Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A letter to Prince Michael, Paris, and "Blanket" Jackson

By now you have probably heard all the major media outlets advertising that your dad is not your biological father, and that your mom is not your biological mother.  I can only imagine how hard this must be, just days after your dad tragically died.

I am so sorry that you had to find out the truth this way, it's a cruel thing to do to a child - hide the truth about your identity and let strangers reveal it maliciously  to you.  Parents sometimes make these decisions (to keep a secret) thinking they are protecting their children.  However, usually it backfires.  Unfortunately, because of who your daddy was, this backfire has been made public and the entire world is watching you.  It's not fair, but make the best out of a bad situation.

But don't feel alone.  There are thousands (maybe millions) of kids out there just like you - conceived artificially and denied the right to EVER know who their biological parents are.  You three can change this!!  Stories are flying around that your dad's dermatologist is your biological father.  If this is true, you deserve to know, to know him - as your father.  Ask questions, demand answers!  Not only can you find answers for yourself, you can help thousands of other kids and adults out there who were conceived the same way!

Your daddy will always be your daddy, nobody can take that away - and it will take time to mourn his passing.  But you also have a biological father out there, and you carry half his genes.  His is part of you - he even looks like you!  While nothing can mask the loss of your daddy, I hope that your biological father will step up and give you guidance and love, and support through this rough time and as you grow up.  You deserve that as children and as human beings.  
You also deserve to know your biological mother, and I hope for your sake that she stands up and acknowledges herself to you and provides love and support.  A child needs both a mom and a dad, and to have only one and lose him is tragic but to be denied the ability to know both biological parents is horrific.

If you ever come across this, in a few weeks, a few months, even a few years - please know that you're not alone and that there are many others out there pleading for these same rights...and that one day we will prevail.

Monday, June 29, 2009

End of Anonymity: Is just knowing a name enough? (Re: Michael Jackson's children)

Right now I'm taking two summer courses for grad school and I'm starting my own business doing genealogical research (send me a message if you would like more information!) so my major writing here has been put on the back-burner until mid-July.

In the meantime, a donor-conceived friend of mine wrote this on her blog "Donorconceived" several days ago, I wanted to share it because it is such a powerful message.

"I cannot believe that Michael Jackson is dead. I'm still in shock. While he was alive there has been little media coverage on his children. They were always covered by either masks or veils and the public was left to wonder, do they look like their father? Who is their mother?

My parents used an anonymous 'sperm donor' to conceive me back in the mid 1960's and I've been involved in advocating for the identity rights of those conceived from the same method of conception as myself for the past 5-6 years. I and others, want to see an end to anonymous 'sperm/egg donations/vending' and 'traditional surrogacy'.

Since Michael Jackson's passing, if you Google search "sperm donor" you will find numerous articles on the nature of his children's conception. Did Michael Jackson use a 'sperm donor' and/or 'egg donor' and/or 'surrogate' to bring his children into the world?

I haven't seen pictures of his children until just recently and I have to say, they don't look much like their dad. Regardless, Michael Jackson was their dad. No one is perfect and I haven't ever spoken with his children but I'd bet that they adored him regardless of their biological/non- biological relationship with him. No doubt, they are in profound mourning and will require years to come to full (if ever) acceptance of their loss.

I do wonder though if they feel as confused over their 'donor/surrogate' conception as I and many other 'donor' conceived feel? Do they wonder who their genetic father/ mother/ grandparents/ siblings/ cousins/ ancestry/ heritage are? Do they feel a loss?

Now that their dad is gone, will they feel more open to explore what their 'donor' conception/surrogac y means to them? Will it take having children of their own to fully explore their feelings and how it relates to their own children to search for more information?

I advocate for the end of anonymity in relation to 'sperm/egg' donation/vending and surrogacy, but I also do not think that just knowing a name is enough. I believe everyone does have a responsibility for their own sperm/egg when combined to create a new (out of the womb) life (including 'sperm/egg donors' and 'surrogates' ) that includes more than just identity disclosure รข€" and nothing less than open doors and open hearts.

