I got an interesting letter a while ago from a young man who I'll call Joseph.
"Hi. My sister & her (lesbian) partner have asked me to be a sperm donor. They joked about it five years ago. We kind of left it in the air for a bit then, as I was living abroad at the time. They turned to other possible donors, somewhat to my relief. Three possible donors later, each backing out after talks and meetings etc, they decided to try a fertility clinic.
We live in Ireland where no such service exists or (I think) is legal - for lesbians. In the last year they have gone 7 times. Each time was unsuccessful, each time with less and less trust in the system - there is no personal touch, no feeling of getting good service from the clinic...the prices are going up, and they feel - being 'foreigners' they are being ripped off. That's all tied up with the anguish and emotions, the fertility drugs etc., etc.
About five weeks ago they came back to me - their original first preference. I've grown up, am 34 and have very different views to 7 years ago, but I am very worried. Being a donor is one thing, being the child's uncle and father is another. They gave me a book which is very much from a woman's point of view. I'm not finding much sensitivity for the man, the donor. Even the donor's experiences seem to be coming from men who are very unattached to their sperm.
I don't think I sound crazy. But I am afraid that if I donate I will be part of something very real, a reality I will want to be part of. But what happens then? I want to help my sister, I want to help her partner. But what about my parents? What about me? I've never been given the opportunity to be a dad before. I thought that was taken from me once I came out to myself 17 years ago. I need to talk to someone who has had similar experiences, those who did it and those who didn't. I'd appreciate your comments.
Joseph - Ireland."
This was my response:
Thank you for contacting us. I read your story and I think that it's very good that you're taking the matter so seriously.
I would be happy to post your question on Fertility Stories along with any answers we receive. Let me know if you are interested.
Personally, I think that there are a lot of issues involved: You would be placed in an un-natural relationship with your sister, being a co-parent to her child (which, actually, biologically would be your child). What would your legal obligations be? What would your sister and her partner's expectations be from you? What would happen if your sister and her partner decide to dissolve their relationship? Would you have visitation with the child? Have to pay child support? What if you disagree with the education they choose for the child?
It seems the matter is very complicated and would have very long-term effects on your life.
I also think you are correct in that most donors have no desire to have any sort of connection with the children born of their sperm - this has its advantages, such as keeping just the 'parents' in the picture (particularly in heterosexual couples).
I look forward to hearing from you.
Thank you for your reply. I think posting my query may be a good thing, as I need some real life experience feedback. My friends are differing very much in their opinions. Some flat out no's. Others are envious.
I'm not sure if I was clear - I am gay as well as my sister. My sister is 2 years older than I and we are very alike in looks, mannerisms and personality - strong family line hey! No wonder I am their number one choice. Since I have taken on this consideration seriously my mind has wavered and weaved from positive to negative, from fear to excitement. Each step has ramifications in each and every direction. Yep, I'm feeling a little overloaded. I'm not under pressure, although a 'no' is not going to go down well.
The need, want, to have a child I think has heightened this year with the treatments and drugs, I think my sister's girlfriend is more than ready and 'wants a baby'. I was worried about my sister. I was leaning towards a negative gut feeling up until we actually sat and talked about it. I was concerned my sister was being pushed into this, her partner is persuasive and I wondered if, like me, my sister had never really thought about having kids before. It's so hard to know...maybe if I was lucky enough to be in a long term relationship and my partner was the family kind, and I loved him dearly, then yes I think I would want to have a family.
There is so much uncertainty… And that's before the legalities. I already know that there are no legalities. I mean, there is nothing in place to protect me, as a donor - to remain just a donor. No law exists in Ireland to prevent my sister &/or her girlfriend from claiming child welfare. Would I argue it? If things were to change? How could I? The child would be biologically mine. But trust is the bind. I trust my sister, her girlfriend. I trust their ability to bring a child up well. I trust them that should circumstances change, they would not turn on me.
I know to anyone reading this I may sound very selfish, but I am trying to get to the heart of why I want to do it, why I don't. Part of me thinks - stop thinking, just do it, you can't know the outcome - who knows the outcome of a child, the conception, the birth, the life. The changing of all relationships as time passes. None of it can be controlled. Is that a positive or negative?
Thanks for listening,
We look forward to your comments.