Why Your Parents Don’t Want You Doing 23andMe

January 9, 2019  |  
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23andme ethics

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The DNA genetic testing and analysis service 23andMe has become a sensation. You likely know many people who’ve taken the test. Has this obsession to know every tiny branch of our roots always been there? Or has the option to explore it provoked the desire to do so? We can’t say for sure but, you likely always had some interest in knowing your background. You’d ask your parents stories about your great grandparents. You wondered if you had long-lost cousins around the world. You marveled at that one physical feature you have that nobody else in your family seems to have—where did it come from? Who gave that to you? It’s no surprise to me that 23andMe has been such a success. What has been a surprise to me, though, is that not everyone older than the millennial generation is such a fan of it. I have several friends whose parents explicitly forbid them from doing the test. I have friends’ whose parents were heartbroken and insulted that their kids took the test. Here is why your parents may not want you doing 23andMe.

23andme ethics

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Some history may be sad

Some of your family’s history may be very sad. You may have certain ancestors who were terribly mistreated and had difficult, joy-less lives. If that’s a part of your family’s history that your parents hoped to leave in the past, they don’t want you drudging it up.

23andme ethics

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Explain that it’s your right

Just because your parents aren’t comfortable confronting some of the horrors of your family history doesn’t mean they get to conceal it from you. That pain and sadness is in your blood. It could be good for you to understand where it comes from—that may even help you dispel it, and realize how strong your bloodline is for having overcome it.

23andme ethics

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Don’t you feel a strong identity?

Some parents can feel insulted when their child wants to do a full DNA analysis. They may ask, “Did we not provide you with enough culture in this household? Did we not instill in you a strong enough sense of identity? And now you have to go hunting it down from someone else—from strangers.

23andme ethics

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Assure them they were great parents

Make sure your parents understand that they did a wonderful job providing you with an enriching, dynamic, and cultured upbringing. Make sure they know your desire for DNA analysis has nothing to do with feeling like you don’t know who you are. You’d just like to understand your family history more.

23andme ethics

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Leftover fear from an intolerant time

If your parents come from a demographic that was once ostracized and experienced a lot of prejudice, which is basically all people of color, they may not want you to know just how much your family was affected. If members of your family were also on the oppressing side, that could be especially touchy.

23andme ethics

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Ease their worries

Your parents may live a very sheltered life. They may not realize how much times have changed, and what a wonderfully tolerant network of individuals you’ve embedded yourself in. Tell them stories and give them examples of the open mindedness you surround yourself with so they know you’re safe.

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Family feuds

There could be a long-standing feud between two parts of the family who live far, far from each other. They may have vowed, long ago, to cut ties. Your parents were fed the idea that that side of the family is bad because their parents were fed that idea and so on. They’d rather not tell you the whole story so, they just hid the fact that you have ancestors in a far-away country from you.

23andme ethics

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They should show tolerance

Remind your parents that the very type of intolerance they fear for you is similar to that which they’re displaying for long-lost relatives. They do not even know those family members, and yet they have decided they do not like them. That’s not fair. Maybe this feud can end with you.

23andme ethics

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Some ancestors weren’t nice

Maybe you had some bad apples in the bunch—some outlaws, some selfish and dishonest individuals, some people who ran illegal businesses that harmed hundreds of people. Your parents may prefer you don’t know about that. They also may not want to relive the trauma some of those ancestors caused.

23andme ethics

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They shouldn’t fear judgment

Your parents shouldn’t fear that people would judge you or ostracize you based on the bad actions of ancestors who are long gone. Anyone who would judge you based on that is small-minded and not someone you want around anyways. Explain that to your parents.

23andme ethics

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So you aren’t in the system

It’s very possible that your parents have heard that law enforcement turns to DNA analysis companies such a 23andMe to collect DNA samples on people of interest. Your parents may not want you in the system.

23andme ethics

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Well, they aren’t wrong

Look, your parents aren’t wrong about this one. There have been instances of law enforcement turning to DNA analysis companies that possessed DNA of suspects. There’s not a lot you can do about that. But, if you don’t plan on participating in criminal activity then, your parents don’t have much to worry about.

23andme ethics

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It’s your choice

At the end of the day, it’s your right to seek DNA analysis. If the prospect of it deeply upsets your parents, talk to them about why that is. Also keep in mind that you don’t need to share your results with them. Furthermore, don’t think you’ll feel completely satisfied. Sometimes such testing only brings up more questions.

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