Before I begin with my presentation I would like to thank signora Albachiara, the organization ProVita, and signore Toni Brandi for inviting me to come over and talk about an issue that most of the time isn’t addressed correctly, because people and even governments don’t want to be confronted with the actual consequences of their actions, keeping a society blind for what has happened and is happening on a lager scale more than ever before.
In the proclaimed name of equality, love and science we are creating generations of children that are being dehumanized, depriving them from vital information about themselves that should be theirs from the start.
Some people may know me from the interview I gave in the magazine Tempi. But for those who don’t know me yet: let me tell you a bit more about myself.
My name is Stephanie, I am 36 years old. I am donor conceived from Belgium. My story starts with these two persons: my mother and father.
My father was diagnosed with infertility. My mother desperately wanted to have children and persuaded him to see a specialist. This doctor suggested a ‘fertility treatment’ with the sperm of an unknown man. My parents paid a lot of money, signed a document, and they were told to keep it a secret. In the spring of 1978 my mother underwent the treatment in the doctor’s office.
8 months later I was born, but I wasn’t alone: a brother and a sister joined me. Because you see: I am a part of a triplet.
Throughout my childhood I noticed there were some things different in our family, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Somehow there were a lot of tensions. My relationship with my father was a bit troubled. I always experienced a distance between us. The love I felt for him however was unconditional.
As a child you don’t have the tendency to question the reality that is presented by your parents. You depend on them and you accept everything even to a level of obedience. When you are a child you are often told by your parents that you are not supposed to lie, so you don’t expect them to deliberately lie or keep information from you.
At the age of 25 we discovered that we were donor conceived. It came as a shock. At first I really thought it was a joke. But then it sank in and I started to realize that I had falsely identified myself biologically with a man who wasn’t my biological father. It was a lot to take in and it caused an identity crisis for my sister and me. It meant rebuilding our identity, realizing we were missing a very big part.
It is looking in the mirror and not being able to identify yourself to the fullest. The first time I looked at myself, after the truth was announced, it was as if I was looking at a stranger. Of course I can pinpoint some aspects of my being to my mother and her family members, but there is a gap… and it is a very big one.
My donor – biological father
It is strange and absurd to know that there is somebody out there to whom I am related for the half of my being. Someone that looks like me, maybe even talks like me. Someone from whom I inherited certain aspects of my personality, my abilities.
I often think of him, wondering what he looks like, what kind of a person he is, if he ever thinks of me and his other donor conceived children, if he has children of his own, if he has diseases/medical issues I should be aware of. He is a person that equally contributed to my existence, my being.
When we knew the truth we tried to obtain information but doors were immediately closed. Every request we made remained unanswered. Back in 2004 there was nowhere for donor conceived to go to. For some years we thought we were the only donor conceived in Belgium. It is not that we wear secrets signs so that you can easily tell.
You also need to be aware of the fact that most donor conceived don’t know that they are donor conceived because they are never told. And those who know: many of us are silenced sometimes by threat or by loyalty towards our parents to keep the secret a secret. Nevertheless I know a lot of donor conceived from all over the world that are suffering from the direct consequences that donor conception causes. And I know of many parents who struggle because they are confronted with a complexity they did not anticipate.
Point of no return
For me the point of no return was when I became a mother. I am showing you this picture because you will immediately see what I saw and couldn’t ignore anymore: above on the left you see a black and white picture of my husband when he was a young child. To his right you see a picture of our daughter. In the bottom left you can see our son. Beside him there is a picture of me when I was young.
It was for the first time that I could reflect myself completely in another person and it made it all so obvious. It was nature speaking out in its clearest voice. It made my missing part undeniably visible.
Being a donor conceived affects not only me as a person, it also affects my children, my relationships, my family, and when my children have children, it will also affect my grandchildren.
I decided to do something and I started an organization so that other donor conceived could get connected. I started to organize meetings but also doing a lot of research on national and international level. I met a lot of donor conceived who are struggling on all kinds of levels due how they were created.
The more information I obtained, the more people I met and talked to, the more angry I got because I came to realize that in the name of science and a so called ‘inequality’ we have created an industry with structures, treatments and even laws that allow for children to be created at the expense of their interests.
Donor conception and surrogacy
Donor conception and surrogacy are built on paradoxes and contradictions, pushed forward by a billion dollar unregulated industry that thrives on bending ethical, moral, legal and natural values.
The overruling argument that is put on the table is the self-proclaimed right to have a child. Yet nobody succeeded in explaining to me why the fact that not being able to procreate, due to infertility, same sex couples, singles, missing a womb, can ever justify the fact that we are globally dehumanizing the children that are being created to fulfil a personal need or desire. We ignore the tendencies, the risks, the scale, the abuse, the inevitable consequences, …
This society shifted when it reduced its children or human life to something that can be ordered and bought online, depriving them from access and contact with their biological parents, siblings, and family. It is intentionally and deliberately cutting off labels or adjusting them, so that reality can be bent.
Double standards are being manifested. If a child is separated from its biological parents we, as a society, consider it as a great injustice, as we should. We call it child trafficking. We have national and international laws to prevent or fight this.
But many societies, communities, politicians, the fertility industry close their eyes and hearts when it comes to the children that are conceived with donor gametes or carried by surrogate mothers.
The self proclaimed right of wanting a child has put the interests of that very own child out of the equation. Donor conceived do suffer from the fact that they are obliged to live with a gap in their identity, missing a big chunk of their ancestry. We have to endure the direct consequences of choices that adults made and this throughout our whole lives.
I am going to make a bold statement, but it is very significant and sadly very true. It will put things in perspective. Did you know there are more ways to track down the origins of a packet of meat than there is for a human being who was deliberately created in a lab, by insemination or through surrogacy? Apparently we value our food more than we do our children.
This says it all really. It is time to reflect, not to ignore the things that have happened and are happening. It is time to take a stand and not be blind anymore to the fact somewhere down the line we as a society went wrong.
And I will not be silenced by sperm banks, fertility clinics, doctors or multinationals making us believe they are doing a fantastic job by creating more people like me. Because they are not doing a fantastic job. Most of them don’t put the interests or the welfare of the children first. For them it is about getting the most clients pregnant, recruiting the best donors, achieving the highest success rates, the turnover, getting publications in magazines, … it is playing God and getting paid for it.
They keep on ignoring their responsibility, like many others do. But that doesn’t mean that we should not take our responsibility and be the voice that was silenced for decades. It is up to us to stand up and defend the rights of those children. Because we are human beings and not just commodities.
Thank you for attention.