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The Kids Are Not Always Alright

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

According to a popular 2010 movie, the children of anonymous sperm donors are often successful at tracking down their donor dad(s), and in the end, to use the movie’s title, “The Kids Are Alright.” The website, which features the real life stories of “voluntary and involuntary participants in these [reproductive] technologies,” paints a very different picture.


In 2010, Elizabeth Marquardt and a team of family scholars produced a deeply disturbing 140 page report entitled, “My Daddy’s Name is Donor: A New Study of Young Adults Conceived through Sperm Donation.” According to the report, “on average, young adults conceived through sperm donation are hurting more, are more confused, and feel more isolated from their families. They fare worse than their peers raised by biological parents on important outcomes such as depression, delinquency and substance abuse. Nearly two-thirds agree, ‘My sperm donor is half of who I am.’ . . . More than half say that when they see someone who resembles them they wonder if they are related. Almost as many say they have feared being attracted to or having sexual relations with someone to whom they are unknowingly related.”

Most of this would come as quite a surprise to viewers of “The Kids Are Alright,” a drama-comedy which told the story of two children conceived by artificial insemination and raised by their lesbian mothers. USA Today gave the movie high marks, saying that it “approaches perfection.” The reviewer called it “probing, poignant and, above all, highly entertaining,” without suggesting for a moment that there was anything controversial about two lesbians deciding to have kids through (anonymous) artificial insemination, thereby choosing to deprive children of a father.


But what’s the big deal? Everybody’s doing it these days, right? Just ask Elton John and his partner, who decided to bring a little boy into the world at the expense of him being raised by his biological mom. After all, what’s the big deal about having a mom and a dad?

This poem, entitled “Uncertainty is Killing Me,” just one of many on the AnonymousUs website, gives us the child’s perspective. Do we dare to stop, read, and listen?

Who are you?

Will I pass you in the street?

Will you hold the door for me and smile as I walk into a gas station during my travels?

Will you look at me and wonder if I belong to you?

You have the pleasure of knowing I could be here.

For nineteen years, I was denied of knowing you even existed.

What was MY grandmother, YOUR mother like?

What about MY grandfather, YOUR father?

Why do you get to selfishly keep them all to yourself?

Who are you to deny me half of my family tree--

Branches rich and strong with stories I may never be told?

Who are you to give away my heritage, knowing it will be replaced with something false?

Do I have brothers and sisters with my dark hair, my deep brown eyes?

Will I be attracted to a familiar stranger in my classes?

Will I fall in love with him and kiss him passionately in an act of accidental incest?

Have you told your wife?

Have you told your partner?

What about your children?

Have you told your brothers and sisters about their mysterious niece?

Are you dead?

Will you ever read this?

Have you dismissed it as something in your past that you did to make ends meet?

Did they pay you to give me away?

What did you spend the money on?

Did you buy a sparkly necklace for your ex-girlfriend?

Did you buy books?

(The bank you went to would have paid you half of my College Algebra book for the donation that included me).

Did you buy a candy bar at a gas station?

Was I worth it?

Do you miss me?

Do you ever think of me?

Do I even cross your mind?

Does the uncertainty drive you crazy?

Was it worth it?

Do you wonder when my birthday is?

What color gown I wore to my graduation?

Would you be proud to know I was the Valedictorian of my senior class?

Would you support that I am Christian?

Would you even want me in your life?

I want you in mine.

I will accept anything about you, if I could just get the privilege of knowing who you are, of knowing who my family is.


Actor Mark Ruffalo, who played the sperm donor in The Kids Are Alright, appears to have no idea that such pain exists, saying of those who stand for natural, organic (= male-female) marriage that, “It’s the last dying, kicking, screaming, caged animal response to a world that is changing, a world that’s leaving a lot of those old, bigoted, un-accepting views behind. It’s over. Those against it are very tricky and they’re using really dark ways to promote their ideas.”

Perhaps Ruffalo can tell the author of “Uncertainty is Killing Me” that the sentiments expressed there are “very tricky” and “really dark,” part of a “last dying, kicking, screaming, caged animal response to a world that is changing”?

It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who said, “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world it leaves to its children.” What kind of world are we leaving to our children?

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