‘Dad’ Is Not Synonymous With ‘Donor’- And Why That Distinction Matters

It may be a passing conversation with a stranger at the park or even a comment from a family member over dinner, but somewhere along your journey, you will probably encounter someone who will reference your donor as your child’s father. We know and understand that donor isn’t synonymous with Dad, but sometimes that distinction is not so intuitive for others. 

For us, it first happened from a well intending friend. We had just met up for dinner and hadn’t even been served when I broke the news that we had finally found a donor! We were bubbling over with excitement at the prospect of Micaela and I finally being able to start a family and she started to ask questions about our donors characteristics. I told her what we knew and then she excitedly asked: “do you have any pictures of their dad? I’m so curious to know what he looks like!” 

I paused and probably stumbled with my next few words. While these inquires stemmed from genuine, well-meaning curiosity, this was the first time someone had referenced our donor in this way and more importantly the first time someone had suggested that our unborn children had a father. It didn’t sit well with me. Micaela is my wife, she is the woman I fell in love with and dreamed of starting a family with. It was her I wanted to raise a family with, not this unknown man. 

As these thoughts swelled up in my mind, I continued with the conversation, but felt somewhat jarred from her passing comment. We spoke more in-depth about our fertility plans and she said it again. Dad. This time, I politely interrupted her and said, “Donor. He’s their donor, not their dad.” Immediately she covered her mouth like she had said a bad word. She profusely apologized and explained it wasn’t even something she had previously thought about before. It was in this moment that I realized MANY people probably think this way, even some of our most well intending friends, family and allies. 

But here is why I feel that distinction is important. I feel when people reference our donor as “dad” they are giving him a title he didn’t ask for. His intentions in donating sperm were to help a family realize their dream of children, not soothe our little ones to sleep. His intentions were to provide a vital missing link in creating life, not to save for years to put them through college. No. Being our children’s dad isn’t a title he asked for in this case, and definitely not a title he earned.

To be clear, I am in no way discrediting our donors ability to father. From what I know of him, I’m sure he will make a fantastic dad one day if he isn’t one already. A dad to his own children, in his own family. But this is our family. 

Our family is one that has two moms. A mama and a mommy. And while there is no dad, we feel that our family is complete and more importantly, just as valid as any other familial structure out there.

Unfortunately, this is a correction we have had to make over and over again. First with our well meaning friend, again with a Nurse Practitioner at our fertility clinic (this was especially shocking) and frequently when we inevitably get questions about our family. I feel that politely correcting people here is just as important as when they assume partner pronouns and ask about “your husband or boyfriend.” And while I don’t think we need to shame them for not being intuitive, I do think it’s a mistake that warrants correction. 

Ultimately, it is up to US, the LGBTQ+ community and allies to initiate change. WE have to be responsible for creating a safe space and open dialogue about our families. We have to be responsible about helping change the mindsets of others. We can’t necessarily rely on others to do that for us. And while it may take time, ultimately, by doing this, we are creating a more open and accepting society for our children to grow up in. So while it may be uncomfortable at first to correct people, my guess is that 9 times out of 10 they will respect the distinction. Who knows, maybe they will even correct someone else down the line, who informs someone else and so on. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Our community is valid and our voices always deserve to be heard. 

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences or even how you navigate this topic with others in your own life below!

Thanks for reading,

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  • Anonymous
    February 6, 2020 at 8:45 am

    great article, thank you!

  • Anonymous
    September 23, 2020 at 11:44 am

    You may not believe that your donor deserves the title “dad” but he does deserve the title “father” because he was the one who fathered your child and would not be possible without him.