As I sit here writing, listening to the ferocious snowy wind outside my window and staring into the winter wonderland which has blanketed two feet of snow over Northeast Ohio....my mind drifts.
When I arrived in the DC community in the spring of 2003 I was angry, hurt, and had nothing to go on. Since then I've tamed my temper (you think I get pissed now, you must not have been on the DSR 7 years ago, when I was an alone and frustrated 18 year old trying to cope!!), and gotten some non-identifying information, and even found a half-sibling!!
I look back over these past 7 years and marvel at how the donor conception community, my own life, and my self-worth have changed and improved.
But let me take you back for a second, as many of my readers were not active back then, I must set the scene to fully explain how it all has changed. The year was 2003, and while it doesn't seem long ago, in the timeline of the donor conception community this was the dark ages. Prior to the year 2000, donor conception was unheard of and was only something that was whispered about in doctor's offices across the globe. Even children (such as myself) who were brought up always knowing they were donor conceived were quiet. There were a handful of adoptees starting in the mid-to-late 1980s trying to advocate for changes, demonstrating the similarities between adoptees and donor conceived persons, but they were disregarded. Wendy and Ryan Kramer created the Donor Sibling Registry in 2000, a virtually unknown Yahoo group/listserv that hoped to connect siblings conceived from the same donor. In May 2003 the DSR was on the Oprah Show, and the donor conception community began to emerge.
It was in the mere hours after the first airing of the DSR on the Oprah Show that I discovered the donor conception community, and realized, mainly, that I was not the ONLY one conceived this way!!! Slowly the belief that I was a freak of nature and should be ashamed of my conception began to lift. I got to know quite a few other offspring through PCVAI and later adoptees, parents, and former donors through TangledWebs, and in 2005 actually had the opportunity to meet many of them while studying abroad in Melbourne!! It was the first time that I knowingly stood face-to-face with another donor conceived person. It took years to fully come to terms with my conception and my identity, and it really is a never-ending process. I still suffer a great loss, and that will never cease, but I now understand that I can (and will) survive. I have a great network of offspring, parents, and donors, that remind me everyday that I am an advocate for change and that has become my mission and passion in life.
The early days/years of the donor conception community was a harsh place, filled with an over-proportionate number of single mothers by choice (SMCs) and lesbians, who were the majority of parents disclosing the method of conception to their children (out of necessity) -- this is still the prevailing status today, but more and more heterosexual couples/divorcees, donors, and adult offspring are also now vocal. These women were typically between 30 and 35 years old and had 1-2 donor conceived children under the age of 3. Back then the DC community was not about the donor children, but rather a pre-social networking era way for DC-mommies to meet and make friends. With that being said, the majority had never met a donor conceived adult, and believed that the thought process of a three-year-old was developmentally equivalent of a 23-year-old.....basically, that because their 3-year-old was perfectly content with being told their biological father is a frozen vial of sperm, adult offspring should also feel that way!!
They were appalled with what myself and a handful of other adult offspring (such as Joanna Rose, Myfanwy Walker, and Narelle Grech to name a few) were saying. Not only did they verbally abuse us, but threatened our own lives because they disagreed with what we had to say. These Yahoo groups became a dangerous place for a donor conceived offspring to speak. I would get private messages sent to my email telling me I was "satanic" and "evil" among other things. The favorite response was that I was an ungrateful little brat for wanting to know my biological father, and for being angry at being denied such a human right.
Sooo....let's flash forward to today. I still avoid those Yahoo groups, I was too emotionally scarred to ever go back there, so I do not know how good or bad it is or isn't, but from what I get from the few brave DC offspring that do enter those realms is that the opinions towards us have improved slightly, as more and more parents and those TTC are seeing the errors with the era of secrecy and anonymity, but that the prevailing attitude is that we should be grateful, and the favored offspring view is the "unharmed" offspring --- i.e. one that does not care to know his or her biological parent. Parents and former donors that argue openly that donor conception can cause damage to the offspring are silenced (heavily moderated and/or banned).
This is a new move since most of us offspring voicing those views were banned years ago!!
One good thing is simply that the media has finally began to get our voices heard. And with the advent of social networking and the blogosphere these few media outlets are multiplied and published across the web and across the world. More and more donors are coming out of the woodwork, and wanting to learn about the children they created. More offspring are learning of their conception, and the kids brought up always knowing are coming of age and entering the community searching for their lost family. And what I see as one of the most positive moves in the last couple years is the increase in blogs like mine (and the others in the left column) being read, referenced, quoted, and hyperlinked.
As I said before advocating for changes in legislation here in the US for banning anonymous paid donors, as well as enlightening the general population and those involved in the infertility industry and donor conception/ART community about the consequences of assisted reproduction, has become one of my central focuses. It's a two-fer. I am able to provide my opinion and a be a resource for those looking for information. I am also able to use this as my own form of therapy. I did the whole therapy thing, and after learning that my therapist had recently adopted a baby from Guatemala, I fired her, realizing that she was not counseling me but rather trying to twist my thinking to support her own decisions. It was not until after going to Australia did I realize I was not "depressed" but rather "repressed" by my family. They did not (and still not) acknowledge my views and speaking out louder was the only cure. Being a part of the few DC organizations I am involved with and blogging are my therapy and a way to vent and educate all at the same time.
So after that random tangent, back to my initial post topic. Two years ago today I got my donor number. I learned that my biological father was Xytex Donor #2035. He was born February 12, 1961 (ironically his birthday was 2 days after I learned of him). He had brown hair, green eyes (alas, the answer to my uniquely colored eyes that don't match anyone else in my family!!), was 6 foot tall, and had B+ blood type. He graduated from college in 1983, and donated until 1989!! He had a sister four years younger than him.
With this I was able to really search, and able to quickly ignore certain potential siblings based on donor number. I also was able to provide a donor number and information to my half-sister, whose information was destroyed by her mother's OBGYN's office a year ago.
The latest news is that her mother had contacted Xytex and asked if it was possible, if donor 2035 would be responsive, to sending him a letter requesting updated medical history. She also asked Xytex to see if he would be receptive to possible correspondence between him and us. This was shortly after the DNA test confirmed us as siblings, mid-November. Xytex agreed and sent him a certified letter. No word from him for two months and then out of the blue this month Xytex contacted her saying that he returned the medical history update but nothing more. No note, no comment about the children created from his donations.
On one hand I am grateful to have updated medical history. It's important for me to know that my paternal grandfather was diagnosed with melanoma at age 50 (but has been cancer-free for 20 years), and suffered a heart attack and mild stroke at age 65. He has a son that has suffered from allergies since birth. That means I have a brother...... It also means I probably inherited my severe seasonal/indoor/outdoor allergies from my father.
All these things are great to know, but in the same breath this response provides another more subtle answer. Rejection. He knows that me and my half-sister exist. He knows that we are looking for him. Yet he is not even curious. Is he too caught up with work and his family and life to want to know of the daughters he created 25 years ago? Has he even told his wife about his donations, about us? Is he sitting at home right now wondering how to tell her, should he tell her? Or did he respond to the letter without emotion, without even a quiver of doubt that anonymity is best?