A new documentary recounts the story of a 21-year-old British man with Asperger’s syndrome who discovers he has 25 American half-brothers and sisters after he was conceived using donor sperm.
Oli Benjamin, from London, was born in 1999 after his mother Jody and her female partner decided they wanted to have a child via IVF and embryo transfer.
The couple had to have the procedure in the US because it was not offered at the time to lesbian couples in the UK.
From an early age, Oli, whose story features in BBC show 25 Siblings And Me, was aware he had been conceived using donor sperm and when he turned 18 he signed up to a website which helps children of donors find each other.
Oli Benjamin, a 21-year-old British man from London with Asperger’s syndrome was born to lesbian parents using an anonymous sperm donor. In a new BBC documentary, 25 Siblings And Me, he recounts his experiences meeting his biological connections. Pictured: Olli (fifth from right) with his newly-discovered siblings after he flew to the US to meet them
Oli also met with the man who donated his sperm, named Daley, 48, during his trip to the US. However, Oli said he had no interest in pursuing a relationship because the pair had nothing in common
He was soon contacted by a woman, named Jordan, who said she was his half-sister.
She dealt the thunderbolt that she was already aware of 25 American half-brothers and sisters after the donor, named Daley, 48, revoked his anonymity.
Oli then flew to the US to meet them all but told The Sunday Times that he often clashed with his new-found relatives and decided he had ‘no interest’ in having a relationship with his father because the two men were ‘too different’.
‘Genetics are the door to relationships, but they’re not relationships,’ he said.
Oli’s mother flew to San Francisco in 1998 with her then partner – who she has since separated from, after deciding they wanted children.
They chose a donor from prospectuses showing photographs and detailing their personal attributes and interests.
They were particularly adamant that the donor must want to remain anonymous because Jody said she did not want someone ‘knocking on the door ten years later’ and ‘taking my child away.’
Oli’s story features in BBC show 25 Siblings And Me which airs next month
Growing up, Oli struggled to fit in and make friends and was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at the age of 12.
Oli found his siblings after signing the Donor Sibling Registry
The condition is a developmental disorder and makes social interaction and non-verbal communication difficult.
When he became an adult, Ollie opted to sign up to the Donor Sibling Registry and it was through the service that he ended up in contact with Jordan.
As well as telling him about his numerous other relatives, she revealed that their father had revoked his anonymous status.
Despite her incredible revelations, Oli said, ‘I don’t get emotional about this stuff. My Asperger’s makes me a bit of a robot.’
However, he was added to a Whatsapp group where he spoke to his other siblings for the first time.
However, because his condition prompts him to air his strong opinions without considering what others’ might think, Oli says he clashed with some of his siblings.
He therefore opted to travel to the US to meet them in person. At first, he met just a few but then met up with the donor before joining the whole group in a giant meeting.
Despite having high expectations, Oli said he felt overwhelmed when he met his countless siblings
Oli was born in 1999 after his mother Jody (pictured) and her female partner wanted to have a child via IVF and embryo transfer but had to have the procedure in the US because it was not then offered to lesbian couples in the UK. They’ve since separated
In the BBC documentary, each of the siblings air their own story and some reveal they were not even aware they were conceived via a sperm donor.
Unlike in the UK, fertility clinics are not bound by laws governing anonymity, meaning that donors can change their status whenever they like. They do not need the consent of parents. Similarly, if they opt to remain anonymous then their identity can never be revealed.
In the UK, the law was changed in 2005 to allow children to request personal information about their sperm donor.
In the BBC documentary, each of the siblings airs their own story and some reveal they were not even aware they were conceived via a sperm donor. Pictured: Oli with McKenzie, one of his half-sisters
One sibling, Kelly, revealed in the documentary that she discovered her father was not biologically related to her after she was given a DNA home-testing kit as a Christmas present.
She found out that her cousin, aunts and uncles and parents all knew about her origins but she did not.
As well as McKenzie (far right) Oli’s siblings include (pictured left to right), Alysse, Emily, Kristen, Brittany, Brooklynn, Sarah, Jordan, Carolyn, Kelly, Melissa and Hannah
Another sibling, Lindsay, said she only dates people over the age of 26 – the eldest of Daley’s children – to make sure she doesn’t accidentally date a relative.
Two of the half-siblings had gone to high school together without realising. Olli found it hard to integrate into the new group and admitted he felt overwhelmed.
Oli did get on with one of his siblings, named Sterling, and the older man flew to London to stay with him for a week before the pair fell out
He and his siblings had fiery debates and he said he did not think they were tolerant of him being on the autistic spectrum.
As for his father, Oli said their meeting was ‘a bit like, ‘Hi, number 20-whatever’ and added that they were ‘not that alike at all’.
Oli did get on with one of his siblings, named Sterling, and the older man flew to London to stay with him for a week.
His mother said the sight of the pair’s ‘brotherly bond’ was amazing’.
However, the pair then fell out when Oli considered becoming a sperm donor himself but had not told the clinic about his condition – something which his siblings were upset by.
Oli said the resulting argument ‘hurt him’ for a ‘very long time’.
He now hopes to see his half-siblings as more like cousins and has no desire to pursue a relationship with his father.
What is Asperger syndrome?
Asperger syndrome (AS), also known as Asperger’s, is a developmental disorder that makes social interaction and non verbal communication difficult for those diagnosed.
It is a milder autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and it differs from other autism spectrum disorders as those with the condition generally have relatively normal language and intelligence.
Although not required for diagnosis, physical clumsiness and unusual use of language are common.
Signs usually begin before two years of age and typically last forever.