Biracial lesbian seeking known donor of color

May 12 | Guest post by Annemarie
brown eyes
Photo by Flickr user karomanah 1980, used with Creative Commons license.
As a biracial lesbian, one of the first issues I had to contend with when mapping my road to mamahood was the race issue. It didn't take long for me to determine that the race of my donor was important to me, but it did take a while for me to be okay with that decision.

At the beginning of my journey, "brown" was at the top of my list. I wanted, as much as it was (im)possible to control, to have a baby with whom I shared a skin color. I have struggled with this desire for a brown child on and off the entire first year of my search for a known donor.

I'm brown and my mom is white — one of the repeating realities of my childhood was being out with my mom and seeing the shock on people's faces when they found out that's who she was. She often had to deal with questions, like people asking if she was baby-sitting. The inability to consider biological connection due to a difference in skin color stings me in retrospect. My mom laughed it off… but I'm not laughing. As I contemplate having my own child, especially as a queer woman and even moreso as a prospective single parent, I can't escape the desire to have a child who at least looks like he or she belongs to me.

It has been a difficult process. It's not about being intolerant or loving a child less if they are not brown. It's the simple desire to have something I never did: a clear, visible link between mother and child. Genes have a mind of their own, so even if I found a donor of color, there was no guarantee of what my baby would look like.

However, I am determined to try my best to increase the odds. In a process that is full of unromantic decisions that has had me lamenting "That's not fair!" on several occasions, I have finally given myself permission to want that, and to choose to make it a criteria for a known donor.

I was tentative about my desire at first. What would people think of me? When I put the word out on a parenting listserv, my introductory email said that I was looking for someone "preferably of color." When I turned down a Caucasian man who replied, he rightly replied back that if I definitely wanted someone of color, I should just say so. It was a lesson in clarity, but also in not being afraid to stand behind what I want.

If I was quietly combing the sperm banks for an anonymous donor, this wouldn't be an issue — ethnicity and race are actually selection criteria. I'd make my choice and that would be that. Point, click, and pay.

My parents don't get it. They insist that healthy is the only thing I should worry about. Of course they are right — in a practical sense. But then, they are uni-racial, and grew up with families that looked like them. Our adventures of mis-identity obviously didn't leave scars on them as they have on me. I want a healthy baby that shares my skin color so that no one is going to ask me if I'm the nanny, whose child he or she is (or who I am) when I'm at the park, in the grocery store, or when I show up for parent-teacher interviews.

If I was quietly combing the sperm banks for an anonymous donor, this wouldn't be an issue — ethnicity and race are actually selection criteria. I'd make my choice and that would be that. Point, click and pay. If I was Black or even White, wanting a child that looks like me may not be an issue. And if I was in a heterosexual relationship, and in love with my partner, it wouldn't be an issue for me either.

But… I'm biracial. Maybe that means people expect more from me in terms of racial fluidity. In fact, I expected more from myself. But when I talk to my one other multi-racial friend, I am reminded of the importance of place and belonging that comes from looking like your family. It's huge for us, and it's my reality. My other reality is that I'm a lesbian. That means that there will be no "mom, dad, and baby" walks through the park to help people make the color connection like they did with my parents and me.

In the end, through my search for a known donor, I have found that other criteria could trump race. I also learned that knowing what I want gives me more chances of finding it: I want a brown baby. And it's okay to want that.

  1. I think some things have changed since we were young. My daughter is biracial, and I am VERY white. Blonde and very pale skin while she has beautiful dark brown/black curly hair with a tan complection. I only ran into a situation one time where someone even mentioned that she might not be mine. It was done in such an ignorant way that I didn't even consider it as anything more than a racist woman making her opinion known about Mexicans. My daughter is half black I pointed out, and she is an American citizen but thanks for the concern I don't think ICE will be coming to take her away because I'm not carrying her birth certificate. I do understand your desire to have a visual connection and I will make sure I keep that in the back of my head to be sensitive about with my girl. :) Thanks for the other perspective, because I know when I look at people I don't think twice about those things. I never considered it might hurt her feelings if someone were to point out our differences.

    3 agree
  2. The funny thing is, even if you found a "brown" doner genes can be a funny thing. I'm a dark complected biracial woman who ended up with a blonde haired, blue eyed, fair-skinned son. The same thing happened to two of my cousins who also happen to be biracial. The other partners aren't "brown" but they're not fair-skinned either.

    5 agree
  3. Love this, because sometimes our desires, wishes or hopes create guilt, when in fact they shouldnt. Thank you for having the strength to write this. :)

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  4. I have gotten the "is that YOUR son?" "Is he adopted?" and "Where did he get -insert feature- from?" many many times and understand wanting to avoid those comments. They are at least rude and at worst hurtful, and mean. I hope you find what you are looking for.

