No this isn’t about former presidential hopeful John Edwards.
It’s about gay parenting and an issue that will be familiar to most adoptive parents and all first mothers. First mothers being, I hesitate to point out, a group of people not so long out of the closet themselves.
I was reading an article in the September 2008 issue of The Walrus about gay parenthood. The author of the article, Matthew Hays, is a gay man who had been de-selected as a prospective father for a lesbian couple’s child in favour of a sperm bank. He writes quite poignantly about his loss of something he had never had nor contemplated until it was proposed to him by the couple.
The article, Frontier Families, The Complexities of Queer Parenthood, went on to say that many lesbian couples are choosing sperm bank fathers for their children rather than a (usually gay) friend because they are concerned about this other presence in their relationship with the child. They fear involvement by a known biological father.
I read the article through and kept thinking, I understand the concern in the situation I guess, but what about the children. What about their need to know who their parents are even if they are raised by one parent and that parent’s partner or, in my country, spouse?
Asking a question about wanting and needing to know your parents felt kind of familiar.
Children seemed so conspicuously absent in the article as a consideration that I read it through again. I could only recall one brief mention near the end about the child’s possible need to know it’s male parent. For the second reading, I sat, pen in hand, underlining the relevant portions to make sure I had not missed anything.
Some things noted on re-reading:
- The article did say that many lesbian moms do feel strongly about having the sperm donor /father around so the child can know his or her biological father as it grows up. However, the preference was explained in this way:
Many of those interviewed say this choice often boils down to a cultural difference. A lesbian couple from France, for example, may have a heightened consciousness of lineage and pedigree. For them the best choice would be to go with a known donor.
- A father in the article takes offence at the use of the term donor.
- Many of the lesbian moms wanted the opposite and asked that the gay men involved be referred to as donors.
- A lawyer says:
From a legal perspective, I would have to recommend that people go with an unknown donor, through a clinic…My strong advice …is to go with an unknown donor.
- One lesbian mom named Joan who chose the “father” rather than the “donor” route said:
I think that those who choose an anonymous donor are doing that to protect themselves, while those who have a known donor are doing that to protect the child.
And I have to agree with Joan.
Dealing with the question of sperm donors/fathers is something most first moms know something about in reunion. Many of them may have very mixed or very strong feelings about how much involvement they want from good old sperm donor/dad. But the fact still remains that he is, after all, the child’s father and whether Mom is keen on having him as part of the reunion or not, his existence and his identity will come up. And if Moms try and ignore the question, it won’t go away. The child will ask and most likely will want to know, or at least meet, his father.
And I’m certain it doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not the child was raised in France.
When the question does come up, difficult as it may be, the mother in question should give full disclosure, name, address and telephone number, if she has it. And then make a quick phone call herself to prepare the guy, if she hasn’t already.
My daughter, who is in 3rd year university and went to grade school with a fair number of sperm bank kids, says that lesbian moms prefer anonymous sperm donors because they fear being forced into a joint custody arrangement. A few years down the road when the child is searching for identity, that argument will sound about as convincing as They said if I gave you up to this perfect couple you would be better off and I could get on with my life. Kids are great at smelling out a weak argument and they will interpret it as – I chose to deny you a relationship with the person who makes up half of your genes because it suited me.
Besides, with so many sibling registries popping up, sperm bank use is no guarantee of anonymity anymore.
As all first mothers know, sperm bank babies are just the next reunion wave. You cannot love the desire to know out of your children.
The days of totally closed and anonymous family creation are over.
Some people may have to use a sperm bank for legitimate reasons but they should do it with their eyes wide open. The child will want to know his father. No matter how loving a home he was raised in and no matter how much the couple tries to pretend, as the adoption industry did for years with first moms, that he isn’t there.