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I was created using donated sperm, and during my teenage years, I learned that I have 14 half-siblings, which are sometimes referred to as “diblings.” – Freya Stuart-Hopkins


I have always been aware that I was conceived through a donor. As I grew older, I found happiness in this knowledge, appreciating the unique circumstances of my birth. I no longer worry about being teased by other kids for having a sperm donor who was only interested in quick cash and risque materials.

I am now able to discuss with my long-time friends, new acquaintances I come across in the designated smoking section, or even potential romantic partners; proudly sharing a vegan dish that was sent to me by my donor-sibling (dibling) or the vacation pictures I just received from my sperm donor.

In the past, I received a mysterious email from an unfamiliar sender which had a significant impact on my life. The email, titled “Information”, was sent by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) informing me that I have two donor siblings who were interested in meeting family members through an official website. At the age of 16, I found out from HFEA that I have a total of 14 donor half-siblings who were born within a span of five years. However, it was unexpected to hear that some of them now wanted to connect with me.

Although initially feeling uncertain about this discovery, I found a strong sense of belonging during my teenage years when I learned about my genetic connections. This prompted me to take a DNA test through an ancestry website in hopes of finding other relatives. When I received the results, I was shocked to see that we shared 50% DNA and that the predicted relationship was parent/child on my paternal side. I had finally found my sperm donor. Prior to this, I never allowed myself to think about learning more about my donor. I was born before 2005, when a change in the law allowed donor-conceived individuals born after April 1, 2005 to access information about their donors once they turned 18. As someone born in 2000, I had always believed that my donor would remain a mystery, known only by the six pieces of information I received at birth: height, skin color, hair color, eye color, occupation, and interests.

However, complete anonymity for donors is no longer guaranteed. Advances in technology have enabled individuals conceived through donor insemination to search for their biological origins. The increasing popularity of DNA testing kits, including the one I personally used, and the availability of alternative methods such as social media and online forums, have prompted a revision of laws. The HFEA has recently suggested amending the UK’s 33-year-old fertility law to remove a donor’s right to remain anonymous from birth for any individual conceived through donor insemination.

This represents a significant change for the UK and is understandably controversial. Views differ among the 70,000 individuals who were conceived through donors in the UK since 1991; we are a highly diverse group with differing levels of curiosity about our donor heritage, and some of us may still be unaware of our donor origins.

I am excited about the increased openness surrounding donor conception and I hope that others also have the opportunity to have positive experiences connecting with their donors, like I have. It is a basic human right for individuals to have the choice to know their biological relatives. For many, understanding one’s genetic background is crucial; it can help shape personal identity, provide important medical information, and lead to fulfilling relationships.

The HFEA’s recent update does not fully address certain complexities that impact families with donor-conceived children, as pointed out by the Donor Conception Network. Currently, the minimum age for donor-conceived children to learn about their “diblings” is 16. With the new update, will they be able to find out at a younger age? Additionally, will these children be required to give consent for their parents to obtain identifiable information from their donor? This is an important factor to consider in order to ensure that the decision to learn about the donor remains with the donor-conceived individual.

Being donor-conceived can undoubtedly bring up complex emotions. When I was a teenager, I was racked with fears that my dad treated me differently to his biological children. My dad’s own concerns over the years have centred around imagining that a tall, intelligent, handsome man would inevitably come and sweep me away from my family. What is clear to me is that with this proposed change in the law, donor-conceived families must have access to the emotional support necessary for navigating these complex circumstances.

The HFEA suggests that both prospective donor parents and donors receive mandatory counseling before undergoing treatment. Additionally, families should also receive counseling as they learn more about the donor. Personally, I found the HFEA counseling session before contacting one of my biological half-siblings to be extremely helpful in understanding my emotional expectations for our relationship. As there is more transparency in the process, there are also more opportunities for connection and complexity, requiring additional support for families with donor-conceived children.

  • Freya Stuart-Hopkins recently obtained a degree in political science and international relations and will soon be working in the field of education.

Source: theguardian.com