Thursday, October 7, 2010

Anonymous Us: A story collective project

Posted here with permission from author, Alana Stewart:

I am writing to tell you about and seek your participation in a story collective endeavor called "The Anonymous Us Project". This is an opportunity for everyone involved in reproductive technologies to tell the world what they really think about donor conception: the good, the bad, and the ugly- all in the atmosphere of, you guessed it, anonymity.

I, Alana Stewart, Founder of The Anonymous Us Project and self-proclaimed Donor Kid, viscerally understand the potential conflict of vocalizing relevant truths concerning donor conception. There are loved ones we risk offending, family well-being we risk upsetting and maybe livelihoods we risk sabotaging if the whole truth were to be told concerning donor conception and parent-child separation. The Anonymous Us Project wishes for all parties the opportunity to tell their stories without fear.

In the upcoming weeks we need to collect stories and build content in preparation for press outreach and the launch of Our website is still being built, but the submit form is ready to go.

You do not have to – and in fact you cannot – provide your name when you submit your story.

When you're done writing and have successfully submitted your story, you will receive a confirmation number you may use to contact us about your story and remove the story should you wish to. We are looking for submissions of 750 words or less. Please feel free to write anything you'd like relating to donor conception, surrogacy and adoption. Feel free to make multiple submissions on relevant, but different ideas. Stories will be selected to be read aloud on the Anonymous Us podcast, which anyone will be able to subscribe to for free through iTunes or an RSS feed.

Send us your essays and thoughts:

Help us grow this project.
We can't judge the health of these practices without understanding the journey of the affected.

I hope this project will fill out the conversation on reproductive technologies.
I hope it will inspire more truth and transparency.
I hope it will help shape healthier families and happier people.

Thank you everyone for your involvement and contributions.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Two new studies

Two new studies have just been released.
Unlike a lot of scientific literature that cannot be accessed without paying a fee, these are open access.
One is the largest study of it kind conducted on the experiences and outcomes to offspring of donor conception:
The other is a study into the experiences of offpsring who are searching for information about their donor parent.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The 'donor/traditional surrogate conceived' HAVE been relinquished by a birth parent

I wanted to bring attention to a HIGHLY debatable comment made in the study ("Experiences of offspring searching for and contacting their donor siblings and donor" RBM Online, 18 April 2010 regarding the dissimilarities between adoption and 'donor conception'.

Quote of reference:

"Whilst some have argued that the adoption experience may shed light on donor-conceived individuals' experiences of searching, it is important to bear in mind that there are notable differences between the two groups.

Donor-conceived individuals are usually genetically related to one of their parents and have not been relinquished by a birth parent. Also, with adoption, parents are expected and encouraged to be honest and open with their child about his/her origins. This is not the case with donor conception. Whilst there is now greater openness within donor-conceived families, many parents, particularly those from families headed by heterosexual couples, still choose to keep this information secret from the child. Donor-conceived individuals are thus more likely to learn of their origins at a later age than adopted individuals, which could have important implications for their experiences of searching for their genetic relations."

Specific quote of contention: "...have not been relinquished by a birth parent."

This is just not true.

'Donors/gamete sellers/traditional surrogates' ARE genetic fathers/mothers who have INTENTIONALLY given away/sold their gametes to INTENTIONALLY create a child (children) that in most cases they:

A) INTENTIONALLY do not want to parent
B) INTENTIONALLY do not want to take responsibility for
C) INTENTIONALLY do not want to acknowledge as their offspring (their genetic children)

This IS INTENTIONAL (pre-conception) relinquishment by a birth parent. Which, personally, I think is MUCH more unethical than the non-intentional creation of a child that is relinquished for the child's best interests through adoption.

Friday, April 16, 2010

"Our Random Universe" by Lauren Burns - 'donor' conceived adult

Shared with Lauren Burns permission:

"Just wanted to report something very random that happened to me last month. I was out with my mum seeing at movie at a place called Cinema Nova in Carlton. The movie we wanted to see happened to be sold out, so we picked an alternative and sat down in the cafe near the box office to have a coffee.

