Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Being DC: They Won't Understand

Back before I found my biological father, I posted my story anonymously on a fairly large website.  Because apparently it sometimes pops up when people do a Google search for "I just found out my father was an anonymous sperm donor" or similar, I have had the honor of being the first donor conceived person some other DC adults have contacted.  Based on those exchanges, there are some things I want to make sure every donor conceived person knows, especially those donor conceived people who haven't yet met another donor conceived person or gotten a chance to talk about how they feel about being donor conceived.  If you fall into any part of those categories, this is for you.

The first thing is that, while not everyone feels the same way about being donor conceived, most people have feelings about it, and that's normal.  If you're bewildered or crying yourself to sleep or spending hours every night trying to find information on who your anonymous biological father and half-siblings might be, or even if you aren't, you're normal.  You haven't done anything wrong.  You aren't crazy, you aren't weak, and you aren't a bad child to the parents who raised you simply because you want to know more or because the revelation of your parentage blew your mind.  You're reacting in a normal fashion to some mind-blowing news.  That's not to say therapy would be out of the question to help you deal with this news -- I advocate therapy for pretty much everybody because I love the simple elegance of paying someone to listen to me rant -- but you're still normal.

The second thing I want DC people to know is this:  people who aren't donor conceived will not understand.  I am surprised this is the case, and I will grant you my evidence is only anecdotal, but it has been the case with everyone I know.  EVERYONE.  My longtime best friend Jerry is the kindest, most empathetic person I've ever met, and she still doesn't get it.  That's not to say talking about it with her isn't still helpful -- talking with her is always helpful -- but the most she can empathize with my situation is to say, "I don't get it.  I know it's important to you and a big deal to you, and I can only assume I might feel the same way in your position, but I don't understand why it matters."  Jerry grew up with two biological parents (one great, one balls to the wall crazy) and a biological sister who is one of her best friends.  When I wanted to write to my biological father to introduce myself and to ask if he'd tell my half-siblings about me, she didn't think I should do it.  She knew he was unlikely to want anything to do with me, so she didn't see the point in reaching out at all -- and that's a normal reaction.  If an empathetic person who is close friends with her parent and sister doesn't understand the allure of possibly meeting new family, who will?

My therapist had essentially the same response as Jerry.  So did my husband.  These are good and kind people with no personal skin the game that they're trying to protect.  They just don't get it, and I know it's not because they don't try or don't care.  I think it's just too foreign a concept for people outside that situation to relate to.  Parentage seems like it shouldn't matter.  I get that.  Why does it matter?  I don't know.  I could name twenty reasons it matters to me, but I can't convince someone else that my reasons are valid.  That seems to be one of the big strikes against rights to information for donor conceived people.  We can't prove that it matters.  For most people in this kind of situation though -- donor conceived people, adopted people, people who have no idea who one or both of their parents are for whatever reason -- it matters.  Even if a person doesn't want to get to know that parent, not being allowed to know who they are usually matters.  Not having a choice in getting to know them matters.  There are too many people who feel the same way I do for you to convince me these feelings are wrong.

This is why I think it's important for donor conceived people to be in contact with other donor conceived people.  They will be able to relate in ways even the best friends and family can't.  You'll see the whole spectrum of attitudes and feelings a person can have toward being donor conceived (it's pretty wide, and I suspect a lot of the quiet majority sits near the middle), and you'll see that you're normal.  I don't post on any DC online groups, but I do read some of them.  It makes me feel normal (thank you, PCVAI and Worldwide Donor Conceived People Network -- please note these are groups exclusively for donor conceived people, not for parents of the donor conceived as most websites are, which makes for a very different atmosphere).  As much as I feel like a bit of an outsider pretty much anywhere I lurk, I feel an unusual sense of belonging in these groups.  People often disagree, but there is a sense of mutual respect and understanding that I appreciate.


  1. I have a question, in part rhetoric but also one to which I seek an answer. IT is not meant to be hostile or argumentative.

    On the forums and registries what is the balance of donors, offspring and parents reaching out to seek others? Given each donor produces 5 - 10 offspring the donors should be a small minority. Given the views expressed by many offspring, the offspring should be seeking donors.

    My limited experience of the forums is that donors seek their offspring more often than the other way around. Many offspring are more interested in linking up with siblings than with donors.

    The reason I say my question is in part rhetoric is that if your observation of the ratios matches mine then perhaps most offspring do not feel the way you do.


    1. I don't know what the ratios are. The only groups I belong to are exclusively for offspring, not their parents or donors. The only way I could find siblings or my donor was through DNA databases, so that was the route I took, not registries. I'm not sure what percentage of DC adults are like me in that they have no "donor number" or information that would work for a registry, but I know there are a fair few of us.

    2. I also didn't say that most offspring feel the way I do in terms of seeking their biological parents (they might for all I know -- all the ones I've ever talked to have -- but my sample size is very small and probably skewed). I said most seem to have feelings on the subject of being donor conceived. How did you find my blog, out of curiosity? Are you donor conceived? Are you a donor?

    3. I've heard a DC say that with DNA databases all (or most) donor anonymity is a thing of the past. This puzzles me. I would assume less than 1% of people have had there DNA taken and an even smaller group have supplied it to a DNA database (as opposed to law enforcement agencies or medical institutes.) Consequently the only way a donor could be found through DNA is if he wanted to be found and had submitted his DNA. Am I missing something here?


    4. I don't know what percentage of people are on DNA databases -- it's higher in the US than elsewhere simply because the current big DNA companies are based out of the US and therefore the tests have been available here longer -- but donors don't have to be on databases themselves to be identified. In my case, I was able to draw up a family tree for a second cousin and deduce it from there. How easy it is really depends on how close a relation makes their name known on a DNA database. I've heard of people doing it from third cousins, though I'm not sure if anyone has managed to do it from as distant as a fourth cousin. Fourth cousins share a set of great-great-great grandparents, so that's a whole lot of family tree tracing. While a DNA match of this distance wouldn't (hopefully) be enough to convict someone of a crime, if you have other information about the donor, such as school and profession like I had, it can be enough to make you feel pretty certain you've found the right person and it can be enough to get the donor to admit he donated sperm at the right place and time.

      I get email notices every month that more people have been added to my "DNA relatives" on every database, so I do believe it's only a matter of time before everyone looking for biological parents has a match that makes identifying them very possible. I would estimate within the next five to ten years, at least for people with American donors.