About a month ago I wrote about a really interesting little essay on the Motherlode blog. It was by Tamsin Eva and was about her experience as a parent of a donor-conceived child. Since then I’ve followed her blog–The D List–and thus I came across this post a few days ago.
Two things really struck me. One was her statement:
I used to think we were like a lesbian couple because we always knew we couldn’t conceive kids together and would need a donor. Now I feel like a lesbian couple, more because we live in a supportive bubble and I’ve had to move past caring what anyone thinks anyway.
(Perhaps I need to be clear here that Eva is married to a man.) I often think of the differences between a straight couple using third-party sperm and a lesbian couple doing the same thing. In so many ways I think it’s less complicated for lesbians. A man might feel that he had failed in some fundamental way if he were unable to produce viable sperm, but surely a woman wouldn’t? It’s hardly her job to produce sperm. A straight couple might be tempted not to tell their children that they were conceived with third party sperm, but surely a lesbian couple has no choice in the matter.
Given that perspective Eva’s observation is a refreshing alternative view. It, too, is worth thinking about.
But more important, I think, is the part that comes after that. After Eva’s essay was published in Motherlode she was subjected to what she describes as “the blunt force of vicious comments.” And in response, she’s ready to shut down dialog.
I cannot say that I blame her. She took a risk, opened the discussion an intensely personal way and was met, at least in part, by abuse and scorn. But at the same time I lament her decision. We (as a society) are facing a myriad of difficult questions around the issues of ART. We will only face more in the coming years. How are we going to resolve anything if we cannot talk to each other? But how can you expect people to talk if others aren’t listening respectfully?
In some ways I think the problem here is certainty. There are people for whom these issues are easy and they are just certain that they are right. Because they are sure they are right they are quick to judge others, often without complete knowledge of circumstances. It really makes no difference which side you are on, if you are sure you are right and therefore quick to judge.
I suppose that a different way of saying this is that if you are sure you are right you are often unable to listen carefully to someone who disagrees with you. If you listen, you listen for the moment you can tear in and make your point.
I know perfectly well that I have clear views here. I’m not troubled by the use of third-party sperm. But I also know that there are many people who are deeply troubled by that practice and some who have been harmed by it. Thus I hope that I can create a space where people who disagree with me feel that they, too, can be heard.
I take this posting of Eva’s as a cautionary tale. If we want to have this conversation (and I do) then I think we all have to be especially cautious and respectful and perhaps not quite so sure about things.