-being of the adoptee. Not so,  as evidenced in the recent announcement by Russia to temporarily suspend adoptions to the USA. Note that the ban specifically targets America!

It’s wonderful that someone is finally taking note of the lackadaisical placement of children in American homes through adoption, and the astounding  rate of adoptee abuse.   Bravo, Russia for taking notice of what Americans ignore!

The article “Russia Considers Suspending Adoptions to US” at ABCnews.com reports that Russia wants an “accord to better measure the welfare of adopted Russian children in America.” This comes after a Tennessee woman put her Russian born adopted 7-year-old on a plane back to Russia, due to his violent behavior, and last November’s  death of Nathanial Craver,  a 7-year old Russian  adoptee killed by his adoptive parents.

Russia is asking for regular visits to the homes of adopted children in the United States, and psychological testing of adoptive parents.  Shouldn’t this be the standard for adoptions of ALL children, from ALL nations?

You can read more on these cases here:

The New York Times: Russia Attacks Sentence of Adoptee’s Parents

LI Families: A 2006 case of adoptee Russian adoptee killed in US

About.com:  Review of several cases of Russian adoptees killed by US parents