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July 15, 2015

scan0012Last week the New York Times Magazine ran an engrossing article titled “The Mixed-Up Brothers of Bogotá” about four brothers who, due to an accidental swap at a hospital when the boys were newborns, were raised with the wrong twin.

What strikes me most about the story of the Bogotá twins is how fiercely they continue to hold on to one another, even after discovering that they each have an identical twin and share absolutely no genetic connection with the brother raised alongside them. In other words, there’s no wrong twin; there’s only the twin each of them loves and the twin each of them lost to the mix-up. After learning about one another and eventually meeting, one of the twins tells the brother with whom he grew up, “You’re my brother, and you’ll be my brother until the day I die.” Another twin, sensing how unmoored his brother is by the discovery of their identical twins, has a portrait of his brother tattooed upon his chest.

My sister and I are not identical, at least not according to what my birth mother was told by people who didn’t always tell her the truth. There’s no reason to doubt what my birth mother was told, but there’s no proof, either. Several years ago, the head of Medical Records at Illinois Masonic Medical Center confirmed that our records had been destroyed, leaving no trace of our birth in the medical system.

Scan 1Fraternal twins, like my sister and me, have no more of a genetic link than any siblings do, no more than, say, my sister and I have with our biological brother whom we learned about when we met our birth parents. As the article points out, the formation of fraternal twins is “mundane.” But wait–it’s more complicated than that. As the article also points out, genetic research has shown that biological influences and environmental influences play an equal part in shaping who we are.  Moreover, when you throw in the complex nature of our “genetic circuitry,” the way our genes respond to and are even transformed by our environmental experiences, all bets are off.  Science aside, science included, what makes a twin a twin is really hard to say.

So much of my own identity is connected to my being a twin. Even though my twin and I unhitched ourselves from one another at age 18, attending different undergraduate and graduate schools and setting off on different career paths, being a twin has influenced so much of who I am and what I have done.

Our adoption is tangled up in there somewhere, too. My own ferocious loyalty to my sister has a lot to do with the fact that she is my twin but also to do with the fact that, growing up, she was my biological other; she was my only biological other. And yet, when it comes to the rest of our family, I don’t give a hill of beans about biology. They will be my family until the day I die.

My birth brother once asked me once about this contradiction. I had no answer then. I have no answer now. As with the Bogotá twins, sometimes love, and family, passes human understanding. It is both bewildering, and miraculous, and all you can do is hang on for the ride.

Still, l wonder: Are my sister and I identical? Are we fraternal? Unlike so many unanswerable and forgotten parts of our story, this is one that the present can satisfy more accurately than the past.

As a birthday gift to us this year, I sent off for a Twin DNA Zygosity Test that will answer this question with 99.9 percent accuracy.  Monozygotic or dizygotic.  We should know in about six weeks.

And whatever we find out, it won’t matter at all. We already have what does.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 15, 2015 8:14 pm

    I always thought you were identical. Don’t know where I got that idea, but you sure look alike! Whatever you may be, I thank God for both of you!

    • twinprint permalink*
      July 15, 2015 8:22 pm

      I should start a poll. I’ll put you on the Identical team. 🙂

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