March 25, 2019

The Changing Norms Around Donor-Sibling Networks

“By now, it’s relatively common for people conceived through sperm donation to discover half siblings floating around in the world who they’ve never met—people who, despite being strangers socially, share half their genetic material and perhaps even look, talk, or act like them. It’s a scenario that’s formed the basis for many a human-interest story and provided the backdrop for works of fiction, like the 2011 French comedy Starbuck (and its 2013 American remake, Delivery Man).

Of course, as sperm donation has grown more popular, the practices surrounding it have changed, too, trending ever more toward transparency: Today, parents of donor-conceived kids are far more likely to openly share their children’s origins with others than in the past, and more donors than ever before now opt to make their biographical details and contact information available to their donor offspring when they turn 18. In other words, sperm donation has become less of a family secret in the past few decades. In the new book Random Families, Rosanna Hertz and Margaret K. Nelson (sociologists from Wellesley and Middlebury, respectively) make the case that networks and family-like structures among genetically related donor offspring have evolved as a result.

Up until the 2010s, these networks—known colloquially as “donor-sibling networks,” and now often facilitated by social media—generally used to spring up when donor-conceived individuals discovered one another in their school-age, teenage, or adult years. Now, however, as Hertz and Nelson found in their study of recently developed donor-sibling networks, some parents are making contact with donor siblings or the parents of donor siblings as soon as their children are born or even conceived. These parents in particular have a unique vision for what the donor-sibling network could offer their kids later in life—they see it as something like a cross between an extended family and an alumni network.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Daily Picks

"China’s Hydrogen economy Is coming: The world’s electric-vehicle king is seeking leadership in fuel cells, too. Investors are probably right to be excited."

"It would be the height of naivete to believe the book is closed. Democrats on Capitol Hill are not just going to take the attorney general's conclusions and move on to new things."

"Netanyahu has brazenly allied himself with Trump’s Administration and his family (including the cryptic peace negotiator, Jared Kushner, whose family he has known for years), as well as with the Republican Party and Republican funders..."

"Us is stranger than Get Out, with deeper philosophical undercurrents flowing through it. The rabbit that greets you at the movie’s start is an invitation. Will you follow, like Alice in her Wonderland?"

"Democrats and Republicans seem to have irreconcilable views on economics, but on one point they agree: Small business is better than big."

"Sanctuary, a digital astrology start-up backed by $1.5 million in venture capital, made the considered decision to launch its service on Wednesday — the dawn of the new astrological year, when Pisces gives way to Aries in the astral cycle."

"It is a Vessel for the depths of architectural cynicism, of form without ideology and without substance: an architectural practice that puts the commodifiable image above all else, including the social good..."

"Apartment Therapy posted a photo to Instagram of a bookshelf with the spines facing inward, and the dramatic response — dozens of users denouncing the trend as anti-intellectual, even comparing it to book-burning ..."

"Perhaps it is time to add parenting to the growing list of “replacement religions” competing for our attention and currency these days, a list that already includes workism and politics."

"Only a fraction of the world’s yeast species have been discovered. The ones still out there could revolutionize health care, green energy, and beer."

"We’ve recently fixated on expunging “fake news” but the medical world also has its charlatans. The snake-oil salespeople, masquerading as health professionals, are naturopaths."

"...should we continue to teach thinkers like Kant, Voltaire and Hume without mention of the harmful prejudices they helped legitimize?"