COLAGE, the national organization for people with LGBTQ+ parents, recently released an updated edition of its groundbreaking guide for donor-conceived people with LGBTQ+ parents. It’s an invaluable resource for youth and young adults—but also feels critical for the parents and other adults supporting them.
“Donor Conceived: A Guide for People Who Have LGBTQ+ Parents and Were Born via Donor Conception and/or Surrogacy” is a revised version of the organization’s 2010 guide specifically for donor conceived people (DCPs) with LGBTQ+ parents. That focus is important. As the new introduction notes, “Although we acknowledge there are many DCP born to straight parents, the experience of DCP with LGBTQ+ parents is unique and presents specific challenges and joys. We recognize that DCP with straight parents may not agree with or understand our perspectives on these issues—this guide is for us, by us.”
The new guide also expands the scope of the earlier version, which only included people born via sperm donation. COLAGE National Program Director Angel Martin explained to me, “We know that donor conceived people have very diverse experiences and conception stories so we wanted to include language about and perspectives from those born through egg donation and surrogacy as well.”
The new guide has also updated terminology. “In the past decade, awareness and terminology around gender has evolved towards more inclusive terms that recognize that gender is not binary,” Martin said.
“A lot of the guide references reproduction so this updated guide uses medical vocabulary rather than gender-based vocabulary.”
There are separate chapters for DCPs who know their donors, for those with unknown donors (either completely anonymous or “open identity,” allowing contact when the child turns 18), and for those born through gestational surrogacy. Each chapter is packed with the varied experiences of DCP COLAGErs in their own words, sharing their differing thoughts about the relationships they have or want to have with their donors. One said, for example, “I don’t know who my donor is, and while I have been curious at times, it isn’t something of any importance to me or my family”; in contrast, another said, “I was extremely curious to know who my donor was, why they had chosen to be a donor, and their medical history. Finding out who he was had been on my mind for years.”
The guide stresses, “There is no right or wrong way to feel about these topics,” but notes that the examples provided may help readers “take comfort in the fact that you are not alone in your experience.” The emphasis is on what DCPs themselves may be feeling and empowering them to make decisions that are right for them. The guide even suggests ways that they can discuss donors with their (the DCPs’) parents — sometimes an easy thing, but other times complicated by parents’ differing considerations.
Other topics covered include the pros and cons of trying to contact a donor or half siblings; deciding whether to try and find the identity of an unknown donor; how to build relationships if you do, and where to get support.
Another useful chapter covers “Talking to Others About Your Family,” looking in detail at some of the hurdles DCP COLAGErs might face, from concerns about using sexual terminology (“sperm,” etc.) to dealing with people’s incorrect assumptions. It offers sample language that people may wish to use, depending upon their specific type of donor conception, but also importantly notes, “It is okay to not tell everyone how your family was formed or who your parent(s) are.”
A section of “Advice for Prospective and Current Parents” is a must-read for any LGBTQ+ parent who (like myself) has used or is considering donor conception. (I suggest that parents read the whole guide — but especially this section.) If you’ve ever wondered whether or how to talk with your kid(s) about their donor(s) or pondered some of the feelings your kid(s) may have about being donor conceived, this is for you.
Aimed at DCPs, but also useful for parents is a section titled, “’What Are My Rights?’ A Legal Resource for People with LGBTQ+ Parents Born via Donor Conception,” which discusses vital questions like “Who is legally considered my parent?” “If my parents are separated, do both my parents have rights to parenting time?” “Can I find out who my anonymous donor is?” and more.
A section of “Advice for Teachers, School Administrators, and Others Working in Schools” suggests ways to normalize different family structures in classrooms; how to communicate with DCPs and their families about who the student considers their parent(s); why Mother’s/Father’s Day projects and family tree exercises can be challenging for DCPs and how to find alternatives; and other ways of being respectful and inclusive without divulging more than a student wants known about their family.
There is information here, too, about opportunities to get involved with COLAGE and where to find relevant books, films, and more.
“We view this as a living document and are excited to add even more stories to this guide in the future,” Martin said. “We are grateful for the original author’s efforts in spearheading this guide and hope that donor conceived COLAGErs find the updated version useful.”
COLAGE also recently updated its People with Trans Parents resource guide and is working on a guide for adopted COLAGErs. Download all the guides free from the COLAGE website (colage.org).
Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian (mombian.com), a GLAAD Media Award-winning blog and resource directory, with a searchable database of 1000+ LGBTQ family books and more.