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  5. Thank you for sharing your story. To be honest, it made me a little sad. I'm Irish and my husband is Haitian, and I know there is very little chance that our child(ren) will look like me. And honestly I had only ever considered my feelings on this – never my future kids'. Was there anything your parents and their family/friends could have done to make this easier for you growing up?

    8 agree
    • I have friends with biracial kids, and you can totally see my white friend in her kids. You'll be pleasantly surprised to see your nose but with his skin tone or his eye shape with your eye color. They'll look like you, to you and others who care to see past skin tone.

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  6. I respect your honesty. I think it's important to always be honest with one's self You're trying to set up your family in the best way for you, that's a good thing! : )

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  7. i had always imagined that i would look down for the first time at my newborn and see a bald, blue eyed baby – just like all 15 of my younger cousins, and my younger siblings.

    i didn't even think while dating my husband that if we did eventually have children – that the likelihood of that was very slim.

    this was confirmed when i had my first baby, and she looks just like her father. the second one will most likely look just like him as well, his genes are just more dominant.

    if you have the chance to pick what your child will (hopefully) look like to suit that "vision" you always had – why not?

    good luck, and i hope genetics works in your favour :-)

    • I just want to say that you never know! I have very dark features due to being 1/2 greek. My son is blond and blue eyes! My husband even has dark hair but his brother and mom were blond as babies. So you just never know what kind of genetic throwback you will get.

      3 agree
  8. You want your child to have what you didn't have and I see nothing wrong with that. Light-up shoes, a swing set, matching skin… you're giving your child what you always wanted. I don't think it should be taboo just because it involves race.

    BTW, my BFF growing up was bi-racial. She looked exactly like her white mom, like a little replica, except her skin and hair were darker.

    3 agree
  9. love this. i'm actually biracial/queer myself, and when i do decide to have children i also find that i want brown children. sometimes i feel guilty about it too but, i don't know, being brown has made up so much of my identity that there are a lot of things about it that i want to share with my future child(ren). i don't know if that's bad–it's just the way it is.

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  10. Hi I wandered over from OffbeatHome. Just throwing in my two cents. Genes can be a super odd thing. So don't stress about color too much. Ignorant people will be ignorant regardless of how much you try to accommodate them. My boyfriend gets asked if he and his brothers are adopted constantly! His dad isn't in the picture but is a HUGE Scandinavian type. So the boyfriend looks like a viking, his twin looks like a less mean Snape and their younger brother looks like Ron Weasley. Their mother is a tiny woman with dark skin and dark hair. Many times people have started speaking Spanish to her in the store assuming she is Latina. People make mailman/milkman comments a lot to their mother and it hurts her and they don't even think how these comments could affect her or her kids. So even if you look for a "brown" donor you don't know what you will get. So be prepared no matter what and best of luck!

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  11. Thanks for being so honest. I just thought I would throw in my two cents. As a woman who may not typically look like a mother, I am asked on a regular basis if my children are mine (twice today). People seem genuinely curious and it never hurts my feelings. That may be because one of them looks a lot like me and we are all very Scandinavian. I don't know how much race plays into it because my friends with mix race children have quite the opposite opinion and (assuming that you are a child of the early 80s) you might be surprised at how people's opinions and curiosities have changed. Good luck!

  12. I completely understand this. Having a baby is a primal experience. And a lot our desires often aren't rooted in logic. Good for you for following your instincts.

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  13. Annemarie, thanks so much for your sincere perspective on this issue. You've made a lot of good points.

    I think what some of the lighter-skinned commenters are missing out on when they talk about their darker baby, is that the phenomenon of being viewed as the babysitter, the nanny, or even stranger that must be watched is much more prevalent if you are a darker-skinned mother of a much lighter-skinned baby.

    It's obvious you would love your baby regardless of what the genetic lottery gives you – you stated this understanding yourself – but if you can have some level of control you want to put the fates on your side.

    Good luck with your endeavour and stay true to yourself.

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  14. I'm not biracial, but I totally grok this. I looked *nothing* like my mom growing up (despite our both being White and our genetic link — I'm not adopted). And my mom and dad split up when I was very small and I only saw him summers.

    No one ever said anything (well, to my knowledge, tho my mom loves to tell the story of an older lady in Chinatown asking her if my dad was Chinese). But I can see we don't look alike (actually, as I get older I'm taking on some more of her characteristics). It was what it was.

