Friday, December 16, 2011

Warning: Stream of conscious post...

I've been trying to blog now for a couple weeks, a lot on my mind but not a lot of time to put it into coherent sentences -- I love being busy, but after having sans-social life for so long I've forgotten what it's like to work all day and then go out every night with people (also my bank account isn't too happy either!!).  So here it is, Friday night, and I'm chilling with a glass of wine and watching my alma mater Mount Union hopefully win their 11th NCAA DIII National Championship title on ESPN (Edit: the final score was 13-10 Whitewater :o().

Anyways, I guess I'm going to start by mentioning all that has happened this month related to DC...and then perhaps will try to talk about what's on my mind and/or bugging me.

Bill Cordray was in the city for two weeks and I spent several days visiting with him.  We attended the Institute for American Values "State of the Unions" event - I have more to say about this...leads to me another frustration I need to vent off, maybe another day - last Thursday night (I was excited to finally meet Elizabeth Marquardt!), and had a wonderful dinner afterwards with several other donor-conceived adults who also live in the city.  And last weekend Bill and I (and another DC adult, born/raised in NYC but lives in LA, who was back on a work trip for several days) met for brunch with a Japanese researcher who is currently doing a fellowship at Yale studying bioethics and donor conception.  She interviewed Bill and I for an impressive 4 hours at my apartment, and I hope that she not only understood all that we were discussing/debating, but that she learned some things too!!  Thank god for technology, she had 2 state-of-the-art tiny microphone recorders picking up all that we had to say (which was plenty!!).

I was on the subway the other night heading to the Upper East Side, and I'm on the 2 headed to Times Sq and this girl gets on the car and I did a complete double-take.  I could have sworn my half-sister had just stepped on the 2 at 96th....which while possible (as she lives in the city) it seemed highly improbable considering her ventures in Manhattan typically are centered around the East Village so to see her train hopping on the Upper West after realizing that this girl was NOT my sister -- too long of hair, wrong clothing style -- I shook it off.  Until I get onto the S to head cross-town to Grand Central.  This girl not only gets onto my car but sits right next to me!!!  So now I'm totally spastic and trying to visually analyze this girl without her realize that I'm staring at her.  Luckily the S train is a short shuttle crosstown!

So there's a theory that everyone has a "twin" or doppelgänger somewhere in the world.  These are individuals who are not actually twins, and theoretically not related, who resemble each other in an almost paranormal way.  But what if these supposed "twins" are actually siblings, children/adults conceived from the same sperm donor.  ASRM's guidelines recommend a limit of 25 live births for every 850,000 in the population (and by the way, this guideline was not in place when I was conceived and actually has gotten more stringent in the past couple years).  In NYC, a city of 8.5 million, with this current recommendation, that means I could have 250 siblings in the metro-area alone!!!  The idea that this random girl that I ran into on the subway that looked shockingly like my half-sister, could actually also be my sister....not so impossible.  Especially considering my biological father donated for 7 years.  7 years, 3 times a week, 3-4 vials per sample.....that's A LOT of potential siblings!!!!  And since so many New Yorkers are transplants, it could possibly be even higher since Xytex shipped sperm all over the country.

Living in New York has given me a strange opportunity to be so involved in donor conception...not only are there quite a few DC adults living in the city permanently, but there is a constant flow of visitors from across the country and the world.  It's like when I was studying in Melbourne and so heavily involved in the community there.  It's great, but with it comes a lot of emotions.  I think right now I'm still adjusting to being here.  IMHO, I've adapted quite well.  I have the subways down pat, I now can come out of the subways to street-level and in most cases orient myself within 30 seconds and walk [almost always] the correct way -- except when I walk the correct way and then question my own rationale and change directions only to realize I was in fact going to right way the first time around!!  I'm still hopeless in SoHo, but I'm sure all I need is some extra time down there and rote memorization of the streets.  But at the same time, it's overwhelming.  How you can feel alone in a city of 8 and a half million.  How these random serendipitous occasions occur, like running into an old friend randomly on the street corner.....or coming out of a meeting and calling my mom (who was in town) and asking her what part of the city she was at, and it turns out she's on the opposite side of the street corner on CU main campus. And then there's all the amazing food that I can get at any time day or night, it's like culinary heaven --- craving falafel, you've got it!!  Want thai, they deliver.  I've eaten lamb more in the past month than I think I was treated to in a year previously.....mmmm, now I'm craving shish kebabs.  Not to mention that my stomach isn't tolerating NYC water....or something :-/  But overall I love being here.  I love my job, I love my apartment, and of course I love New York.  :::cue Alicia Keys "Empire State of Mind":::

.......anyways between the wine and my Raiders loss, I'm thinking I'm calling it a night.  I will write more functionally (aka less drunk) this weekend.


Anonymous said...

Cannot even begin to tell you how amazing I think all of this new is. Maybe I can explain when we actually meet later in January. So wonderful Lindsay!!!
-Karen Clark

DI_Dad said...

Great post. I promise we will schedule a get together. I am stressed as I only have a few weeks to find a new apt.

Anonymous said...

I can understand why people would want to know about their biological relatives and encourage them to explore that and reunite to their hearts content. I also agree that anonymity should be banned and that detailed, complete medical records should be updated constantly throughout the life course on the donor conceived person's entire biological family.

As a donor conceived person with an identical twin and an older, donor conceived sister (who is biologically my half sister), I find a lot of your blanket statements and denial of any experiences except your own to be hateful and offensive. You've said things like my non-bio dad can never be my true dad, that it can't replace a biological bond with my biodad and stuff to the effect that one day I will realize how deluded I am and grieve for all the stuff I've supposedly lost. I don't deny you your right to experiencing a loss, but I don't feel I've experienced one. My sisters feel the way I do, as well.

