Friday, November 5, 2010

A rose by any other name...

Diane Allen posed a question the other day to many of us about terminology.  A friend of Diane's and supporter of donor conceived people asked her, in response to the recent article "Generation of cryokids crying out to know their dads" by Denise Ryan in the Vancouver Sun (10/28), about the term "cryokid", wondering where it came from because she believed it to be demeaning.

Now, being that I am THE cryokid I suppose I personally can't see it offensive in the raw.  I picked the name Cryokid because it was unique/catchy and sounded good with Confessions of..., easy to remember, and reflected the way in which I was conceived (frozen sperm).  In all honesty, I was more offended by the use of the term cryokid in her article without any reference to my blog!!!

However, similar to many in the African American community using the "n-word" amongst themselves as a term almost of near endearment, cryokid is something that I can call myself (and any other offspring who wants to), but when someone from the outside uses the term to put us in a box, it becomes something that is insulting.  One reason being the ending..."kid".  We are adults, we are not children, and when the media uses terms like "donor babies", "cryokids", or any other combination that uses child/baby/kid within, it gives the illusion that we are helpless and infantile, and not equal to other adults.

Secondly, the term "cryokid" is only is applicable to the most recently conceived donor offspring, those born after the mid-1970s, when cryogenics was first introduced into the infertility industry.  Those conceived previously, and many conceived concurrently from the 1970s through the mid-1980s, of fresh non-frozen sperm, this is not an accurate word, and diminishes the fact that there are persons conceived through anonymous sperm donation who are much older. 

Like many other terms in the donor conception world, it's demeaning to be categorized as such by someone from the outside.  We typically consider ourselves "donor conceived people" because it's the most simple way to refer to us, however the fact is, most of us consider our biological father as such, not as a donor.  He was our parent(s) donor, but he is and always will be our biological father.  Therefore, even the basic term "donor conceived" seems to not accurately convey who we truly are.  

****Updated 11/9/10****

I've decided to attempt a list of some of the most common terms and try to explain how they are offensive or inaccurate, and if applicable, more politically correct terms, as well as what we adult individuals conceived from third-party gametes, believe to be a more acceptable term.

1. Sperm/Egg Donor
As I mentioned early and many other times before, donor is an inaccurate term to use for the man or woman who sold their gametes.  First off, donor is misleading (at least in the USA), where donors are paid exuberant prices.  Sperm donors are paid per shot, usually around $100 each "donation".  Most donors supply their sperm 3-5 times a week for a year or more....this turns out to be between $15,000 and $26,000 a year!!  Now, if we take into account college students schedules of 30 weeks on campus, that is still a range of $9,000 to $15,000 per year!!  Try to make that waiting tables.  Egg donors make considerable more, closer in the range of $20,000 for each cycle --- mainly because extracting eggs is a much more invasive (and less fun) medical procedure that includes weeks of giving yourself injections, and can actually cause significant damage leaving some egg donors infertile after the procedure!
PC term: Sperm/Egg seller, Sperm/Egg supplier, Sperm/Egg vendor
What we think: Biological father/mother, Genetic father/mother

2. Donor Conceived
So the issue with the term donor conceived are fairly obvious.  Our biological father, not OUR donor (he was our parent(s) donor/vendor), so saying that we are "donor" conceived makes it sound like we do not have a biological father.  This is exactly what the company that sells the shirts, bibs, etc with "My Daddy's Name Is Donor" is trying to portray, and why that company is offensive to anyone conceived using third-party gametes.  No amount of sugar-coating can hide the fact that we do have a biological father.  He's not just a nice man that helped our parents, he just didn't give them a "seed" so we could grow.  All of this dehumanizes us to a point where we were conceived immaculately! Hiding the fact that we have a biological father by referring to him as a donor makes us feel as though we are not equal to others who were conceived by their mother and father.  We were too, except our mother and father never met.  But that does not make him any less of a biological father.
PC term: Persons conceived via third-party gametes
What we think: Donor conceived is acceptable, only because there is no other term that is convenient to be using that is more appropriate.  However, we still do not like the term.

3. Offspring
No, I'm not referring to that 90s band or a litter of kittens (or the mice I bred while working in the lab).  This ridiculously demeaning word describes human beings.  No one else in their right mind would ever call a "normal" person an offspring.  I suppose in the most curt language, we are all offspring, however it is not something that is typically referring to human beings.  It's meant for lower orders of animals.  So by referring to people conceived via third-party gametes as "offspring" is highly offensive.  The term artificial insemination comes from cow breeding, does this mean that we are seen on the same level as farm animals??
PC term: Persons conceived via third-party gametes
What we think: If we had to chose between donor conceived persons and offspring, most would chose donor conceived, because it is more descriptive of who we are (I mean, "offspring" that could mean we are the offspring of apes or cows or aliens), and somewhat less offensive.

4. "Cryokids", "Donor Babies", "Donor Kids", and the list goes on....
Since this is what brought this list about, I figured I should add it, but by now at least you should understand the problem here.  Just as adopted persons have fought against perpetually living as infants/children, donor conceived adults struggle with the same thing.  This is mainly the fault of the media, who thinks it's cute to call us "Donor Babies", even when many of us have children and grandchildren of our own!  We might have been cute and complacent as infants, however, we grow up.  And to assume that we have the same maturity level that we did at age 3 or 7 is ridiculous and degrading.  Many parents claim that their donor conceived children are perfectly fine and that we the donor conceived adults speaking out are emotionally unstable and ungrateful to be alive, etc...I should hope that I have gained a much greater understanding in 20 years for morality humanity.  Most of us as children did not think much about being donor conceived, it was not something that bothered us.  But we also at that age have a very limited sense of self and of the greater world.  We are physically and emotionally incapable of higher levels of thinking.  Some individuals never progress past this and never are able to reach this level of thinking.  However, for those that can and do, we begin to understand our conception in a different light than we did as small children.  To forever place us in the mold of being children, without comprehension and maturity, it diminishes the fact that we are adults with the same rights as other adults, and that our views and our opinions are just as important and just as relevant.
PC term: Donor conceived adults/persons
What we think: We're adults here, just like you, at least give us that much!!

Question for the readers: What terms would you add to this list?  What are more politically correct terms?


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your candid thoughts -your points were well taken and affirmed our practice of always referring to a "biological father" when explaining "where did I come from" sorts of questions from our two young sons.

Lindsay said...

Hi anonymous,

Thanks for your comment. It's great to hear parents who understand how complicated terminology can be and try to make it as honest as possible.