While we waited, Ben (my biological father) came and sat down two tables away from us! It was all the more random because Ben doesn't even live in my home city of Melbourne, he just happened to be down there for an Obstetrics conference. My mum didn't believe me, but I went and said hello to him and mum came and sat down with us too. So I introduced them. Although I didn't say it out loud I was thinking, 'mother, meet father.' It was the first time my parents have ever met!!! Such a mind bending thought.

To be honest, although I hid my emotions behind light-hearted banter, my overwhelming feeling was awkwardness. On so many levels & for so many reasons, this scenario must have seemed surreal for everyone involved. It makes me realize just how bizarre & artificial donor conception truly is. Here I was, the child created by these two people that I had only moments earlier introduced. Had my mother and Ben divorced many years ago it might have been awkward and tense for all concerned. But, given the DC factor.... this was bizarre beyond the grasp of most mortals.

It also made me feel sad to witness the profound disconnection between my biological parents. If I was conceived from a brief relationship at least they might have danced together. I know some people will tell me that it is ridiculous to feel this way, and it shouldn't matter, but it does matter to me. Being conceived from two strangers feels like it erodes my sense of humanity.

I was glad that it was only 10 minutes before Ben's movie started. Poor mum, I think she was a bit spun out, but in retrospect it was probably a good introduction because A) she didn't have time to be nervous and B) it was a short meeting, so it didn't get too awkward.

Alternatively, if I hadn't already got in touch with and met Ben, there I would have been sitting, two tables away from my biological father, and not even known it. Just goes to prove that something wacky like this can happen. To all the other DC people on this forum, it shows that at some point in your life you could have been in the same room with your donor parent or close relatives.

I can't quite explain it, but I feel like this story illustrates some disturbing aspects of being donor conceived. There is a fundamental indignity of being in the same room as close biological relatives and not even knowing it. It is like being the main character from the movie The Truman Show and belonging to a world where truth has been disconnected from reality. Like Truman, our sense of reality is open to being manipulated by `higher powers' (e.g. parents, the fertility industry)."

'Donating' sperm (or egg) is NOT similar to being a blood or organ donor

A response by a 'donor' conceived woman to (

"Sperm donating is also for life

JOHN McBain is misleading men when he says donating sperm is similar to being a blood or organ donor ( The Age, 12/4). He has (or should have) heard from enough adult donor offspring to know that this is not how many of us view the men who played such a significant role in our creation. Sperm donors are fathers too. Simply because they may play no part in the upbringing of their biological children does not mean that they will be any less important to them.

TV shows such as Find My Family clearly illustrate the deep human need to seek out family members to feel whole and connected to kin. Children created via sperm donation share this need. John McBain and any man considering donating his sperm must remember that children with no voice grow up to be adults, who may not share the view that donating sperm is simply an altruistic gift.

Myfanwy Walker, Upwey"

This letter was published in The Age here:
http://www.theage. letters/trust- us-says-the- government- but-it-has- gone-too- far-20100412- s403.html


Another letter written by a 'donor' conceived adult, Kim, (shared with her permission) in response to (

"John McBain is not the expert in donor IVF, the donor offspring are the real experts.

Ask a donor conceived adult if they would have made the choice to be removed from their genetic Kin...I think not.

There is a great loss suffered when one is removed from their biological family. So in referring to sperm donation as giving a "gift" this relates to the needs of the prospective parents.

How is it just that the child's needs come last? The convention on the rights of the child clearly states a child's right to nationality and family ties. It also states that children should not be separated from their parents unless is is for THEIR own good.

Donor conception has and always will serve the rights of the parents, while the child remains voiceless."

Note: This letter was not published (that I am aware of)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Lauren Burns 'donor' conceived perspective

Posted with Lauren's permission

By Lauren Burns

My name is Lauren and I am 26 years old. As a ‘grown up’ donor conceived person I feel it is my responsibility to give some perspective about the long term effects of donor conception. We, the children created from assisted reproductive treatment, are the real experts, but we are not often given a forum to express our views. I hope I will give would-be parents and potential donors some important information that they will take time to think over, and my story will be of interest to other donor conceived people, who may want to meet or network with people from a similar background.