Michael Jackson's children are not abandoned by any means but are they genetic orphans? I hope not. No doubt, there are many people willing to be involved and supportive in their lives but is that enough? I hope and pray that their genetic father/mother/ grandparents and extended family have also kept their doors wide open to these children. Love might make a family but we can't just write off genetics and the importance of genetic/biological family. They all matter."

Friday, June 26, 2009

Canadian Donor Conception Coalition Launches Website and Fundraising Campaign to Support First Ever Lawsuit

Canadian Donor Conception Coalition Launches Website and Fundraising Campaign to Support First Ever Lawsuit
Thursday, June 25th, 2009

[6/26 - 11:30pm ~ The above link was fixed ---- sorry for any inconvenience!!]

Today marks the start of an initiative to fundraise for the first ever lawsuit filed by sperm and egg donor offspring in Canada. The lawsuit was filed by Olivia Pratten on October 28, 2008, and will directly benefit all people in the province of British Columbia conceived via anonymous sperm, egg and embryo donation, or what is called "gamete donation". Details of the suit can be read here.

Under provincial laws currently in effect, persons conceived by way of gamete donation - unlike adopted people - are denied access to information about their medical, genetic and social histories. The legislature's failure to extend the legislative regime with respect to creation, storage and accessing of records unfairly discriminates against them contrary to their equality rights as guaranteed under s.15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The lawsuit also seeks to establish for all persons conceived by gamete donation their fundamental right to have an opportunity to know the most basic information about themselves, which is guaranteed by the right to liberty and security of the person in section 7 of the Charter.

The lawsuit has national implications as the situation in British Columbia is similar in all other provinces and territories and the Charter applies to everyone in Canada.

A lobby group called Canadian Donor Conception Coalition (CDCC) has formed in support of the lawsuit. The CDCC is an organization comprised of donor conceived offspring, parents, health care professionals, gamete donors and other interested persons. With the launch of their website, the CDCC hopes to raise awareness of the legal and ethical issues surrounding assisted human reproduction and to raise money to cover the significant legal costs of the lawsuit. 

All media enquiries and requests for interviews should be directed to Olivia Pratten at 416-655-1452. For other information, please contact Joseph Arvay Q.C., who is counsel for Ms. Pratten. 

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ohio libraries are in jeopardy!!

Governor Ted Strickland wants to cut state funding to Ohio public libraries by 50%!!  With 70% of Ohio libraries relying SOLELY on state funding, many libraries will have to close, or drastically cut their hours and staff.  

Please contact Governor Strickland (Tel: 614-466-3555 or 614-644-4357) and your local Representatives and State Senator about this appalling decision before July 1st!!


Why are Ohio libraries in trouble? [From Ohio Library Council]

At a news conference on Friday, June 19, the Governor proposed a cut to state funding for public libraries of $227.3 million in fiscal years 2010 and 2011 as part of his plan to fill the $3.2 billion gap in the budget that must be balanced by the Ohio General Assembly's Conference Committee by June 30.The proposal amounts to a 30% cut in funding for Ohio's public libraries. This cut is in addition to the 20% reduction in funding that libraries are already facing, because their funding comes from 2.22% of the state's declining General Revenue Fund.

Libraries could close or face significant reductions in operations as a result of the Governor's proposal. With some 70% of the state's 251 public libraries relying solely on state funding to fund their operations, the reduction in funding will mean that many will close branches or drastically reduce hours and services.

The Governor's proposed funding cuts come at a time when Ohio's public libraries are experiencing unprecedented increases in demands for services.  In every community throughout the state, Ohioans are turning to their public library for free high speed Internet access and help with employment searches, children and teens are beginning summer reading programs, and people of all ages are turning to the library as a lifeline during these difficult economic times.  Ohio's public libraries offer CRITICAL services to those looking for jobs and operating small businesses.  Public libraries are an integral part of education, which Governor Strickland says is critical to the state's economic recovery.  But it is unlikely that many of Ohio's public library systems, especially those without local levies, can remain open with these proposed cuts.

