Family / Family-building

Lez Talk About Donors

medium_120862048When lesbians have kids, people of the world are suddenly entitled to ask how you got them. No one tells you this and maybe you don’t expect it but it just happens. I remember the first time my partner and I took our newborn son out into the world with the hope of having a peaceful cup of coffee and a bagel and an old woman came up to us, smiled and then asked, “Who’s the father?”

We looked at each other for what seemed like eternity but obviously wasn’t because the woman didn’t squirm or walk away and then my partner found her voice first and said, “He doesn’t have a father.”

The woman nodded and then asked, “So, which one of you is the mother?” This time, without missing a beat, we both replied, “We both are.” Her eyebrows shot up and she said, “Oh. Well, he’s lovely.”

Many versions of this conversation have taken place over the past 11 or so years.

“Who is the father?”

“Do the kids have the same dad?”

“Do you know your donor?”

“Why did you choose an unknown donor?”

“You could pick any donor and you chose a guy who was only 5 foot 6?!”

Okay…that last one was from our son.

Over the years, we have come up with simple answers to dole out when asked.

“No father, just a donor.”

“Same donor.”


“We felt more comfortable with an unknown donor.”

“There are no small donors only small…well, okay…he was super small. Sorry.”

The truth is a bit more complicated, of course. We chose an unknown donor because 12 years ago, even in a state with second parent adoption, the fate of that second parent was in the hands of a judge and we had to hope we’d get the “good one”.

We were lucky and got the “good one” and then, by the time the second kid came around, all the judges were good ones.

With all the legal aspects of our choice rendered irrelevant, we can now focus on the biggest hidden benefit of an unknown donor.


Does your kid have the attention span of a gnat who’s been stuck in a can of Red Bull? Remember the donor’s profile and his interest in EVERY SINGLE SPORT AND CLUB AND INSTRUMENT EVER! That was a sign.

Does your kid talk non-stop? Remember that the donor checked “Friendly!” and “Extroverted!” on the form and added those exclamation points himself.

Is your kid the most stubborn child in all the land? That could never be from you. Pore over that donor profile until you find an explanation.

You can blame anything you want on an unknown donor because no one knows who he is!

An unknown donor is the gift that keeps on giving.

Now, if your kid is brilliant – that’s all you.

At least that’s true with my kids.








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  1. I love your suggested benefits of an unknown donor, although I usually tell people Ian McKellan is my baby daddy. After all, he’s Gandolph AND Magneto!

  2. GrandeMocha says:

    I love “β€œYou could pick any donor and you chose a guy who was only 5 foot 6?!” He is so funny!!!

    I blame everything on my husband.

  3. People do feel entitled to ask the most intrusive questions. I have been known to answer them honestly and sweetly and then fire back with an equally intrusive question.

    • I fancy myself a queer ambassador so I try to answer honestly and sweetly and then get away before my snarky nature makes an appearance.

      • You’re a better and more patient person than I am. πŸ™‚

      • Me too, which is why I crave spaces like this where we can snark at will. As a suburbanite lesbimom, I often play the role of interpreter for and/or educator of the heterosexist masses. One of the things I miss most about living in a queercentric environment is the humor, something that requires a shared cultural understanding, which I rarely find in the ‘burbs. So, from the bottom of my laughing heart, thank you for bringing the funny. I love it.

  4. OMG, it never occurred to me that I could blame my kids’ annoying qualities on their unknown donor! Vikki, you are a genius.

  5. I have to admit, I’m curious about donor questions. It’s one of those things where I know we have certain things that attract us to our spouses, but what attracts someone to a donor? Do you choose someone who is most like one of you in personality and looks? Or both of you? Or completely opposite? What’s the thought process behind that? I’d think it would be really exciting.

    However, I’d really like to think I wouldn’t ask strangers those questions. I haven’t in the past, at least. But I do know both parts of the couple are the mothers. Or the fathers. I wouldn’t ask that question. I’m so cosmopolitan.

  6. Cosmopolitanism FTW!

    Like Vikki, for whatever reason (Libra? first job was as a helpful retail clerk? second was in the teaching profession?) I fancy myself a Queer Ambassador, too (in a post years ago, I described it as feeling like a docent in the LGBT family museum). So I actually appreciate the questions, insofar as it opens up a moment where someone’s ignorance (or even presumptuousness) can be mended with Actual Information From a Real Lesbian Parent.

    Our donor is the “personally known” kind (ex-husband of one of my oldest friends), so if we blame this or that unwelcome quality on him, we’re actually just besmirching Special Uncle Pat. So that’s out. But as the one with zero biological input, I like to say that the kids get all their finest qualities from me. Always a conversation-stopper.

  7. “Cloning” is my favorite answer.

  8. The younger of our two boys is thoughtful, giving and easy-going. He loves the outdoors and new experiences. He endears himself to all children of all ages and grown ups. When he walks outside into a gloomy, rainy day, he says, “What a beautiful day!!” Our donor is clearly the cause of this happy-go-lucky personality which is unrecognizable to me. The older one is, poor thing, exactly like me. I could try to lay blame elsewhere, but I’d be certified as delusional.

  9. This is great. We have the same questions asked all the time and give the same answers you do. The best part of an unknown donor is that everything bad is always his fault. LOL Our daughter will not keep shoes on and that is totally not me so we always say she gets that from her donor daddy. She is sharp as a whip, she gets that from me. πŸ™‚ Great post.

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