I think it’s safe to say most of us hope the next generation will live better lives than we did. In addition to longer lifespans, we wish for them easier circumstances and brighter days. And as for our massive screw-ups… we hope they inhabit a world with a legacy of lessons learned rather than painful moments of history repeating itself.
In reading the article “Finding The Lost Generation of Sperm Donors,” by Ashley Fetters in The Atlantic, what struck me is that there ARE multiple generations of donor conceived people. The article is about the (mostly) young donor-conceived kids out there who, by the tens of thousands, now have the ability to track down their biological fathers, thanks to technology and the Internet. And they’re doing it. It’s an option previous generations never had. But if the technology existed back then would they have embraced it in the same way? As eagerly? I wonder.
Donor conception has been around long enough such that the experience of many in the earliest generations bears pretty much no resemblance whatsoever to the experience of the newest generation. In no way can one compare the experience of a man learning of his conception at 50 to that of a child who grew up always knowing they were the product of artificial insemination via donor egg and/or sperm.
What’s difficult is that, while it seems donor conception has become so prevalent (and it has), relatively speaking, we’re not such a large group. So when it comes to our desire to rewrite history (if only we could) and our need to tame the Wild West that is our donor industry, we band together and collectively call for industry reform. And so it might be easy to think that we’re all coming at this from the same place. But we aren’t.
Whenever I get on my high horse and rant on and on about how egregious it is for a parent to withhold from their child, the fact that he or she is donor conceived, I imagine my contemporaries—lesbian couples and single mothers by choice—must be thinking, STOP THE NOISE.
So how have things taken such a radical turn? Simple. We can thank the brave and bold mothers for changing the experience of their donor-conceived children. These women—lesbian and single mothers by choice, for the most part—women who not so long ago would have been denied services for lack of a male partner—have become the industry’s biggest consumers. Lesbian women and single moms have turned the business of gamete donation into a multibillion-dollar industry. You’re welcome.
Many will say that these two groups have no option but honesty—that is, unless they have some male friend hiding in the closet. There’s truth to that. But I also believe what separates these two groups from heterosexual couples dealing with infertility is a lack of shame. You see, we, too, could find ways to hide the truth, but we chose to be honest.
And for those who chose honesty and embraced their children’s method of conception—pat yourself on the back. Because your choice has changed the experience of these children and has given birth to a new generation of donor-conceived people.
The times, they are a changin’. Bob Dylan wrote those words more than 50 years ago. And it seems they still are.