Published on October 21st, 2014 | by Aya de Leon


AYA DE LEON On: The Statement We Wish We’d Gotten from the White Mother Who Mistakenly Ended Up with a Black Sperm Donor

All parents have hopes for their children. We have concerns about the world we’re bringing them into, but somehow, in an infinite number of circumstances, we become parents. Some of us use technology on the road to our parenting. This creates a complex layer of medical and commercial issues in our experience. Recently, a woman in Ohio got the wrong sperm from a bank in Chicago.

She and her female partner are white. They mistakenly got sperm from a black donor, and found out when she was several months pregnant. Unexpectedly, they now have a multi-racial daughter. In her commercial relationship with that company, she has a clear right to sue for damages under the law. In spite of her lawsuit, the mom has been explicit about how much she loves her daughter and that she would not change her.

However, for people of color, particularly parents, it is painful and difficult to witness the journey of parenting brown children posited as a legal liability and a quantifiable set of damages.

Here is the statement I, as a mother of color, wish she had given:

mama and baby crop

The author, Aya de Leon, with her baby daughter

STATEMENT: “I had no idea how hard it is to face racism and to worry every day about how it will affect my family. I am totally unprepared for this, but I honor the work of all the mothers of black children that have gone before me.

When I entered into a contract with the sperm bank, I thought I was merely selecting the donor that would allow me and my partner to have a white family. But now I see that having children is a greater journey into the unknown than I had anticipated. To be clear, I am suing the sperm bank for breach of their contract to me, and failing to fulfill their end of our agreement. But I commit to using the financial resources to do everything that will be necessary to get our family up the steep learning curve for us that will build our capacity to honor, support, raise and protect this girl child of African heritage. I will learn what I need to learn, change what I need to change, braid what I need to braid, move where I need to move, build community with whom I need to build, and confront what and whom I need to confront, even in my own family. I can see that the real problem here is racism. I wish we all were born into a world where race wouldn’t be such a major factor in determining the outcomes of our lives, where white people weren’t so deeply ignorant about and hateful toward people of color, and where the incredible joy I have in connecting with my daughter wouldn’t be tempered with my fears and concerns for her well-being and safety, fears that black parents have known since first being brought to this country against their will.

Whatever the outcome of my lawsuit, I have made a lifetime commitment to my daughter. We belong together and nothing will ever separate us. I have learned that parenting is about unexpected learning and significant sacrifices. If I have to give up some of my white privilege to spend the rest of my life in close connection with this wonderful young human being, then it is a small price to pay. The black community may not welcome me with open arms, but I understand that centuries of racism have made relationships between white people and people of color difficult. I’ll never stop learning and trying on my daughter’s behalf. And ultimately, my own humanity will be enriched by this experience, as well.

For many years, conservatives have tried to drive a wedge between LGBTQ communities and communities of color, as if the two categories are mutually exclusive, as if there aren’t queer people of color. But we commit that our family will not be used in this way. If anything, the move to a more open and accepting community for my daughter will mean a more open and accepting community for us as a same sex-couple. While I will miss our current friends and family, we look forward to building community that reflects our family and our love and partnership.

A victory in this lawsuit will not only be a personal victory for me, but I commit to use some of the funds to support organizations that work with families that include children of color with white parents, to uproot the effects of racism in those families. The heroes journey always begins with the refusal of the call. I did not expect, choose, or want this adventure, but I am willing to grow into this role, to be a hero for my beloved brown daughter.”

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About the Author

Aya de León teaches creative writing in the African American Studies Department at UC Berkeley. Kensington Books publishes her award-winning feminist heist series, which includes SIDE CHICK NATION, the first novel published about Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. In May 2020, Aya published her first children’s chapter book, EQUALITY GIRLS AND THE PURPLE REFLECTO-RAY, about an Afro-Latina girl who uses her superpowers to confront the president’s sexism. In December 2020 Kensington published her first standalone novel, A SPY IN THE STRUGGLE, about FBI infiltration of an African American organization fighting for climate justice and Black lives. Her work has also appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, Ebony, Guernica, Writers Digest, Bitch Magazine, Mutha Magazine, VICE, The Root, Ploughshares, and on Def Poetry. In 2020, Candlewick will publish her first YA novel, a Black/Latina spy girl book called UNDERCOVER LATINA. She is an alumna of Cave Canem and VONA. Visit her online at ayadeleon.com, on Twitter at @ayadeleon, Facebook or Instagram at @ayadeleonwrites, where she writes about race, class, gender, sexuality, culture and climate.

