Monday, May 23, 2011

I got my DNA set on you

The poet George Harrison reminded us what a little determination can do when we set out mind to something.
"I got my mind set on you, I got my mind set on you
I got my mind set on you, I got my mind set on you
But it's gonna take money, a whole lotta spending money
It's gonna take plenty of money, to do it right child
It's gonna take time, a whole lotta precious time
It's gonna take patience and time, mmm to do it, to do it
To do it, to do it, to do, to do it, right"
And while as donor-conceived adults our goal is not to "get the girl", that same sense of determination has pushed a growing number of offspring to take a stand --- regardless of time and money involved in our search.  Whether it's Olivia Pratten taking on the province of British Columbia and WINNING (thankfully not in a Charlie Sheen sort of way....), or the less-heroic of our ranks attempting the impossible in other ways, we are fed up and we're doing something about it!!

Last Monday I reported submitting my DNA to the FamilyFinderDNA database.  Today Girl Conceived blogged about her entertaining breakfast of coffee and DNA scrapers (though I sure hope she was not drinking coffee before scraping!!!) for the same test.  Several close DC friends have already received their results from FTDNA, including Stephanie Blessing, Damian Adams, and several others who I will not mention for some privacy reasons.  Elizabeth Marquardt even blogged this afternoon on Family Scholars this recent "outbreak" of DNA tests among offspring.

And to top it off, yesterday a former donor added his information to the AmFOR Donor Offspring Registry with the note that he has added his DNA to the 23andMe database and hopes to find his biological offspring using their "Relative Finder" program (similar to FTDNA's FamilyFinder database).

My first reaction to this is the ironic juxtaposition of our biological fathers' sperm (genetic material used to create a new life) contained in small vials to be removed indefinitely from its roots, and our spit (also genetic material, that is it contains our DNA) contained in small vials with a hope to be reconnected to those very same roots...that were both unceremoniously disposed of in what were likely similar 1mL vials.

My next observation is the fact that this process, these results, this knowledge, is all something that we as donor-conceived adults are posting to the World Wide Web where it will likely be perserved indefinitely (or at least until December 21, 2012!!  You never know, maybe computers won't be able to function beyond the Mayan calendar - flashback Y2K).  Therefore it's something that will eventually become knowledge for the masses.  Knowledge for the infertility industry, for lawmakers, for current and future recipient parents, and for former, current, and future donors.

Regardless of where you live, what the law dictates...anonymity is dissolved.  It was dissolved as soon as some novel teenage offspring had the brilliant idea of looking for their donor on MySpace and then MySpace's successor, Facebook.  It was dissolved as soon as Ryan Kramer traced his donor using FTDNA's Y-DNA test.  And it will be further dissolved as more and more donor-conceived adults submit their DNA to databases such as FTDNA, 23andMe, and more.

What makes these tests so perfect is that unlike traditional paternity tests, the donor does not have to consent to his DNA being used.  It's not, at least not in the legal sense.  But in the ancestral sense his DNA is alive and well in his close relatives.  And it is the genealogical inquiries of those relatives that will drive donors out of their cloak of anonymity once and for all.  Donors cannot control what their 2nd and 3rd cousins do....heck, most likely they don't even know who their 2nd or 3rd cousins are!!!  But for genealogy buffs, not only is their the possibility that they share the same surname (especially the case with Y-DNA tests), but they may even have elaborate family trees discovered and can point you right to the guy who went to X University for medical school, or at least identify family members who lived in the location that you were conceived in at that time.

So former, current, and future donors and recipient parents --- you have been forewarned.  Any promise of anonymity by your clinic or sperm bank, take with a grain of salt.  If you truly never want to know your biological children, DON'T DONATE!!  Parents, if you choose an anonymous donor because you do not want your child to know their biological parent.  DON'T USE A DONOR!!!

Because the donor-conceived children of today and tomorrow are going to have technology on their side.


Anonymous said...

Why "forewarned"? No one (that I am aware of) is planning on doing anything more nefarious than offering to have a meaningful relationship with unknown members of their family. I know, I know...

Anyway, good luck.

Lindsay said...

I agree, but many donors and recipient parents still believe that searching for our lost kin is "wrong", "ungrateful" and reflects badly on them [parents].

