Monday, October 18, 2010

Misconceived Conceptions

Lately a hot topic among many of us adult offspring has been the "misconceptions" of donor conception.  Much of this discussion is stemming from the fact that donor conception has recently made it's debut into mainstream society.  In the 20th century donor conception was taboo.  It was not discussed, it was considered "bedroom talk", and the private business of the parents who sought these procedures.  They were told by their doctors never to tell their family, their friends, and most importantly, their child.

Today, there is still some sense that it is a taboo subject, but more and more it is becoming a topic of sitcoms, drama, movies, talk shows, and discussion.  The sheer fact that in 2010 there were three blockbuster films released that all had a central focus on donor conception speaks volumes to how it has entered into the collective mainstream.

However, in all of these instances they are portraying donor conception and donor offspring in a way that is not accurate and feeds into the stereotypes that we are constantly battling from the DC community, the infertility industry, and society.

Stephanie Blessing wrote a fantastic post on the FamilyScholars blog last month, "Misconceived: Misconceptions About Donor Conception".  She lays out 11 misconceptions that people assume about donor conception and/or donor offspring, most of which stem from the views and opinions of what recipient parents assume that we should feel.

And while I think we need to address and attempt to reform the opinions of those recipient parents and individuals trying to conceive or thinking of using a donor, ultimately it is not these persons who are our biggest hurdle.  I've come to the conclusion over the many years that I have been involved in the donor conception community and been a forerunner in advocacy for donor conception issues in the US, that we may be able to enlighten a small handful of recipient parents and those thinking of using a donor, but the majority will only try to hurt us, to silence us, to disarm us from our mission by any means necessary.  All it takes is a few minutes of reading some of the Yahoo Groups where DI mommies congregate.  Look where an adult offspring has made a comment or stated their personal opinion, and watch the nasty claws come out from the mommies.  It's like being surrounded by a herd of werewolves and a full-moon comes out......

I DO get emails from women in the process of trying to get pregnant or weighing their options, seeking my advice for their situation.  Most of these women have some sort of "sob-story" they tell me, often TMI, that they believe gives them a valid reason to use a donor.  Some have done their research and are attempting to see past the initial "baby" phase and try to acknowledge what their child may or may not feel in the future, and most of these women are the ones looking towards ID-release or some form of open donation.  Others are unsure what they want and are coming to me for advice, but in most cases I think these women want some reason to discredit me and my views so they can continue on their journey, use an anonymous donor, and not feel any guilt later on.

Yet, the main thing is, these women are all so deeply entrenched in their own emotions, fears, and loss to do anything for the greater good of the offspring.  Even if they do chose to use an ID-release donor, that will be the end of it for 99% of them.  These will not be women who will be stepping out of their comfort zones and publicly decrying anonymity, nor will they be the women who stand along side us fighting for our rights.  To them, simply creating their own child with in their eyes a "more humane" method (because apparently that's what were advocating???) of donor conception is enough.

But it's not.  And it won't be until we can successfully gain enough support among ourselves to fight on our own.

What we really need is to gain the support of society...something we fail to do in most cases.  Yes, we do get occasional media airtime.  Yes, sometimes our opinions on such deep issues are confronted.  But in most cases they are lost in a sea of sob stories and happy endings.  There are two types of donor conception articles published/broadcast.

1) the sob story: the story of the offspring who has spent a decade searching for their biological father to no avail, the story of the offspring seeking a change in legislation because they feel it is unethical for records to be destroyed, the story of the offspring who just wants more answers about who they are.  These are the stories that people disregard, call us ungrateful, and make fun of our situation with derogatory and demeaning humor because they are idiots who do not know any better and cannot grasp a deep issue within their shallow ignorant minds.
2) the happy ending: the stories that end up on the TODAY show or GMA about two (or more) siblings finding one another or finding their donor, and often the reunion is broadcast right then and there so all that is seen is the initial happiness, nobody focuses on the difficulties associated with finding your kin in adulthood (b/c honestly, most of the reunions in donor conception occur with small children through mid-teens).  These are the stories that give the general public the allusion that any donor-conceived child who wants to find a sibling or their donor can and will and all it costs is $50/year to join the DSR and VOILA a sibling will appear!!!

Okay, so maybe I'm a bit bitter, but this is the reality of it all.  These are the two types of stories, and both of these stories portray a very harmful and wrong depiction of what donor conception is and how it affects the offspring.

Therefore, it is not the DI mommies or the infertility industry we need to focus on to make change.  These two groups of people will fight against us until the very end, viciously.  We already know they are the inherent enemy of human rights and dignities of donor conceived offspring.  They do not want to hear what we say, they do not want us to air our "dirty laundry" because it makes them look bad.  They want to continue to live in their deluded worlds where everybody is happy and vocal adult offspring do not exist.

We need to focus on society at large.  Which means, in order to convert the minds of the ignorant masses, we must change the way we are portrayed to them.  Alana Stewart's AnonymousUs Project might accomplish just that.  When a single offspring speaks out to the public it is easy to disregard and discredit us, insulting us and chiding us for our views.  When a hundred offspring speak out it is much harder to ignore.

