To lurk or not to lurk.

On the DSR list serve a person, recently referred to “donors,” lurking on the edges of the discussion. Several donors wrote in response that they didn’t appreciate the reference. Several other posters, including the list’s admin, were quick to defend the use of the term. While I understood that the OP meant no harm it pointed to a bit of a disconnect in the way in which the community deals with donors. I wrote in the following post to try to broaden the discussion:

Sometimes when we disagree it sounds to the people that we disagree with that we are angry. I’m not writing to express anger, (as I’m sure that those who defended their use of the term “lurking” weren’t angry), but do want to try to clarify things from a donor’s perspective.

While I understand that the DSR is welcoming to donors I think it’s important for those on this list to understand that donors are clearly “the other” in this community. My sense, as a former donor, is that there is an unstated view that there are “good” donors and “bad” donors. The good ones are open and giving and subservient. They understand the needs of the parents and the donor conceived people, and work to make them comfortable with their decisions and themselves. The “bad” ones are the ones that don’t come forward. They are “selfish” and uncaring of the needs of the people they have created. Great praise is aimed at the generous donors who come forward. There is also a lot of anger expressed towards those who don’t.

This is not to say that everyone feels this way, or that people use these terms- I’m simply trying to illuminate how the conversation feels to those who are being talked about. I know that people are very careful with their language and express all kinds of gratitude towards the donors, but if one were to step back and really look at the conversation from the perspective of a donor I think that the biases would be pretty clear. In that context, those who “lurk” fit into the latter category.

All of the issues facing every sub group of this community are emotionally complex, and are only just beginning to be explored in a robust way. While the DSR is clearly committed to openness and the well being of all people involved, I don’t think it’s fair to say that donors have an equal place at the table. Instead they are more akin to servers and in large part are expected to act like ones.

While those who aren’t donors may not have meant any harm or negativity by using the term “lurking”, it has now been clearly expressed by more than one donor that this term has been taken in a negative way. Instead of defending the use of the term I think it would be more proactive of the community to explore why, in this particular instance, the use of the term “lurking” has been taken in such a negative way. I will add my voice to the chorus that it feels like a negative description.

In many online situations there is not so much riding on the fact that some people remain on the fringes. This is clearly not the “average” online situation- and the needs and the feelings of the different parties in the conversation are extremely divergent. This list and concept of the DSR are primarily aimed at the needs of the donor conceived and their parents, and that context drives the conversation and defines the community. As such donors are the outsiders, and its important to recognize that status if there is any interest in working to change it.

Again, this isn’t said in anger, and is certainly not an attack on the DSR or this community. The DSR is a powerfully proactive force in our society, and I have immense respect and admiration for the vast amount of energy, as well as emotional effort, that has gone into creating, maintaining, and evolving it. I also want to emphasize that I feel that a great deal of effort has been forth to make sure that donors don’t feel ostrasized. However, even with that effort, it should still be clear both from the response to this “issue”, as well as the dearth of donor voices in the conversation, that donors are still very much outsiders.

As a donor this reality is very clear to me, but I can see how those who have taken such pains to be welcoming to donors might have a hard time seeing it. This is an ever evolving conversation, and the “furor” 😉 over the term “lurking” seems to be a great jumping off point for moving that evolution forward in a way that recognizes donors in a more full bodied way.

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