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.