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<nettime> Tissue Banking
lotu5 on Sat, 21 Jun 2008 12:47:34 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Tissue Banking


Before going into my job as a digitizer today, I stopped by the
Tissue Bank. Since I'm about to begin my chemically assisted physical
transformation soon, it seemed like a good idea to store my DNA so
that I can still have the option of reproduction in the future.

After using my GPS to find the office because the satellite map from
Google was missing a street sign, I walked into the lobby. Apparently
the printed version of the address didn't have the suite number. The
directory says Fertility Center of Caprica, Andrology and Cryobank
Services, 3010. [ some names have been changed to create an illusion
of privacy ]

Walking into the lobby and up to the counter, the receptionist hands
me the papers to fill out and I glance at a sign that says something
about Tissue Banking. I sit and begin to fill out the forms. The
first form asks why I'm tissue banking, with a number of checkboxes
for elective surgeries I may be undergoing in the future, including
vasectomy, IVF, Artificial Insemination, Cancer Therapy. Under
"other", I fill in "hormone replacement therapy".

I begin reading the "Consent/Agreement for Cryopreservation and
Storage of Semen" and am caught off guard by the fact that the
initials of the place I'm at are FCC. Throughout the document, I am
signing over my tissue to the FCC. Since the Federal Communications
Commission, who regulate the transmission of information over radio
waves, is the FCC I'm most familiar with and have so much animosity
for, I have a little chuckle to myself.

In this agreement, there is some language about how this procedure
does not guarantee that pregnancy may result in the future from
this tissue sample, which seems standard. As the document proceeds,
though, it explains that in the case of natural disasters and
unforeseen occurrences, there is no guarantee of storage. Given the
food riots, gas prices over $5, tsunamis and earthquakes that are a
daily occurrence today, this idea of natural disaster doesn't seem far
off. There is some small feeling of security in the idea that some
record of my DNA will now be stored here, but thinking of the immanent
collapse of society that seems to be only a few decades away, at
most, I imagine that the staff of the FCC will be defending my tissue
samples with shotguns and kevlar, but that probably won't happen. So,
I agree that I won't hold them liable in the case of "unforeseen"

I continue reading my agreement with the Cryopreservation facility and
it mentions their non-electrical storage tanks. The tanks use liquid
nitrogen, which, given the earlier scenario I was imagining, is a
reassuring fact. In the coming energy crisis, when we are making due
without electricity, my local Cryopreservation facility will still
be able to keep my tissue deposits safe, even if they can't email me
about my policy changes, hopefully they can find a postman.

The next form asks who will be the owner of my tissue deposit in case
of my death. Reflecting on my mortality for a moment, I actually find
some strange comfort in the idea that now that my DNA samples are
stored here, there still may be a little copy of myself running around
in the case of my death. Of course, this is a huge oversimplification
of the concept of childbirth and genetics, and completely disregards
the other half of genetic content in the resulting embryo as well as
the mysteries of proteogenomics and protein folding, but its a mildly
comforting thought for a moment. I put down my lover's name, since
we've been discussing the complicated desire to have children while
maintaining a nonmonogamous relationship and living lives dedicated to
challenging heteronormativity. The next part of the form asks if who I
want my tissue deposit to go to in the case of my lover's death! I put
my sister's name down, wondering how she might deal with the prospect
of having only my DNA samples left after my death, since she already
has a daughter who's about to start college.

I read the privacy agreement, which is unremarkable, they'll use my
information to train staff and to get payment from me, okay. One
of the forms mentions "gender selection" of the tissue sample, but
I'm not interested in this and don't think its actually possible
anyway. The language choice here is interesting, as if we could choose
children's genders, not their sexes.

Handing back the forms, I'm escorted to the room where I am to make
my tissue deposit. In the room is a large brown leather recliner,
strangely out of place in this medical environment. The male nurse
in his scrubs escorts me in, shows me the sample cup, sealed for
sterility, the instructions and the "material" he calls it, a cabinet
full of porn. I'm to make my deposit and leave it at another window
with a counter when I'm finished.

Looking in the cabinet, I'm pleasantly surprised to find the July
2007 issue of penthouse. I had read about this issue on fleshbot.com
[1]. I remember thinking of the clear appearance of the mainstreaming
of altporn, as well as the strong resemblance of this photo set
to American Apparel's advertising campaigns. Flipping through
the magazine, I think there's a trajectory here from the "gender
selection" option in the initial forms to the construction of these
images. In some of them, the models look bored, with their eyes closed
and their mouths open in an O shape, clearly taking direction. The
website for the FCC also has a disturbing eugenics like feature right
on its front page, where there are drop down menus for hair and eye
color and country of origin, which lead to an online shopping cart
for buying sperm samples, with the gender selection optional. I look
through the magazine and see some breasts which appear augmented and
others which don't. I wonder if my chemically assisted breasts will
ever look like those and I think that they won't.

I put down the magazines, use my imagination for a while and I'm
finished, back in the lobby paying for my cryopreservation services. I
look at the patient sign in and notice that my name has been covered
up with a black marker, as has the person after me. Something I've
never seen in other doctor offices. Apparently, there's some kind of
extra drive for privacy with reproductive related cryobanking. The
service is expensive, but affordable, a few hundred US dollars. Later
in the day, a friend tells me that Walt Disney's head is cryogenically
stored, to be brought back to life when the technology is ready. I
wonder if it'll work. I wonder how long there might be an urge for
secrecy about cryopreservation. I wonder if Walt will want the same
kind of body or something totally new.

Author's note: Perhaps this is fiction, science fiction or social
fiction. Perhaps it is non-fiction. I only ask you to decide on your
own what is fiction and what is non-fiction, and why one should appear
stranger or more uncanny than the other.

1.NSFW link:


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