16 Responses to AYA DE LEON On: The Statement We Wish We’d Gotten from the White Mother Who Mistakenly Ended Up with a Black Sperm Donor

  1. Eve says:

    Yes. This. Well said.

  2. Beth says:

    There is so much to learn here. Thank you for writing this Aya.

  3. Jess says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this. It really captures the nuances of what made me so unhappy about all the conversations around that family/lawsuit.

  4. Keef says:

    Aya makes me happy. Thank u for existing.

  5. KC says:

    Yes this!
    We are parenting two adopted sweet, mixed-raced babies and while we chose that path for ourselves, these are the kinds of things that mixed race (conspicuous) families need to deal with. I do wish that this mother would educate herself and realize what is really that she is fighting for but I fear that she may not even know, she may simply be dealing with the guilt of her own racism that she may not even have known was there.

    Thank you for writing this ‘letter’ – it is educational for me, in my path, and I hope that she learns that this is a gift in her life, and not an anchor holding her down.

  6. Don says:

    Wonderful! This really resonates with me as a gay white dad parenting two daughters of color who is trying to practice queer transracial adoption in mindful ways geared toward justice and love. You’ve said in a succinct way something that relates to a much more long-winded article I recently published (https://www.academia.edu/8812257/Where_She_Comes_From_Locating_Queer_Transracial_Adoption). Thank you!

  7. Michelle says:

    Such a powerful and beautiful message; thank you for writing and sharing this.

  8. Lisa (Burke) Murphy says:

    Aya – it is beautiful to see you and your baby daughter…you likely will not remember me but I was a friend of your mother´s and she brought you to me at the Merrakesh Salon to wash and cut your hair…I was very experienced cutting all types of racially diverse hair – because I sought out the teaching and experience to be able to do so. But … your hair was exceptional and when I washed it by gosh it grew and grew and grew. My African American women coworkers all enjoyed a great laugh at my shock and anxiety! It was fun and quite the learning curve.
    My daughter is now 18 and living in Northern California… she was born in Nepal and loves passing as Mexican but mostly enjoys just saying she´s from California because it is so diverse.
    Heartfelt congratulations on having a beautiful daughter and my warm regards to your Mama!

    (From Lisa a Hairshop – now known as Burke)

  9. Robin says:

    Thank you. Thank you so much.

    The articles flew around facebook, most of them (from my friends, anyway) harshly condemning these parents, calling them names, etc. And then, of course, who saw the merit in the lawsuit, and took the risk of saying so (whoosh, back to name calling). I did not participate or comment because I disagreed with all of them, in tone, if in nothing else. Was there no one who could write reasonably and thoughtfully about this case? Make the important points that need to be made without insults and sanctimony?

    Yes. Apparently there is someone. Finally. This article is perfect. Absolutely perfect.

  10. Anne says:

    So beautiful, so human. Thank you for writing this.

  11. Tara Bianca says:


  12. shimi says:

    Yes. Part of me thinks ( hopes) that they sincerely believe some of what you’ve written here and are just fumbling towards clarity. For their sake of their daughter, I hope so.

  13. Christianna says:

    This piece moved me to tears. Thank you for all the thoughtfulness and heart that you gave this.

  14. Martha in Oakland says:

    What strikes me about this love letter you have written is that is does not STRIKE.
    It is clear, it is focused, it is right, it is true. It is earnest. It is solid. And while I imagine your anger (because I feel my own) – I do not taste it here. This is not to debate in the nuances of anger or it’s rightful place in the discussion – but rather, I want to express my gratitude for your gentle insistence that I move through my anger to the place that has humility.
    Thank you.

  15. Rachael Quinn Egan says:

    Beautifully said. Thank you.

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