Peter J. Boni


“Misattributed” was a term totally unfamiliar to me. Misaligned, misinformed, misappropriated, and other “mis” words I comprehended. Only when I faced my own identity crisis did I learn the term. I was the product of a Misattributed Parental Event, I had an MPE. My birth certificate didn’t jive with my DNA.

In my case, I learned in 1995 that I was misattributed by a process in which my parents had fully consented. I wasn’t adopted, but rather “semi-adopted” in a process far more secretive.

My stroke-recovering mother dealt me that blockbuster revelation on the edge of my fiftieth birthday. “Dad” wasn’t biological. I was conceived via an anonymous sperm donor in the waning days of WWII with the help of a new-fangled fertility specialist from Harvard Medical School (she misremembered his name) in a secretive artificial insemination process. Some during that time had labeled it “adultery by doctor.” I was the same person, but everything changed for me. I wasn’t who or what I thought I was.

I had made decisions about my life based upon a genetic hoax, a willful lie. To heal, I first had to get past the old attitudes about therapy…the weak and needy were “unfit for command.” But I was a CEO who needed it. My therapist observed during our first meeting, “You hit a trifecta. New trauma often resurfaces ones that were long past…” a disruptive and dysfunctional childhood and the lingering impact of on-the-ground Army service in Vietnam.

Beyond therapy, I delved relentlessly for the next two decades in search of both the anonymous sperm donor and the misnamed doctor who made my life possible. In that process, I acquired an encyclopedic knowledge of the scientific, legal and sociological history of artificial insemination-by-donor (AID) and assisted reproductive technology (ART) in general (from early Biblical references until today). In stealth, the number of adult donor-conceived people has grown to over one million. But science had advanced well ahead of sociology. With the prolific accessibility of DNA testing over the internet, keeping a secret like the one my mother kept from me would likely never be possible again.

A breakthrough like a fireman’s high pressure hose into an over-sized empty ceramic jug rewardingly filled my void in 2017; the donor; my health history; two rock star scientists from Harvard who enabled my conception; an embracing sibling.

One gnawing question still lingers. How many siblings do I have, really? Peter J. Boni’s book, Uprooted: Family Trauma, Unknown Origins and the Secretive History of Artificial Insemination will be published by Greenleaf Book Group on January 4, 2022.