I never, ever felt like I needed to be grateful for the way I was conceived or like I was obligated to support sperm donation. Last year, I came out as a transgender man to my entire family. My true father, my non-bio father, accepted me more than my mother and my mom's bio family. My older sister and my twin sister accept me just the same, they are both wonderful. My twin isn't better just because we're 100% identical genetically.

You know what else? My father, my older sister and I share a bond together that nobody else in our entire family (including my twin sister) shares: music. My mom is practically tone deaf and can't keep a beat to save her life. So is the rest of my biofamily. My twin sister never learned music so even though I am an excellent singer and songwriter, my twin sister doesn't share that with me just because we have 100% the same DNA. My dad does and my older sister does and it has nothing to do with any biological bond that would explain it. My mom can't believe she got two kids from different biodads that for some reason share their non-biodad's musical ability that doesn't come from her side of the family. Some of my fondest memories with my family are of this music.

Sometimes I think about the personality traits that my twin sister and I share that our other family members don't share. Undoubtedly, some of these traits are genetic and some have to do with our shared experiences. As a neuroscientist and psychologist, I know a good deal about human personality. Our personalities aren't much like our non-biodad, but I am grateful I was raised by someone who isn't exactly like me, so I had the opportunity to learn from him. Many of my flaws are my father's strengths, if my dad had a more similar personality to me, I wouldn't have learned some of the positive stuff that I did.

Finally, genes aren't destiny. I'm transsexual, my IDENTICAL TWIN SISTER, is not. I developed my musical ability, my sister didn't and she probably won't ever catch up if she starts now. I like and get along with my non-biodad better than anyone in my extended family and better than I do with my mom.

I know other transsexual youth who are biologically related to both their parents and have only full siblings who want nothing to do with their families ever again. They prefer chosen families to biological ones. I know one whose whole immediate family is gender nonconforming and queer, but since they're so caught up in their conservative bs and in denying their identities, she doesn't belong with them at all. The transness may have had some genetic influence, but it didn't guarantee a bond for her. Not at all. She's nothing like them, personality-wise, politically, you name it. She considers me to be her chosen family, and we aren't related and I care about her more than her biofamily does.

Anonymous said...

There's only one thing I worry about. I only have one male relative who is biologically related to me and that is my grandfather. As a female-to-male transsexual, knowing what my biodad looked like would give me some indication of how I might look if I start taking testosterone. At first, this caused me some insecurity about starting the testosterone. But here is the truth: the idea that knowing what my biodad looked like would quell these insecurities wasn't about being donor conceived. It's something most trans men go through because some of us tend to imagine that we're all going to turn out perfect looking, we're scared that, just like with a female body, a male body develops in unpredictable ways and comes with its own set of bodily insecurities and concerns (baldness, etc). Trans guys who have lots of male bio-family members don't feel any less insecure. They obsess over what those family members look like until they realize that that's not what the insecurity is about.

Being raised by my non-biodad even helped quell some of my insecurities about being trans. My non-biodad is 5'1", and probably shorter than my biodad. Growing up with him made me feel confident about my own short stature (which is due to my being female, and not my relation to him). When people comment on how I'm too short to be a guy, I point out that my dad is a guy and he's shorter than me! Also, since my dad experienced infertility and wasn't ashamed to tell me, I feel better about the fact that as a trans man, I will never produce my own sperm and be able to have a child that way. I don't feel less a man because of this. My biodad could never, ever have given me those things.

Being donor conceived is a loss for some people. But it is a gain for others. Don't tell me I don't know if it was really a gain or not. I have cited several things in here that my biodad could never have given me, and you don't actually know my biodad so you can't know whether it would be better or not. I'm not an exception either. Don't erase my voice and experiences.

Lindsay said...


First off, thank you for sharing your story. What I am confused abouts is YOUR blanket statement that I am putting words in YOUR mouth. I have never stated that I speak for ALL donor-conceived people, and I am almost overly politically correct in pointing out that there are many different opinions. The thing is, your opinion is what everyone WANTS to hear - and I'm glad that you have such a wonderful family who has accepted you as you are.

But there are many of us who don't have the loving families surrounding us, who are hurt and alone. I definitely think family dynamics plays significantly into how we grow as individuals and view our conception. It's not just disclosure and love. There are so many underwritten dynamics going on. I know that my mother loves me more than anything, but there are personality conflicts and family dynamics (along with her outward expression of how she sees my conception) that made growing up and being donor conceived excruciatingly hard. Thus, for some/many of us we do experience a significant loss.

As for your assumption that I claim that genetics is academic background is in genetics - you don't have to tell me twice that genetics ISN'T everything. My undergraduate thesis was studying why mice with identical genotypes (they were missing a specific gene) had 4 grossly different phenotypes. Epigenetics is only just now being further studied.

Our genes can pre-dispose to things, but fundamentally all they do is start the process of creating proteins. There are many other things that are needed for those proteins to be built and for any genotype or action to be expressed. So many things can happen in the biochemical pathways.

This is why identical twins are studied....because it's been proven that while one twin may develop something the other twin may or may not follow suit.

Also, lastly I never have said that my social dad is not and never can be my true dad. All I point out is that for many of us we differentiate between our dad and our father. My dad can never be my father, but at the same time I would never be able to see my father as my dad...that bond just isn't there.