About 30% of Ohio's public libraries have local property tax levies that supplement the state's funding.  However, with the Governor's proposed drastic cuts in the state funding for libraries, even those libraries will face decisions regarding substantial reductions in hours of operation, materials, and staffing.


To learn more about Ohio's library crisis and to help save Ohio libraries please visit these sites:

Facebook - Save Ohio Libraries (25,928 members as of 5:05pm)
Use Twitter hashtag #saveohiolibraries
@Ted_Strickland on Twitter

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Another new blog! This time an offspring...

Check out Offspringgirl's blog.  A newly discovered donor-conceived adult talking about the journey to find her biological father.

In an instant my life changed. Poof, just like that. All I had thought and known changed. This was the day I was told that my Dad was biologically not my Dad. Strange, or was it? Certainly there were differences I noticed growing up and even inquired about, but now in my 40's had let go of the notion. But, it was true. In the wake of tragedy, a family death, the truth was told. As shocking as this was, it was also an "ah ha" moment. I was the offspring of a sperm donor. A med student sperm donor, a different religion than the one I had been brought up in. Who is he? The seach begins.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

New blog by former donor

[Update 6/19/2009] Mike has moved his blog Donor 67 to his personal website:
Please update any bookmarks

Donor 67 (aka Michael Galinsky) has started a new blog.  Below is his first post from today....an op-ed he wrote about a film he is beginning to work on [he's a filmmaker].  About being a sperm donor, a father....both.  He is one a growing number of former sperm donors who are starting to acknowledge the ramifications of their donations and want to become known to their children they created in a laboratory.

Are You My Father?

Stems cell research, in-vitro fertilization, egg and sperm donations, and the ethical implications that surround them have been all over the news recently. These are thorny issues and as a filmmaker I am compelled to throw myself and my story into the debate. 

Before I made films I played bass guitar in a rock band. To support myself I worked as a messenger for a commercial production house, and a couple of times a week I donated sperm. While on my way uptown to deliver videotapes to the edit house I'd sometimes stop by the sperm bank to make a deposit. 50 bucks might not sound like a lot of money, but it was almost as much as I made for a full day of work as a messenger. My rent was only $150 a month, so between a few days of working as a messenger and 4-6 donations a month, I had enough money to live and enough time to focus on music, photography, and writing.

Despite the fact that I was a religious studies major in college I didn't think too deeply about the ethical or long term implications of my second job. I also didn't keep my work a secret. In fact when people asked me what I did for a living I'd say, "I'm a sperm donor". They either laughed or recoiled in horror. Invariably I would get along well with those who laughed or were intrigued; it was kind of a litmus test.

All humor aside, when I started donating I had the sense that the sperm donor was a pretty unimportant part of the equation. I'd read or seen many sob stories about adopted children searching for their birth mother, but I had never seen anything written about the search for a birth father, let alone a donor father. I donated on and off for probably a couple of years when I wasn't on tour with my band. When I started to date my future wife in a serious way I simply stopped going to the lab. I didn't think about it too much after that.

We got married and after several years my wife and I had a red haired, wild eyed, explosively charismatic daughter. I spent a lot of time with her and was fascinated by the reality of watching her become who she is. There were things about my daughter that simply couldn't have been formed or changed by my parenting style, skills, or lack of thereof. She was who she was when she was born, and she was a lot more me than her mom.

When my wife was 6 months pregnant with our second daughter my father was struck by a car and killed instantly. I was very close to my father which made it a gut-wrenchingly painful experience. While we had our conflicts we also had good communication and as such I didn't feel like we had unfinished business to deal with despite the fact that he was snatched from us so violently. I was pleased that my older daughter had gotten to know him because both of my grandfathers had passed away before I was born and I had the sense that I had missed out on something by never meeting them. Even though she was just shy of 4 years old when he passed away I believe that knowing him had a powerful effect on her life. I have a picture of her on his lap being read to that is, for lack of a better word, precious.

