We’re so grateful to all the people who take the time and trouble to comment on our blog pieces. They add so much value to this blog. Very occasionally we publish comments as stand-alone blog pieces, and comments from “Thoughtcrime” following Emma Barnett’s advice to a man to not seek a paternity test in relation to one of his children is well worth posting. Our warm thanks to him for this:
Knowing who your genetic parents are is fundamental to understanding why you are the way you are and where you come from. People raised by their genetic parents take this for granted. Many adoptees, and now people conceived through IVF with donor egg or sperm, struggle with lifelong identity issues and difficulty forming close relationships because they lack this information. Personally I grew up feeling totally isolated, like an alien, because I could not see anything of myself reflected in anyone around me. I felt disconnected from the past and future because I had no knowledge of my ancestors and no sense of ‘continuity’. I grew up convinced that I would not live to see the year 2000 and strangely I’ve met two other adoptees (out of a circle of around ten I know) who had very similar fixations.
Meeting my genetic parents, brother, sister and extended family has allowed me to gradually piece together and build an integrated identity over the past 23 years, like a jigsaw or a shattered mirror. I’m one of the lucky ones because many adoptees have only fragments of information to work with and can never find peace from the nagging questions, sense of disconnectedness, and regular reminders that they are different (like a birthday or an innocent question or remark touching on their genetic history, such as “you don’t look like your brother” or “I think I can see a family resemblance”).
It was only after having my own daughter that I began to feel connected – to feel part of a lineage extending into the future and the past. Until then I could never grasp the special meaning the word ‘family’ has for most people (beyond just meaning the people you grew up with). The feeling was (and still is) quite surreal.
My experience has convinced me that knowledge of your genetic history is a fundamental human right because it is the foundation for identity formation in the child. It’s possible to construct an identity of sorts without it, but it’s like building a house on sand. No matter how meticulously it is constructed to look just like any other house, it is structurally flawed and prone to collapse in the face of adversity with sometimes tragic consequences, such as suicide. I only survived the collapse by pure chance.
Hopefully this gives you a sense of why deliberately withholding a person’s genetic history from them is so much more than medical abuse. That is just the tip of the iceberg, but I appreciate why the rest of it might be difficult to see.
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