    But when I was pregnant, that was one of my fears at the very end: what if the baby doesn't look like me? (Also strangely: what if the baby's ugly? Everyone thought that was really shallow… I'm so not that person, either, but hormones…)

    Anyway, it turns out that even tho *everyone* says my kid is the spitting image of my husband, I see him through the lens of me and that's enough. (And to be honest, I think my mom didn't want to see me through the lens of her because she felt broken and ugly, and that now makes me sad in a way I had no clue about before I had a child. As a kid I only saw her beauty.)

    Good luck to you, in pregnancy and mama-hood! Maybe not everyone gets your point of view, but you are owning it and that's (in my book) an awesome thing.

    2 agree
  15. Thank you for sharing this. When we chose our (known) donor, we were excited that he had some of the same features as my partner (I was the pregnant one). But the one thing he DIDN'T have that we "wanted" (read: I was obsessed with) was blue eyes. Striking crystal blue eyes are a really prominent feature in my Irish family, my partner has blue eyes, and I just REALLY wanted my daughter to have that trait. I wanted people to wonder equally whether she's biologically my partner's or mine when we were going out as a family.

    Well, she ended up looking exactly like me, with hazel eyes (so far; she's 7 months). And you know what? She's beautiful, and I wouldn't have her any other way…

    But it doesn't mean that the eyes thing wasn't important to me, and it's totally human nature to want our offspring to look like us, I think. I'd venture to guess having your kids look like you is an evolutionary thing, and the desire to have a child "have a little bit" of both parents in them is more primal than anything.

    I wish you luck on your donor search (it's one of the hardest and most humbling, amazing things I've ever gone through!) and best wishes for you as you start this awesome journey!

  16. This is something I really struggled with when I realized I was going to marry my fiance – who's Anglo-Indian, with a mix of Indian, British and Portuguese running through his veins. Growing up, I had always pictured myself with a blond haired, blue-eyed baby, since that's what my brother and I both were as children. I had some worries when I pictured myself having children that didn't look like me, and it made me sad.

    The genetic lottery is a funny thing, though. My fiance doesn't necessarily look Indian, thanks to all that mixed blood, as his skin is very fair, though he has black hair and brown eyes. His brother, though, looks very Indian, with Indian bone structure and darker skin, but with hazel eyes!

    I know both the boys struggled alot with feelings of not-belonging growing up. They were too brown to be British or American, but too fair and Christian to mix with more traditional Hindu or Muslim Indians.

    Once I talked about my worries with my fiance, I know they made him sad, but interestingly it was like the elephant in the room – once we talked about it, my worries went away. Now I'm just happy hoping our children will have something of me – knowing how crazy the genetic lottery is, who knows what we'll actually get?

  17. Wow, it seems like I'm the only one whose kids look alot like me. Even the baby looks alot like his older brothers and they have different fathers.

    Of course, since everyone could tell they are mine, I got the looks that said "teenage mom" even though I wasn't.

    I suppose there is always something.

  18. Wow Annemarie, I'm really touched by your post. I'm a single, caucasian mom who went to a sperm bank to have my daughter. I thought I would go for the tall, dark type (that I'm usually attracted to) but in the end I chose an average-height man with fair skin and brown hair. And you know what, it was because he LOOKED LIKE ME!
    If the baby was going to have a tall, dark Dad, I would have been overjoyed that they would look like each other. But that wasn't going to be the case.

    In the end, it's not so much a racial issue. It's wanting your child to look like you, even more so if you're a single parent. The visual link obviously doesn't make a family, but it's totally legitimate to want it.

    3 agree
  19. Thanks so much for sharing this, Annemarie. I completely relate to what you're going through right now…but from the opposite perspective.

    My partner and I are currently in the process of finding a donor and it's bean a real learning experience. At first we wanted to find a known donor who shares her ethnic background, since I'll be the one to carry. We found out that I'm CMV negative, though, which makes things much trickier, since we don't want to have to go through the whole process of finding someone, asking him to donate, then finding out he's CMV positive/reactive (which is highly likely) and having to start all over again. I don't mean to perpetuate bs social pressures, but the fact is that I'm 36 and we don't have the luxury of tons of time.

    So, we've been looking at all the cryobank catalogs and have come to find out that, apparently, Arab men don't donate. We've even branched out to look at donors who are Israeli, Persian, Pakistani, you name it, in the hopes that the donor's genes might combine with my white ones in such a way that our child will look like it could also be hers. No dice.

    At this point my partner has decided that skin color is far lower on the list of priorities than family medical history. Of course I agree, but yet I've realized that I'm quite uncomfortable with the idea of having a lily-white baby that looks just like me. I'm not sure what the solution is, but it's good to know that I'm not the only one struggling with the desire…or with the discomfort around it.

