With global World politics in free-fall, boarders going up, relations suddenly severed and governments throwing in the towel as if their chips were down; the planet has reacted by wanting to create intangible connections elsewhere. In a bid to mentally subjugate these divisions, Earthlings have collectively deciding to perform DNA tests on mass?
Adverts everywhere are marketing a better understanding of heritage and the chance to connect with distant cousins or relatives you never knew you had? This all sounds amazing but a slight oversight may be that actually it’s a way of studying population diseases and hereditary illnesses under the radar? My heightened-self kicks in?
Although there is a sense of excitement which comes with the idea of the unknown, there are also the realities of performing such a procedure, much publicised by TV shows in the 90s such as Oprah Winfrey, Jerry Springer and Ricky Lake to name but a few. The sensationalised DNA reveal never went far enough to discuss the aftermath of finding out the reality of hidden family secrets and how possible separations could be everlasting once the tests were finalised?
During a conversation with my aunt (my Dad’s sister) the subject of doing a DNA test was raised. In her light and airy way she advised me to take the test. I bought the kit, swabbed and sent. Approximately 6 weeks and a couple of e-mail updates later, I received my pack in the post.
My story is slightly more complicated, as I was raised by a wonderful Dad in a home with two parents who were together for 38 years. However, just before my Dad died he asked that I go home to discuss the points in his will, namely that he was leaving all control to my two younger sisters and he was going to die taking secrets about me to his grave that I would never know? I left the next morning in bits and he died two weeks later.
I had asked both my parents on several occasions why I never bore a resemblance to my Dad (He had blonde hair, sky blue eyes and the fairest skin imaginable). My sisters were very light skinned, mixed-race girls, who looked like his offspring but I was black in all my glory with coarse Afro hair? He was also a genealogist, so an expert in genetics and DNA! I was palmed off. Ridiculous. Insane. Paranoid. I needed to stop talking about it. I was palmed off.
I opened my pack and as I suspected it gave me the most conclusive answer I had expected. 100% African. Not 1% of my blood came from Europe or indeed from my Dad.
It took a while to sink in. I went through a different form of grief this time. Anger, rage, realisation, clarity, my trust in everything and everyone had gone overnight and I also grieved for the father that I never met and who I would never get to know. The family I was raised with suddenly became step-relatives? Every form I had ever filled out, every passport, census, registration document, all incorrect and the reality that both my parents and possibly other relatives were complicit in this lie was a real challenge.
About 2 months later on Mother’s Day I sent my Mum an email of the results and a strongly worded, highly confrontational letter about how I felt they had handled the situation over the years. She had systematically used derogatory word like bastard, useless and weak, those words shaped my view of myself throughout my life. I asked for an apology and asked to know who my father really was? She didn’t reply. And hasn’t spoken to me for the past 2 years as a result.
Around 10 months after I wrestled with my new identity, I went to the doctor’s and was referred for relationships counselling which enabled me to move on from the traumatic experience. Counselling helped me make my peace with my parents and regain control of the view I had of myself. I started to embrace my African roots for the first time and didn’t feel a sense of shame about it. No longer the black sheep of the family. Previously I hadn’t felt comfortable because I was always looked upon as a liar when I explained my background to strangers or somehow delusional saying that I was mixed-race? Now I felt confident to say I was African without having the look of disbelief that I had spend 37 years navigating. I felt compelled to travel, loose myself a little and see the World. Suddenly I felt fearless. I lay in the Moroccan sunshine till I was burnt and liked the way I looked for the first time in my life. I grew.
If any of you decide to do a DNA test then do it. Find out who you are and be bold and brazen when you discover the truth. If it’s the answer you were hoping for then congratulations you won but if you get a box of hidden family secrets, then make sure that you and your parents are ready and willing to take on the fallout and whatever you do, get support! Ripping off my plaster was painful but i’m glad I saw my scar.
(Please note there are many good DNA testing companies and I chose Ancestry DNA due to their high profile and their publicised accuracy. Other companies are available)