The concept of egg and sperm donation, donors procreating with the intention of not assuming any responsibility or feelings towards the person they have helped create, is a curiously artificial construct conjured by the infertility treatment industry. It is the complete opposite of how parents normally feel towards their biological children. In the early days it was useful in helping clinics recruit donors, and for parents who wished to believe donor conception was truly a ‘cure’ to their own infertility, but what happens when the child refuses to accept that their biological parent is not merely a ‘nice man/woman’ who is inconsequential to their lives?

It is crucial to realise that the decision to use a donor to create a family results in life-long consequences for the child who is subsequently born. Every person I know who is donor conceived (about 15) has been affected by it. It is untrue to claim there are no real issues with donor conception, that as long as you tell the child the truth, and tell early, everything will be fine.

The modern advice is telling children early is the best option, and I agree, however it is important to note that children will not have a static response to being donor conceived, it will change throughout their lives. Young children tend to be very accepting of what their parents tell them, and hence often appear unperturbed by their story. It is not until these children gain the power of critical analysis, perhaps in early adulthood, that they may start question what occurred.

I personally know a 30-year-old donor conceived man who has known his status since early childhood. Initially he accepted it, until the birth of his own child when suddenly, as a father, he realised the importance of the biological link, and what the loss of his paternal kin had meant for him (and his daughter). He does not condemn his parents for their decision, but is now completely opposed to the practise of donor conception, and feels it has negatively affected his life.

The psychology of donor conception is complex because it asks the child to differentiate between the ‘social’ and the ‘biological’ aspects of parenthood. Historically there was never this schism, leaving our language unprepared for it. Thus, even the word ‘parent’ is loaded and ambiguous, so we are left with clunky terms such as ‘biological parent’ and ‘social parent.’

It is vital to think about the importance of the genetic link. Is it relevant or is it completely disposable? How important is it in informing our sense of self (looks, personality, interests) and sense of identity (feeling of belonging, similarities reflected in relatives, being part of a chain)? Parents should not think that if their child expresses longing for knowledge of a biological parent it reflects badly on their parental skills. In my experience my desire to know my genetic identity was actually independent of my relationship with my social parents, because no matter how good a parent they were, it was beyond their control to give me this knowledge.

Donor conceived children are generally smart and sensitive. They want to protect their parents. This often complicates the way they allow themselves to express their feelings about being donor conceived. They are generally especially sensitive about not upsetting the non-biological parent.

There is a lot of literature concerning the feelings of loss and grief felt by adoptees, associated with the denial of a close relationship with their biological parents. This is relevant, because from the perspective of the child, being donor conceived is like being ‘half-adopted.’

Infertility can mean mourning the loss of somebody who has never existed. However, choosing donor conception to overcome infertility can mean transferring the loss so that it is now the child who grieves, in this case for someone they have also never met, the missing biological parent.

When seeking information and/or counselling about becoming a donor or using assisted reproductive treatment, it is important to consider any biases of the source of information. Infertility treatment is an industry and private clinics are ultimately businesses. Although it is in their interest to adhere to medical guidelines, they also have a financial incentive to minimise or even trivialise adverse effects, in order to recruit egg and sperm donors, as well as attract consumers. As far as I am aware, in Victoria, no infertility treatment clinic has shown interest in tracking the long term welfare of the children created from their services, or (with the exception of the Royal Women’s) provided pastoral services to assist offspring dealing with the effects of being donor conceived.

In Victoria anonymous donation is now recognised as harmful to children and has been banned since 1998. However, donor conceived children will still grow up not knowing the identity of their donor during their formative years, and any relationship they pursue after the age of 18 will be retarded by this missing time.

Parents should question how they feel about making the decision, on behalf of their child, that they will be denied a close familiar relationship with one or both biological parents. Adoption was normally deemed the best solution to some crisis that meant the biological parents were unable to care for their child. I feel in this case the deliberateness of the decision to separate kin is significant.