    • I have a similar dilemma. While we haven't started our search yet, I have always been attracted to the idea of having a Caucasian/Asian biracial sperm donor, just like my partner. But she claims not to care! She figures if she wants to carry our second child (which she claims she doesn't want to do, but with her talking that way, I'm a bit skeptical) then if the donor is biracial, the kid might end up looking more like her! (Then again, due to recent relevations about my genetic history I think I might have some Asian recessives lurking anyway….) I think *I* actually want a biracial donor more than her.

      Of course, it's probably all moot because I doubt there are many biracial donors out there!

  20. Thank you for sharing this! It's so awesome to hear other's point of view on these things!

    All the talk of genes reminds me of a family of 8 I know. The Mum is very fair, the father is quite olive skinned. 3 of their children are fair, 3 are olive toned. There doesn't seem to be any in between!

  21. To an extent I understand what you mean. My father is Native American and Spanish, while my mother is white. Especially during the summer when I tanned, we got a lot of people in public asking if I was hers. A few people flat out refused to believe I was related to my blond grandmother and aunt. As a child I always thought it was funny though. It was a private joke that the rest of the world just didn't get, and I was okay with that. However, several years ago I fell in love with a man who's coloring is VERY similar to mine, and I couldn't help daydreaming about how perfectly matched my babies would be. They would look just like me, they'd have my skin and my hair and the family photos would be idyllic. But then the relationship fell apart and I actually mourned the loss of those imaginary fantasy babies. Then, I met HIM. The most perfect man I've ever known. And he's black. It took me a little while to reconcile myself with the idea that when we have children, people won't automatically say "She looks just like you!" and exclaim over what a homogeneous little family we are. It was hard. But I'm okay with that now. I can't wait to meet our children and see who's smile they have, who's fingers, who's ears…And I know that no matter what their skin looks like, they will still be a part of me and have their mother's SOMETHING. And that makes me happy.

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  22. I have a good friend, who is of South Asian origin, while her husband is white. Their son is lighter that his Mom.

    When he was in High School, his Mom went to book a parent-teacher interview, and the school made her show ID to prove she was his Mom. It was ridiculous. What did they think? Some random crazy woman came in off the street and wanted to book a parent-teacher interview for some random kid?

    Still makes me fume to think about it.

  23. My wife and I are using a known donor to get pregnant! My wife is bi-racial (caucasian-Chinese mix), and I'm full blood caucasian (British Isle mish mash, with a Scottish last name). We have the exact same hair colour and very similar eye colour, and we are often mistaken for sisters. Both of our moms have blue eyes and our dads have brown eyes, so we're pretty sure both of us carry a blue-eye recessive gene, which should be interesting because our DONOR HAS BLUE EYES.

    Each of us wants to be the gestational mamma, same donor. We're guessing that because we're mistaken for sisters on a regular basis (despite the whole half-Chinese thing), our kids, who will be technically half siblings, will look very similar. Thus, the child my wife births may be 1/4 Asian mixed with German (her mom), and whatever our donor is (can't remember at this moment) with blue eyes and dark brown hair.

    I actually look Asian as a baby anyways, so this could be interesting!! 😀

  24. This was very interesting to read. I get very confused about race and identity and babies sometimes because my two brothers are adopted, and African- while I'm a biological child and caucasian. They were adopted when they were a few months old and I was four, and now that we're all grown up I feel strange at the idea of having white kids (my partner is white). I'm not sure if it's because I've never really been around a white baby, but it gets to me that it seems to matter.

    I understand how your childhood experiences have given you a strong desire to look like your baby- some people might only be inquisitive, but often they're more sinister. I'll never forget when we tried to board a train with a family ticket as kids and the woman checking tickets said to my mother "you do know these tickets are for parents and their own children, don't you?"

  25. While I can't relate to the donor part of this, I can relate to the growing-up not looking like your parent part. My adoptive mom has very olive skin and black hair…and is about 5'5 on a tall day. My blonde hair blue eyed 6'1 self always wished I blended just a bit more easily. My mom's 4th grader once said, "is that Mrs.G's daughter? She looks nothing like her…she's white!" So, needless to say, I was very excited that my biological child would look like me!

    I think its great that you know you want to see yourself reflected back in your child's coloring.

  26. While I know it pales in comparison to having a completely different skin color, I can still relate to this. My son, who is a beautiful blonde-haired, blue-eyed photo copy of his dad, looks nothing like my black-haired (ok.. it's pink. but was black at some point in my early life), green-eyed self. He shares no features of mine, and I often get strange looks from people, and have even had coworkers see photos of him and ask "who's kid is that?" It's hurtful to us for others to assume that this life we made is not our own. It doesn't make us any less their parents, though… and that's what is most important.

    1 agrees

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