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MTV series focuses on lives of sperm donor kids

Breeanna Speicher, 18, is trying to find her birthmother’s sperm donor and her half siblings on the new MTV series “Generation Cryo.”MTV

NEW YORK — Breeanna Speicher’s curiosity about her background led her to a family she never knew she had and inspired a new MTV series that stretches the very concept of family.

The 18-year-old college student from Reno is the daughter of two women who conceived her with a sperm donation. She’s the central figure in ‘‘Generation Cryo,’’ which follows her effort to discover half siblings through a registry and, ultimately, track down the donor who gave her life. The first of six episodes debuts Monday at 10 p.m.

The first recorded artificial insemination came in the 1800s to a woman who didn’t know she was getting it, said Wendy Kramer, founder and director of the Donor Sibling Registry. Doctors performed the procedure in the last century, but it was mostly kept quiet before the opening of sperm banks in the 1980s, she said.

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That means enough ‘‘donor babies’’ are coming of age now to prompt public interest in their experiences, evident also in the new Vince Vaughn movie ‘‘Delivery Man,’’ about a donor who discovers he’s responsible for more than 500 children.

Kramer said she tried for eight years to get a network interested in a story drawn from her registry of people trying to connect with other donor families before MTV showed interest.

Speicher’s nose ring and adeptness with video selfies make her a natural MTV personality and easily relatable for the audience. Series executive producer Marshall Eisen’s original interest was in half siblings finding each other, but Speicher’s desire to find her donor adds complexity to the story.

In the first episode, she travels to suburban Atlanta to meet Jonah and Hilit Jacobson, twin 18-year-olds who had the same sperm donor. Besides getting to know them, her goal is to collect a DNA sample from Jonah that’s necessary to track the donor .

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Jonah is happy to do it, but it prompts raw emotion and feelings of inadequacy in his father, captured by MTV’s cameras. The twins’ father has gone along with them connecting with half siblings through the registry; the possibility of them contacting the donor is another matter. Later in the series, Speicher meets a half sibling who is uncomfortable knowing he is a donor child, and another set of siblings who are conflicted about learning about their donor.

Some donors are interested in meeting the children they helped create, even if they donated anonymously, Kramer said. Others aren’t. The resolution of Speicher’s search isn’t resolved in the first episode and, Eisen said, filming of the series isn’t done.