Identical Vs. Fraternal


     As a parent of twins, I’ve had to deal with my fair share of oddball questions throughout the years.  Some of them are legitimate, and some of them are really quite obnoxious (for example, “Are they from fertility drugs?”  Like it’s anyone’s freaking business how many needles I had to stick in my ass for three friggin’ years!)  By far, though, the most frequently asked question has always been, “Are they identical or fraternal?”  And let me just tell ya how many people there are out there who are completely and totally mixed up about this very concept.  So, rather than singling out those of you who fall into that dazed and confused category (it’s ok, believe me, you’re not alone), let’s have a little review:

     Identical twins form when a fertilized egg splits.  Fraternal twins occur when two different eggs are fertilized by two different sperm.  Same sex twins can be either identical or fraternal; however, different sex twins can ONLY be fraternal.  This tends to be what totally throws people off.  Just because a set of twins looks alike does not mean that they are IDENTICAL.  Just stop and think about what identical means for a second.  According to, the definition of “identical” is:  “being the very same.”  So, if you have a set of boy/girl twins, why would it be IMPOSSIBLE for them to be identical?  Still not getting it?  Ok, then, what does a boy have that a girl most definitely does not have?  Ding ding ding!  We have a weiner, I mean,a winner!  So, now that we’ve cleared that all up, let me tell you about a certain confrontation I found myself in at Target one time way back when.

     I had my son and daughter in their massive limousine-sized double stroller in the checkout lane, just trying to do my thing and get the hell out of there without a major meltdown from the babies or from me.  Unfortunately, though, I got stuck with Loose-Lipped Linda the cashier who wanted to ooh and ah over the double dose of fun coming through her lane.  She asked a bazillion different questions, ending with the all-too-popular, “So, are they identical or fraternal?”  I tried to keep my cool by smiling and politely telling her that since they were boy/girl twins, they could only be fraternal. However, she felt it her duty to go into a whole long story about how she had a friend who most certainly had identical boy/girl twins.  Again, I calmly smiled and told her that they could not be identical.  Dipshit was just not having it though and continued to argue with me that these kids were by all means identically alike.  The sleep-deprived bitch in me took over that point, so I looked her straight in the eye and said, “If one child has a penis and one child has a vagina, there’s NO WAY they can be exactly the same now can they?”  That finally shut her ass up and I could see the squeaky wheels in her underworked brain trying very hard to process this new information.  

     So, in the future, if you run into someone who has boy/girl twins, you can go ahead and save yourself from asking a question that doesn’t even need to be asked.  Nobody would dare question the difference between a taco and a hot dog, right?  All it takes is just a little bit of brain power to determine that the two are, in fact, very very different.  (And might I add, thank God for that!)

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10 Responses to Identical Vs. Fraternal

  1. Rob says:

    I don’t have twins, but it never ceases to amaze me how many people actually ask that question about boy/girl twins. If I were in your shoes I would have snapped after the first round of questioning.

  2. tcrpmg says:

    I love how you dealt with the moron at Target! It always made sense that identical means the same. A boy and a girl are definitely different for sure!!

  3. Well now I know…and knowing is half the battle.


    Thanks for the education!

  4. Bree stone says:

    Nice!!! LOl couldnt have worded it better myself!!!

  5. Carol says:

    It always amazes me how little people know about human reproduction of any sort. My daughter, an IVF, baby who is now 16, has always been the subject of much curiosity when people find out how she was conceived. The questions people ask! My favorite ( after explaining patiently that in vitro is also know as “test tube baby”) “Well, what do you call her birthday?” This lady actually thought my child grew in a test tube and we cracked her out!

  6. existere says:

    I have been asked the are-they-identical question millions of times, even by health professionals.

  7. Andrea says:

    I have three month old twin boys and people come up and tell me how much they look alike all the time. Not noticing that one has blonde hair and the other black hair and that one is over two pounds heavier than the other. They don’t even look related ; )

  8. Krystyn says:

    A coworker recently was telling us she was a twin…we asked if she had a brother or a a sister. She said brother. I asked her how many times people asked if they were identical. She said “too many.” Seriously, people. Did you go to biology class in high school? Or health?

    And, I have a friend with GGB triplets and people ask the same thing! Wow.

  9. Beth says:

    The only time I have ever asked that question is when the gender was indeterminate on the twins in question even when called by name.

    I was hoping for guidance via fraternal/identical to determine if they were boys, girls, or one of each :).

  10. Latesha says:

    I can relate to this post. I had a similar situation happen to me at Target. I had the cashier tell me that my fraternal twin girls weren’t twins because they did not look alike. After I gave him the stare of death I told him that not all twins are identical. My twins are fraternal he still didn’t get it.

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