Thursday, September 3, 2015

5 Reasons I Contacted My Sperm Donor Father That Have Nothing to Do with Money

I read this article today, an interview with a former anonymous sperm donor who is incensed by the idea that his offspring might find out his name and contact him.  He is a doctor who has "made a few bob along the way" and says he is concerned his offspring will try to lay claim to it.  Or that they'll ask him for money and he'll feel uncomfortable saying no...?  I'm not sure what his specific concern is.  He also mentions that he has adult children from his marriage and has not told them about their secret half-siblings, of whom there are at least twenty.  That secret coming to light seems to me to be a more probable dilemma.

This sperm donor reminds me of an extended family member (and doctor) who sent out a mass email to everyone in the family who supports socialized healthcare, attesting that they just want to take her hard earned money for themselves.  No one on that recipient list had ever asked her for anything, and none were hard up by any stretch, but it was -- in my mind -- her way of saying, "I have more money than you and therefore anything you do that I don't like is because you are poor and jealous and greedy."  It wasn't really about money, at least not about hers vs. theirs.  But it was a decent attempt to make family feel bad for supporting something they believed in that she didn't like.  This reminds me of that.

This sperm donor also says he fears for his physical safety because his offspring could come to his home and assault him.  He says he and his wife are thinking of moving to... throw off how long it would take for people to look up his new address online?  I don't know what he would hope to achieve by moving.  Would he stop working too?  Would he keep moving forever?  I think waiting to see if there is a credible threat and then filing a restraining order if necessary would be more effective than living life "on the lam," but I'm unacquainted with the laws in Australia.  Also, my solution would do nothing to evade offspring who reach out in a normal, benign manner.

As I see it, refusing contact with offspring through a sperm bank is like being on the Do-Not-Call list for telemarketers.  You've made your desire for no contact known, but there's still a chance you might get an unwanted call someday.  No one can shield you from all unpleasant encounters and possibly having to say "no" yourself at some point.  But you probably won't have to do more than that. 

"When you think about it, anyone who contacts you is going to have a problem.... If I have that many kids, what is the chance of having one who is disabled?" he ponders.  I don't quite know what to make of the argument that anyone who contacts him is "going to have a problem."  Does he mean only people with issues, such as disabilities or the aforementioned poverty and anger, will reach out to him?  I can see why he might believe that, I suppose, but as someone on the other end, I don't think it's accurate.  I wouldn't try to argue that I have no problems, but I certainly wouldn't share them with my biological father.  Nor with the parents who raised me, for that matter.  I might have problems, but I'm not unhinged.  For context, here is why I contacted my biological father, none of which had to do with money:

5 Reasons I Contacted My Sperm Donor Father

1. I wanted to know what he's like.  I had questions, like does he have any hobbies or interests in common with me.  I'm so different from the people who raised me.  Is it because I'm like him?  (Answer: at least in part, yes)

2. I wanted to meet him someday if he was open to that.  I wanted to hear his voice and see his mannerisms.  I wanted to see the resemblance from online photos amplified.  It's a surreal experience seeing myself mirrored back in someone else.  I couldn't see it until I saw old photos of him. 

3. He has adult children who I wanted to talk to if they were willing, and I thought they'd be more open to the news of a secret half-sister if they heard it from someone they knew.  (Answer: They were open to it, and I think hearing the news from their father helped immensely.)

4. I wanted him to know I exist.  I wanted him to waste a few of his brain cells thinking about me, looking me up online, wondering about me, the way I wondered about him. 

5. I was the closest DNA match to a close relative on a DNA database.  I wanted to give my biological father a chance to disseminate information as he saw fit before the news came out by other means.

You know what I did when he wrote me a letter saying never to contact him again?  Nothing.  Not a damn thing.  When I sent him a letter introducing myself, I cost him as much as anyone else who has ever sent him an ad or another piece of unwanted mail.  And if I had contacted him a second time, harassing him or demanding money, or tried to assault him at his home as the doctor in this article fears, he would have been justified in sending me a cease and desist letter and/or filing a restraining order. 

What he really needed to be concerned about was his secret getting out.  He had to decide who to tell and who he might reasonably be able to keep hiding the secret from.  That should be -- and if we're being honest, probably is -- the primary concern of any anonymous sperm donor:  keeping the secret.  Even if a sperm bank doesn't give your name to your offspring, a DNA test might uncover it, as mine did.  I walk around everyday with 50% of his DNA coursing through my veins and pretty much every part of my body.  And DNA is highly traceable. 

I know it's hard to accept that the anonymity you were once promised is dead, but this is the new reality.  You can continue to focus on imagined crises like "what if they want my money" or you can face the issues that are inevitable.  If you donated sperm, tell your wife and children.  There is a very high probability that this news will come out, probably in your lifetime, and everyone will handle it better if you're the one to tell them. 


  1. I read the same article and have mixed feelings. Money is not likely to be an issue for most DCP (donor conceived people.) However take a look at Most DCP are angry at their donors. One Australian DCP blogger posted What do I want from My Father in which he wrote "I want him to know that his decision to sell off a plastic specimen cup for a few bucks almost 40 years ago has caused me immense emotional pain and that as a father myself I see that as akin to abandoning a child." It's no wonder his donor has not made contact.

    Donors love their unknown offspring and for the most part are surprised and hurt to learn these feeling are no reciprocated.

    1. I understand why many DCP express anger (especially when writing about their feelings anonymously), and I can fathom why most donors who were promised anonymity would want to maintain that level of secrecy. I did not get the impression that the donor in the article was hurt at his unknown offsprings' potential lack of love though. He seemed to me to be trying to build an argument for why none of his offspring should be allowed to know his name. Maybe he is genuinely concerned that a stranger will show up at his house and punch him in the face. But I think the children he raised finding out they have untold half-siblings and being upset at him for keeping that secret from them is much more likely.

      My letter to my biological father was level-headed and free of anger, and his response was that he'd never once thought of me and that I should never contact him again. I can understand a few reasons why he might feel that way, and I respect his choice, but I do not believe he loves me, let alone loves other offspring whose names and characteristics he can only imagine.

      I think the big dilemma is that most DCP want names and the right to a certain amount of information, while donors like the one in the article (and my father) want complete anonymity and continued secrecy, probably because anonymity has no ill side effects for donors while breaking the silence might. I guess it boils down to 1) whether DCP have a greater right to some information or donors have a greater right to complete secrecy, and 2) whether this argument still has a point when things like DNA testing are in the process of making any kind of anonymity obsolete.

  2. I was not criticizing your letter or you personally. I agree the donor in the article appeared somewhat paranoid and that is why I wrote "Money is not likely to be an issue for most DCP"

    The relative numbers on voluntary registers show donors seek out their offspring more often that DCP seek their donors. None the less there is a lot of anger coming from the DCP and the law changes in Australia favor the DCP but do nothing for the donors.

    Most donors would be happy to make contact. Their wives typically hold a very different view; something that has been overlooked in the current debate. Even more donors would be happy to pass information anonymously.Consider this: if I have a medical condition I will pass that information if my identity is protected. But remove that protection: will I share my private history with a complete stranger who is then able to post if on Facebook? The new laws are not the best way to grant DCP such information.

  3. I'm in the US and unacquainted with the voluntary registers in Australia. Is there an official national one like (I think) there is in the UK? Australia is so much more progressive than the US in DC rights that it blows my mind. I think I'd fully agree that the legislation is going a step too far if I were anything but donor conceived, but as it is, I'm very biased in favor of giving right to information to DC people. I appreciate your views! Thanks for the comments.