**Note: this blog post is not in reference to the story that went out recently about husband/wife twins. You can read about my thoughts on that topic separately, here.
Never stop doing the right thing, especially when it comes to extending compassion, acceptance, and support to those affected by stigma.
This lesson became crystal clear to me over the past week.
I recently posted a link on my social media outlets to an online article at TheRoot.com. I was asked by Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. to comment for the article on genetic risks associated with cousin marriage and childbearing.
In my response, I clarified that although slightly increased, reproductive risks to offspring of cousin couples do not differ much from that of the general population.
As a rule, few people comment to me on individual posts that I put up on my social media.
This one was an exception.
I have been teased and mocked privately for my quote, for willingly commenting on such a topic, and for failing to express disgust and rejection of someone who would dare to date a cousin.
The comments section of TheRoot.com article is even worse. It is filled with scathing comments from posters, some anonymous and some willing to place their name proudly next to hateful remarks.
This has to stop.
The shaming and the stigma surrounding incest and consanguinity hurts people. It hurts couples who feel confused and conflicted. It's often devastating to the children of these couples who find themselves surrounded in a culture that would treat them as less-than-human if the origin of their conception were widely known.
I work individually with the offspring of couples who were family to one another. Many of these individuals are adoptees who never knew the circumstances of their origins until direct-to-consumer DNA testing became available.
The information was discovered incidentally, as a result of someone taking the raw DNA data from an ancestry test and running it through a type of DNA analysis tool that looks for a genetic feature called high runs of homozygosity (ROH).
The individuals whose DNA reveals their parents are related have been forced to grapple unexpectedly with what for some is extremely difficult information. Some have equated the emotional journey to that of intense and unanticipated grief, like that experienced when someone close to you dies unexpectedly.
But when you lose a loved one, others offer you condolence and support.
Those who discover high ROH do not receive this support.
They keep their secret, and they grieve in private. They do this out of necessity, not choice.
They are surrounded by a culture that mocks and judges them for something for which they had no control and for which they are not to blame.
They are 100% human, like you and like me.
They matter to the world, no matter who was mom or dad.
Yet they question it.
Luckily, the children of cousin couples and other closely-related parents have begun to find one another and have formed a secret online community. They share stories and support.
Because of their hard work to heal themselves and to help others -- and because of work of professionals outside of the group like CeCe Moore -- there are growing resources.
There now exists support where once was only a void.
The High ROH Infosheet was created for this growing community.
It is the most often visited resource on my entire website.
I hope you will stop and read through it.
Even if it doesn't apply to you, please share it in your DNA testing circles.
You never know who might benefit from it.
Tease me if you will for being willing to speak up and share a different perspective on this taboo topic.
Just know that it won't ever stop me from providing accurate, judgment-free information in places where I think others might benefit.