Sunday, January 14, 2007


I was considered a nice couple who wanted my spare embryos. The issue on which I was stuck was religion. Being from the South, these women were Christian and church would be an important part of their family life.

As we got to know each other I had asked them a lot of difficult questions. In part I was doing this to try to weed them out since unlike me and the embryos they were not Jewish. None of the questions I was asking had a "right" answer. Everything they had told me sounded good, but there was a wide range of "good" which I would have accepted.

They owned their own house, but if they lived in an apartment or on a farm that would have been fine too. They worked in professions I admired, but a huge range of jobs would have sounded good to me. In fact, there were few employment situations I could think of that would make me reject a candidate: professional assassin wouldn't go over well. Recruiter for the Ku Klux Klan: not so good. Toxic waste dumper? Maybe not. Otherwise, I was flexible about this, and most other aspects of the embryo recipients' lives. I just wanted to make sure they were good people, and it sounded like these women were just that.

But the issue of religion was a sticking point for me. I strongly preferred a Jewish family because so many Jewish children have been lost to assimilation and worse. These women seemed pretty great, however. I was trying to decide if I could consider giving them Jewish embryos knowing the result could be Christian children.

Their religious denomination was the first question I had asked which definitely had a right and a wrong answer. I would not consider a lesbian couple whose judgement was impaired to the point of wanting to raise their children in a religious community whose official philosophy was to destroy gay families.

That includes many Christian denominations except for mainstream Protestants like Episcopalians. Islam, whose legal system still dictates collapsing a wall on gay consenting adults to kill them, was out of the question. Nor would I consider the more orthodox Jewish sects: I would not give the embryos to Hasidic Jews, for instance.

The only answer that would have delighted me was Universalist Unitarian. They are the one Christian denomination that fully respects the Jewish faith and acknowledges its roots in their own worship. My second choice was MCC (the "gay church"), closely followed by Episcopalian, since they seem to encourage the most thinking among their members.

Here is what Erin and Jenny told me about their religious background:

I [Jenny] was actually raised Baptist. Being from the South this is not a rarity! I went to church regularly until I was twelve and my parents gave me the option to explore other religions or stay at home on Sundays. I went to other churches with my friends and enjoyed the social aspect but never really found a church “home”. Religion is one thing that I have struggled with in adulthood. Being raised Baptist and being gay was a struggle. I had a problem with the fact that when I was ten a youth minister took me aside and asked me to “say a prayer” and “ask jesus into my heart” and I would be “saved”. All this being said, I suppose that I consider myself spiritual and I believe in God, I don’t necessarily have a denomination that I would identify with at this point.

Erin was raised Episcopalian. She stayed involved in church through summer camp until college. For a while, she didn’t really feel comfortable going to church as she struggled with her sexuality. Although the Episcopal Church is traditionally liberal, she still felt like she didn’t belong. Recently, she has been wanting to go back to church and raise a child within a church family that is welcoming and accepting. We have visited several churches and are considering joining a non-denominational church that seems very welcoming to us. We still attend church with Erin’s parents on
occasion but would rather find our own church home (she grew up with half the congregation!).

Although we are not Jewish, we would happily expose the children to their Jewish heritage. We plan to be very honest with our children at an early age about who they are and where they came from. We plan to share with them that their biological mother is Jewish and explain what that means. Although we know some things about Judaism, we would have to do research and would ask that you might also be a resource for us.

This was the best answer I could have hoped for but it still didn't feel quite right to me to deny children in my bloodline their full cultural heritage.

I struggled with my feelings: on the one hand I was liking these recipients more and more. They just sounded like wonderful women who would be great parents. On the other hand, the murder of over 95% of my family during World War II meant I had very few relatives. Giving the embryos to these women would mean cutting them off from a rich culture which sometimes seemed to be dying. I tried to picture a way past this sadness but I came up empty. So I continued to ask Jenny and Erin hard questions. Would their wonderful answers over-ride this seemingly insurmountable concern? Or might the increasingly intrusive questions scare them away? The embryos' fate hung in the balance as I waited to find out.