I found out my biological father was a vial of frozen sperm labelled ‘C11’ when I was 21. It came as a complete shock. For me, the overwhelming impression of being donor conceived was powerlessness and lack of choice. I thought it was very unfair that the medical establishment had concocted the concept of ‘anonymous donor’ and this deal had been stitched up without my consent. I felt like the system had exploited my vulnerability by assigning my rights the lowest priority. Whenever I expressed the need that was driving me to search for my donor, I was reminded that I must abide by these decisions, made long ago, that I was never involved in.

I brooded over the news for about three years, not talking much, but thinking about it a lot. I found out that in Victoria, people born after 1988 have the right to apply for information about their donor, but because I was born in 1983 I do not qualify. I thought this terribly unfair because my need to know my genetic identity was just as real as somebody born after this arbitrary date. Despite this, I did find my donor, but I had to move heaven and earth to do it.

I reached a turning point when I met Narelle (a donor conceived woman) and eventually met up with members of an organisation called TangledWebs ( (The name comes from a poem by Sir Walter Scott, “O what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”) It was a huge relief to talk to people with a similar background to myself, who shared my view that donor conceived people have a basic right to information about their genetic identity.

I went public and had two newspaper articles published in The Age. It was stressful to ‘blow my cover’ and tell my story where I knew it would be read by an unknown number of friends, relatives and acquaintances. However the long-term effects have been very positive because I have freed myself from secrecy and received a lot of encouragement. The experience also taught me the power of personal stories in helping shape public opinion.

I met with key politicians regarding the Assisted Reproductive Treatment (2008) Bill. Sue Pennicuik (Greens) tabled an amendment to allow all donor conceived people to apply for information about their genetic identity, regardless of when they were born. This amendment was only defeated by five votes. (Hansard Legislative Council 4 Dec 2008 pg 50). Unfortunately, at the time we only knew a few donor conceived people who were willing to meet with politicians. Most politicians who voted on this amendment had never actually met and listened to the personal story of somebody who is affected by it.

I changed strategy. My mother remembered the name of her former treating doctor so I sent him a letter outlining my story. To my delight I wasn’t ignored. He suggested we meet, and gave me a background of his work in male infertility and donor conception programs spanning 25 years. I was flabbergasted to discover I was the first donor conceived person he had ever met! This highlights the huge disconnection between the medical focus on treating infertility as a ‘disease’ that can be ‘cured’ by prescribing donated eggs/sperm/embryos like medicine, unaware or unconcerned about the lifelong impact this may have on us, the human beings created from these treatments.

I asked if he would be willing to write to my donor on my behalf. He said he would have to think about it and consult with a colleague. A few months passed. I was in a tightly wound state. I felt a familiar feeling of powerlessness as the outcome now rested on the personal ethics of one person. One Thursday in early August 2009 I heard back. He had sent the letter. After this, things moved really quickly. The very next week I received a call from Kate from VARTA with big news. Firstly, I didn’t need to ever refer to my biological father as my donor. His name is Ben.

After exchanging letters and talking on the phone we arranged to meet. The day before, I discovered I would be meeting his children, my half-siblings. I was nervous, especially the night before and day of the meeting. As I approached the gate, Ben’s son called out “Lauren’s here!” in an excited voice and ran to greet me. Immediately I felt more at ease. I said hello to everyone and we sat down to lunch. I had a surreal moment as I looked around and realized I was surrounded by people who looked like me. I realized the clinics were wrong. We are family, at least in some sense of the word.

Finally I understand why people comment that my sister looks Swedish and why I am interested in flying and space. Ben and I share an interest in reading and literature, art, sports, napping, nature and the outdoors. After all my efforts in the media, law, and political lobbying, I was also gratified to discover that my paternal grandfather was a somewhat notorious agitator of the establishment.

I still have three missing half siblings, two boys born in Dec ’81 and July ’84 and a girl born in Aug ’81, all to separate families. I joined the pre-1988 voluntary register, but there were no matches. Have their parents even told them they are donor conceived? If they or their parents are reading this article, I want them to know that they can find me in the voluntary register. I am waiting for them.