So I say "forewarned" to those who disagree that those meaningful relationships with our unknown family are important. That their heavy reliance on the secrecy and anonymity to quell their fears that their child could potentially love the donor more than them, is not going to last forever.

Anonymous said...

One of my coworkers found out like yourself she was conceived from sperm donation. She was soon on a mission to find her bio dad and after several years she finally thought she identified him. She sent him a folder with copies of her info and she got back a letter from his attorney to stop harassing his client or he would be forced to take legal action against her. Undaunted she showed up at his house and rang the doorbell and his son answered the door. When she id herself he got so angry he chased her away telling her never to come back again. An attorney told her the state where she lives does not give her any rights to have any contact with this man or his family as he never made any contract with her and he was promised anonymity. She is filled with so much anger and rejection but there is nothing she can do about it as they want to have nothing to do with her. Yet she keeps plotting ways how to make him come around but that does not seem likely and they may hurt her if she keeps persisting. So I have a question for you, your bio dad knows you exist but he is not making any effort to involve you in his life but still you persist. It seems you are stalking this man who wants to have nothing to do with you. What can you do to make this man accept you or even speak to you

Lindsay said...

Anonymous, I don't know what your accusatory tone is for, nor why you assume that every donor is exactly the same.

FWIW, if I were to contact my biological father and he were to reject me (trust me, it's crossed my mind on more than one occasion - I'm not that thick), yes it would be upsetting. But the alternative is something I simply cannot deal with...not trying. Rejection is an answer. At least I would have an idea of who this man is, regardless if it is unsatisfactory.

The fact is, versus not knowing, that little voice in the back of your head saying "what if" is what drives [us] to do these things. I'm an experience-junkie and I need to experience something to believe it or accept it. Therefore, I could not be content until I went through with this, regardless of the outcome.

I remember during/after my first paternity test (with a former donor who has an incredible relationship with one of his donor offspring, and I consider a good friend), I had to do the test because if I hadn't I would have forever wondered if he was my father. (At that time in 2005 I did not have my donor number and I did not expect to discover it). When the test came back negative, it was hard. Especially because I had grown so fond of him as a friend. However, as a scientist/researcher I saw that negative DNA test not as a failure, but as a result. Not necessarily the result I wanted to get, but a result nonetheless. And what it meant was there was one Xytex donor from that time period that I could knock off my list of possible fathers.

I hope that explains why we as donor conceived adults go through hell or high water to find this man, even when we understand that he may or may not want to know us. And trust me, I know quite a few offspring who have contacted the man they believe to be their bio father and have had the same response as your co-worker. But at the same time, I have quite a few offspring friends who have the most incredible relationships with their biological fathers today (not immediate and of course there were bumps in the road, but no relationship is perfect).

And for your final comments....actually, no my biological father does not really know I exist, at least based on my knowledge and research. He was contacted by Xytex for updated medical history and informed that there was a recipient mother (my half-sister's mother) who was interested in possible contact. He did not decline contact. He returned the medical history form, which is significantly more than many former anonymous donors do/have done.

Anonymous said...

Actually my tone was not accusatory it's just that I saw a report on you on some show in London about sperm donation and it said the man who gave the sperm knew of your existence and he wanted no contact but you keep persisting and trying to force him out of the closet per se. The show named you and some lady in Canada as being the most visible face of this issue in the US and Canada. The segment I watched was about the rights of the donor and how most cases are now done in Wales, Scotland or the Isle of Jersey to avoid donors being contacted in 18 years since anoynimity was banned in Britain several years ago.

Lindsay said...

HAHAHA.....oooookay. This makes sense.

You definitely have me confused with another offspring based in the UK. Joanna Rose. And yes, Joanna Rose (UK) and Olivia Pratten (BC, Canada) are the biggest names in donor conception. Joanna Rose was the plaintiff in the UK court case that banned anonymity in 2005. Olivia Pratten of course was the plaintiff in the British Columbia court case that just came to the same conclusion last week.

And yes Joanna Rose has contacted her bio father multiple times only to be told never to contact him again. Actually, her story is very similar to your co-workers that you spoke of.

