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Donor Conception and “Passing,” or; Why Australian Parents of Donor-Conceived Children Want Donors Who Look Like Them


This article explores the processes through which Australian recipients select unknown donors for use in assisted reproductive technologies and speculates on how those processes may affect the future life of the donor-conceived person. I will suggest that trust is an integral part of the exchange between donors, recipients, and gamete agencies in donor conception and heavily informs concepts of relatedness, race, ethnicity, kinship, class, and visibility. The decision to be transparent (or not) about a child’s genetic parentage affects recipient parents’ choices of donor, about who is allowed to “know” children’s genetic backgrounds, and how important it is to be able to “pass” as an unassisted conception. In this way, recipients must trust the process, institutions, and individuals involved in their treatment, as well as place trust in the future they imagine for their child. The current market for donor gametes reproduces normative conceptions of the nuclear family, kinship, and relatedness by facilitating “matching” donors to recipients by phenotype and cultural affinities. Recipient parents who choose not to prioritize “matching,” and actively disclose the process of children’s conceptions, may embark on a project of queering heteronormative family structures and place great trust in both their own children and changing social attitudes to reduce stigma and generate acceptance for non-traditional families.

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  1. None of the three agencies mentioned here, Known Egg Donors, The World Egg Bank or European Sperm Bank are non-profit companies.

  2. Of course the notion of choice is itself problematic within the context of assisted reproduction, where many recipients feel they have “no choice” as a result of infertility (Nahman 2006).


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Correspondence to Karen-Anne Wong.

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Wong, KA. Donor Conception and “Passing,” or; Why Australian Parents of Donor-Conceived Children Want Donors Who Look Like Them. Bioethical Inquiry 14, 77–86 (2017).

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  • Assisted reproduction
  • Kinship
  • Family
  • Donor conception
  • Childhood