Who’s the donor?

People are curious about lesbians and their donors (except for the Daily Mail, which says that it is one thing to lose a father to tragedy and quite another to deliberately set out to raise a child without one – Aug 2014). I remember the fuss about Melissa Etheridge’s donor and the horror when it turned out to be David Crosby, who is not an attractive man.

Choosing our donor was a very long process. We have always wanted an anonymous one. We thought about a white donor, seeing as we are using R’s eggs, it made sense, initially. However, R’s neices and nephews are all very light skinned, even though their dads are Black. There was a very good chance that if we went with a white donor, our child would simply look Mediterranean.

Beyond looks, for me there was also the issue of genetic history. I know where my family come from. I know their place in history. No medical profile could give us that information about a white donor. It made me uncomfortable. I understand that white privilege is built on slavery and that all of us benefit from it, but I didn’t want any closer connections than I already had.

We decided to find a donor who was as close to R as possible, matching her Native American ancestry as well. I feel secure that carrying and raising our child will be my contribution to his or her personhood, although there is increasing evidence to suggest that the birth mother makes significant genetic contritbution to the child she bears.

In the end, we found a perfect compromise, a donor who was mixed Black, Cherokee and white. We had to fight for our choice, however, because the counsellor at our clinic could not understand our issues with using a white donor and wanted to refer us to their ethics committee. She couldn’t understand why we would rather have a dark child than a light one. I am sure that she won’t be alone.

Our choice to privilege Blackness and Native American genetics runs exactly counter to all sorts of prejudices. It has already complicated things for us, and will continue to do so. Our decision reflects our ideas of history, identity and (because I am not Melissa Etheridge) beauty.

Post Script:

We’ve just talked to some members of my family about all this. Their response was interesting. I think some of it came from disappointment that R and I have chosen not to reflect my side of the family in our donor.  I can see that it could read as a rejection.

I see it differently. An anonymous white donor wouldn’t be a part of our family. His nose might be similar to our (very distinctive) noses, but it wouldn’t be ours. It would be a matter of pretending.  There may be some value to pretence for heterosexual parents, but nobody is going to believe that I fathered my child.

Another comment was “Well, if you were a heterosexual couple, you wouldn’t get to choose, you’d just have to take whatever genes you got”. If we were a straight couple, things would be much more easy for us. We have decided to see our difficulties as opportunities; that along with greater complexity came greater freedom of choice. We are not trying to replicate the dynamics of a straight relationship.

When a heterosexual couple make a child, that child reflects their mingled genetic material, their family history and ultimately their love for each other. I think some of the consternation about choosing a Black donor is an anxiety that R is rejecting the chance to incorporate her genetic material with mine. Again, this is applying heterosexual ideas in a situation where they don’t fit. Yes, if I had provided the sperm, the child might look more like me than R, and that would be fine. In our case, however, if we used white sperm and the child looked more white than Black, the child would look like some random white guy who donated his sperm. A donor is not a father.

Who’s the donor?