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Twins: Individual Identities and Common Bonds

Most twins have two identities: the one they share with their twin brother or sister as part of a pair, and the one that they enjoy all on their own. Most twins enjoy being a twin since it is a special birth—despite the increased twinning rates in western nations since the 1980s, due to assisted reproductive technologies and delayed childbearing, twins are still relatively rare in the population. Personal and pair identity as a twin is, however, very different depending on the twin type (identical, same-sex fraternal, or opposite-sex fraternal). I will begin with a tale of two identical twins who met each for the first time in January 2017, at the age of 10.

On December 6, 2016, Jennifer Doering of Wausau, Wisconsin sent me an email message. Jennifer is the mother of an adopted daughter from China whom she named Audrey. Jennifer’s goal was to give her daughter a special Christmas present consisting of Audrey’s birth and adoption history information. In the process of gathering these materials, she received a photograph of her daughter standing in front of the Chinese foster mother who had cared for her. Next to Audrey was another little girl who looked exactly like her.

The two girls had been left in different locations but had been brought to the same orphanage. Their Chinese names, Tong Min Gui and Tong Min Mei, when combined, form the word “rose,” a traditional way of naming twins.

Jennifer used Facebook to track down the family who had adopted her daughter’s alleged twin sister. Two days later she found Scott and Nicole Rainsberry of Richland, Washington, who had adopted a little girl named Gracie about one week before the Doerings had adopted Audrey. Gracie’s date of birth was five days earlier, but it is not unusual for separated Chinese twins to be given different birthdays, especially when found in different locations.

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