Qualifying kinship: how do UK gamete donors negotiate identity-release donation?
Gilman, Leah Isabelle
With effect from 1st April 2005, UK law was amended such that gamete donors must now consent to their identity being released to their donor offspring, should they request it after the age of eighteen. This qualitative study investigates the views and experiences of those donating in this new context. Drawing primarily on twenty-four in-depth interviews with donors, supplemented by twenty staff interviews and observation in two fertility clinics, I examine how donors make sense of their role in relation to offspring, recipients and the wider community. I argue that donors make sense of their role as “biological” parents to offspring through creative reference to kinship repertoires, drawing on their own experiences of “doing family.” However, crucially, kinship connections are always qualified in some way to show that they are not quite family to donor offspring, and certainly not their “real” parent. Often this discursive work involved emphasising their relationship to recipients or the wider community (rather than offspring), framing the donation as a gift or a public act. In addition, donors drew on their kinship expertise to dilute, reshape or “re-route” their connection to offspring. Ultimately, this is a thesis about the limiting work involved in “doing kinship.” I demonstrate that donors did this limiting work in highly creative ways, not restricted to forgetting or ignoring connections. Instead, I show that not constructing kinship claims can be as active a process as making them.