My father handled almost everything in my family and I fell into his leadership role in arranging the funeral. Although hastily put together, it brought many of my relatives together from all over the country. Some of my cousins came that I hadn't talked to in over a decade, yet I felt deeply connected to them. Over 100 people crowded into our house for an impromptu afternoon of remembrance. As I spoke to this group about my father I wore his shirt, which was too small and his watch that didn't work, because I needed to feel connected to him. The room was filled with people who had felt connected to him, and I in turn felt connected to them.

Three months after my father passed away we had our new baby girl. Within weeks I could tell that she took after my wife, and not just in the way that she looked, but in her calm and observant presence. My older daughter shares a hyper energy with myself and my mother, while our younger daughter has a quiet reserved nature like my wife and her maternal grandfather.

It is one thing to understand that there are parts of us that are shaped by nature and parts that are shaped by nurture. It is another thing completely to have two small children and witness how powerfully nature wields it's brush.

When our little one was a couple of months old I was showing her off at the hair salon on the corner. After cooing over her for a few minutes my friend Lois eyed me fiercely and harumphed, "Mike, now you gotta go for your boy."

"Hell no. I'm finished. I can't handle the two I have." I shot back.
"Mike you gotta have a boy." she drawled as she went back to washing her clients hair.

As I left the salon I was struck by the thought that I must have a boy somewhere, probably a lot of boys and a bunch more girls to boot. I stood holding my baby with one hand while trying to contain my older daughter's manic energy with the other and I was dumbfounded by the reality of the situation. Some of them might be 18 years old I realized, and they probably want, even need, to know who I am.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Alternatives to alternative families

So a few months ago I received an email from a woman who wanted my input about the many different types of known donor arrangements rather than anonymous for same-sex couples.  I was so eager to hear her views and wanted to share to many alternatives for alternative families, that take into consideration the best interests of the child, as well as respecting the wants of same-sex couples to procreate.  

There are many options for same-sex couples to have children without resorting to an anonymous donor - which I have and always will advocate against.  One is using a friend as a donor who will have an "uncle-like" relationship with the child.  While some families that choice this option do not tell their child that their "uncle" is really their father, I argue that eventually that child will find out that their "uncle" is their father and feel just as betrayed as a donor offspring that was never told, or told later in life.  

There is also co-parenting arrangement, where the child knows both their mother and their father, and both raise the child with that knowledge.  In an article from February 2009 in the Guardian, "My Future Family", Catherine Hall explains her unique relationship with her gay friend.
"What are you doing in Italy?"
"Trying to get pregnant."
"Ah, so he's your boyfriend?"
"No, he's my..."

And then I run out of words. It's true that we are trying to have a baby together, but he's not my boyfriend. I don't know what to call him. Our relationship is impossible to define. Last September, A and I moved from London to Milan. He's here on business. I'm here because I'm trying to conceive a child with him. People often assume that we're a couple, but we're not. He's a gay man and I'm a lesbian. We are, in one sense, simply friends, but at the same time we are something much more.

Despite not being a couple, we want to raise our children together. We plan to bring them up in a house that we will buy in London with three close friends. We want to create something shared. We're trying to build a family.

Our future family may not be built on romantic love, but it is based on a form of love that we believe is equally deep. We share the same tastes, friends and approach to life - but, more importantly, we have a shared set of ethics and values to pass on to our children. The outcome of our story may be something very different to what we hope for. The potential pitfalls are huge and the stakes are high. But despite all our doubts, our fears and our questions, our instincts are telling us that it's the right thing to do. And in this way we're no different to anyone else who decides to have a child. Everyone who does it has something in common. You take a leap of faith.
In the article Catherine also discusses that her friend and her are not abstaining from other relationships, but that any future partners will have to somehow be worked into their unique family.  She says she doesn't know if that by choosing this she is choosing to remain forever single, but she's come to terms with that and realizes that remaining a "family" is more important.

All of these options are kid-friendly alternatives to using a donor.  Honestly, they could also be used in traditional families, but I'm sure that's going to be a much bigger hurdle to jump.