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  • Richard Wenzel

End of an era

A person who can keep a secret may be wise, but they are not half as wise as a person with no secrets to keep. – Edgar Watson Howe (paraphrased)

You may not realize this, but we are living through an enormous societal transformation.

Practices, norms, expectations, and habits that have existed, if not flourished, for several centuries are being demolished. Amazingly, this demolition will span probably about a dozen years or so, a comparatively brief period compared to what has existed for so long. Personally, I say “Good riddance!” to these antiquated, usually counter-productive, and often harmful customs. Although, we cannot celebrate their demise just yet - entrenched traditions do not vanish easily, quickly, or willingly – but their downfall is within sight and seems all-but-certain.

I am talking about DNA secrets. The secret created when a child is adopted, but this critical information is withheld from the child, forever. Or the secret of a child being the result of donor conception, who is never told the basis of their very existence. Or the child – of which I am one – who spends a lifetime believing that their father is their “father” in every sense of the word, including the genetic sense, because their mother repeatedly says so, notwithstanding that the child bears zero resemblance to their father.

In the not-too-distant future, every person will be identifiable via their DNA sample. And proving a person’s relatedness, or not, to another person (such as a parent or sibling) will be a straightforward task. You may think this is an amazing feat of science and technology that will offer society many benefits, or, you may think that it is a scary development bringing us one step closer to a dystopian future. Whatever you think, the reality of widespread DNA data exposing secrets is coming. Indeed, I believe it is here, that we are living through the Great DNA Secrets Exposé. This began about a decade ago, with the nearly $1000 direct-to-consumer (DTC) DNA tests that people sent to companies that had small DNA databases, hence only small chances existed of matching a genetic parent, sibling, or other relatives. But just like persistence enables a stream of water to cut through rock, people kept buying tests, which enabled lower test prices and submitted their samples, which enabled the databases to grow, thereby growing their power to reveal DNA secrets.

Today, some DTC DNA tests cost $49, or about the same as what my wife and I spent on dinner at a local restaurant last night. And today, there are countless articles, podcasts, books, blogs, news stories, etc., recounting stories of people discovering their DNA truth about their “parents” and siblings; deception has consequences and those consequences are now being broadcast far and wide.

So, share your story. Tell your friends, neighbors, former classmates, co-workers, and anyone else who might currently be considering adoption, donor conception, or other act that they believe should remain secret. Tell them there is no future in secrets. The truth will escape. Tell them to spend their precious time and energy on tales grounded in truth, which is an approach most likely to yield a desired outcome. Tell them the era of DNA secrets is over!


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