If we can begin to change the way society views us and our plight, we may begin to be a force to be reckoned with.  Just as adoptees have changed their image and society is beginning to understand and accept their need to know their birth parents, I hope that society will begin to learn to see the parallels between adoption and donor conception and see that our need to know our biological kin is just as great and just as necessary.

The biggest hurdle is the fact that we are the underdog.  Lets face it, it's been estimated that 20% of Americans today experience some form of infertility ( I do not know if this number includes those who are socially infertile or not).  This means that most adults today know someone who is or has struggled with infertility.  Whether it is a sibling, a child, a best friend, a colleague, or simply a "friend of a friend".  These connections to those on the other side of the scale hurt us.  Most adults have never met an adult donor-conceived person before.  Many donor-conceived adults have never met another donor-conceived person before!!

The odds are against us, because it's obvious that if someone has a friend or relative who struggled with infertility, that is going to be their first impression.  And, the fact that most people "see" donor-conceived offspring as small children and not adults, it's much easier to feel empathy for adults struggling with infertility.  It is something that most adults can comprehend.  The losses associated with donor conception are not.

The biggest misconception of donor conception, therefore, is that we are not simply a cure for infertility. We are human beings with our own minds, our own opinions, our own feelings, and our own losses.  And this is the misconception that needs to be overcome before anything else is going to change.

Friday, October 15, 2010

NEWS FLASH: "Woman's suit seeking info on sperm donor will proceed"

A huge congratulations to Olivia Pratten this evening.....a judge ruled today at 5pm PDT that her case will not be dismissed and will continue on to trial!!!


By: The Canadian Press
Date: Friday Oct. 15, 2010 5:26 PM PT

A 28-year-old woman conceived through sperm donation has won the right to proceed with a lawsuit aimed getting information about the donor.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has rejected a bid by the provincial government to block a lawsuit filed by Olivia Pratten, who was born in B.C. but now lives in Toronto.

She wants the court to order the province to create a system that ensures sperm donor records are kept indefinitely and to prevent existing records from being destroyed, making it virtually impossible for donors to remain anonymous.

Pratten, who says she's thrilled the suit will proceed, has been fighting for more than a decade to obtain records about her conception, arguing such information is vital to her own health.

The doctor who performed the procedure for Pratten's mother insists he destroyed the documents in the 1990s because physicians aren't required to keep patient records for more than six years.

Pratten and her mother don't believe the documents were actually destroyed, pointing to what they believe are inconsistencies in what the now-retired doctor has told them.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

AnonymousUS Project

Introduction from Anonymous Us on Vimeo.

The Anonymous Us Project is a safety zone for real and honest opinions about reproductive technologies and family fragmentation. We aim to share the experiences of voluntary and involuntary participants in these technologies, while preserving the dignity and privacy for story-tellers and their loved ones.

The idea was inspired by, a Maryland based art project that allows anyone, anywhere to create a postcard with a secret written on it, and mail it in anonymously for publication. Members of the donor community have some serious stories and opinions regarding their family structure that they'd like to add to the discussion, but feel they cannot because of shame and a need for privacy. This project gives them an opportunity to be heard without having to reveal their identity and potentially hurt their loved ones. And it kind of turns the concept of anonymity inside out.

We hope that The Anonymous Us Project will fill out the conversation on reproductive technologies.

We hope it will inspire more truth and transparency.

We hope it will help shape healthier families and happier people.


Open letter from creator, Alana Stewart:
Dear Donor-Conceived Persons, Adoptees, Donors, Parents, and Fertility Industry Professionals,

I am writing to tell you about and seek your participation in a story collective endeavor called "The Anonymous Us Project". This is an opportunity for everyone involved in reproductive technologies to tell the world what they really think about donor conception: the good, the bad, and the ugly – all in the atmosphere of, you guessed it, anonymity.

I, Alana Stewart, Founder of The Anonymous Us Project and self-proclaimed Donor Kid, viscerally understand the potential conflict of vocalizing relevant truths concerning donor conception. There are loved ones we risk offending, family well-being we risk upsetting and maybe livelihoods we risk sabotaging if the whole truth were to be told concerning donor conception and parent-child separation. The Anonymous Us Project wishes for all parties the opportunity to tell their stories without fear.

In the upcoming weeks we need to collect stories and build content in preparation for press outreach and the launch of [NOTE: This is the *future* website that will be launched in a few weeks....not the project to submit stories to]. Our website is still being built, but the submit form is ready to go. You do not have to – and in fact you cannot – provide your name when you submit your story. When you're done writing and have successfully submitted your story, you will receive a confirmation number you may use to contact us about your story and remove the story should you wish to. We are looking for submissions of 750 words or less. Please feel free to write anything you'd like relating to donor conception, surrogacy and adoption. Feel free to make multiple submissions on relevant, but different ideas. Stories will be selected to be read aloud on the Anonymous Us podcast, which anyone will be able to subscribe to for free through iTunes or an RSS feed.

Send us your essays and thoughts:

Submit a Story

Help us grow this project.

We can't judge the health of these practices without understanding the journey of the affected.

Thank you everyone for your involvement and contributions.