Also, I do not know of what show in London you are referring to exactly (I'm assuming one relatively recently) and I know for sure I have not been interviewed for any British shows, nor have been quoted or mentioned in any without my approval.

Anonymous said...

(the first 'Anonymous', BTW)

"However, as a scientist/researcher I saw that negative DNA test not as a failure, but as a result."

Bravo! What a great response, you should repost this or something like it as a regular post. The line about not trying was spot on and reminded me of the famous observation from Shakespeare about Caesar plunging ahead even though he knew would mean death:

"Cowards die many times before their deaths,
The valiant never taste of death but once."

Rejection sucks, but once it's done... well, at least you know. Cold comfort,I guess, but better in some ways than never knowing.

Lindsay said...


I think I have blogged about at least the idea but perhaps it was not the central focus of a post. I will look into blogging on the idea of negative tests are still results, as well as the not trying side.

And yeah, I agree 100% about rejection being a cold comfort...I really like that term "cold comfort". Very fitting.

I think for me at least, it's the combination of this intense (almost unimaginable) desire to at least have a name, a face, an identity to attach to the unknown, as well as that illusion of what if's and what could be's, that keep me in this rat race.

Marilynn said...

Hello I help people find and contact their family members for free. You and I have mutual friends that I am also very excited for. I help families separated for all kinds of reasons, but people who are anonymously conceived don't really need help so much as its nice to have company during the search and I give away my passwords to all the detective and family tree websites for free for ever, I'd like to extend the offer of those passwords to you as well. The search is made difficult by so many external forces yall can use some push-back. Also it seems wrong to me for people to have to pay for information about themselves. I'm enjoying your blog very much.
You mentioned something about how going after your fathers is like going after a girl. On the surface it seems like an odd analogy but its really not. In my unprofessional entirely volunteer nosey busy body experience (I've hooked up a couple hundred families in my free time in the past decade) People looking for their family members are terrified of rejection but uncontrollably compelled to try anyway. Just the same as if your infatuated with a girl. Because you have to try. I got to thinking about that. Maybe on a primal level dating is about the desire to join together and like mate build a family - essentially to become family. You want them to like you and you want them to want to stick around. I know modern dating is not necessarily about making a family, but really that is where it all leads if it keeps going. You go after people that you might want for family. Looking for a family member is even more literal but its serious to the same extent. Its giddy excited overwhelming and they try to down play it like they're cool, its no big deal, mot too eager. All the same as when trying to ask someone out. So that is my theory, it feels so similar because in the end the person is being driven to pull their family together and continue their line.

I was mentioning to these mutual aquaintences that I think virtually all of the men who fathered children this way have already or will ultimately seek out their children. I don't think they really want anonymity all that much. Its the fertility industry that likes anonymity. They don't have to keep track of anything. The doctor could provide all the sperm pretending to be 200 various "donors" from the profile book and nobody would ever know. UC Irvine showed the use sperm of other patients who never consented to conceive children with strangers.

The DSR has like a 60 percent children to 40 percent parents and by parents i mean people looking for their abandoned children. A very typical example would be the Yale cryobank on the DSR has 4 parents and 4 children with info posted. Now granted, they obviously are not the right children for the right parents, but....its pretty obvious that children's posts should outweigh parents posts by like 10 to 1 or 25 to 1, but it is not like that at all. I think in fact most of them are having a conscience about what they did and are beginning to put their timid little olive branch out there. You have to remember, they are the ones who really promised to leave you alone. Not the other way around.

They should grow a conscience and at least check up on y'all, make sure your OK see if you need anything.

Marilynn said...

I don't believe anonymous' story is real and i don't believe the comment. Its intended to make you look foolish for looking for someone who does not want you. What a cruel thing to Say anonymous. Of course he belongs to his own family and they do want him. I believe there are parents out there that don't want any contact, but my experience is that over 200 families nobodt has ever been rude like that. certainly not a brother or a sister. they may not all have become best friends, but nobody ever said anything that mean. I'm sure it happens, but I don't believe you i think its said for dramatic effect. I have people that he can talk to that can tell him its scary but paid off for them to answer their questions. Cough up the number of this person who was threatened with a lawsuit, so they can give him some advice. If I'm wrong I'm sorry I just think its best to encourage people to take chances when they want something,