Twin Discrimination

Young twins are sometimes bullied because others perceive them as different or cliquish. So, I was surprised to hear from a pair of identical twin women in their forties who reached out to me for help with this dilemma. While I am not certain I was helpful, I did find their circumstances eye-opening.

Both women felt that being twins evoked intense discrimination from peers, work colleagues, friends, and romantic partners. They described numerous experiences where they were bullied, ridiculed, and rejected because of their twinship. One sister repeatedly said she does not understand why twins cannot be accepted for who they are since societal attitudes toward gay and transgender individuals have certainly become more accepting and tolerant.

Unfortunately, these feelings intensified recently when one twin’s online romantic interest broke off their relationship because he was uncomfortable with her close connection with her sister. This occurrence further perpetuated the pair’s expectations of being harassed and blamed for their twinship. Both women felt that nobody outside of their family has made the effort to get to know them as individuals.

Their life experiences increasingly discouraged them from seeking outside connections. They lamented that they had little success making friends on their own. They were angry and hurt that others would not or could not overcome their envious feelings toward the twins. I suggested that making the effort to have a few separate relationships might give other people the opportunity to get to know each sister individually.

I am concerned that their window for extending themselves outside of the twinship is closing. Perhaps that is not a bad outcome from their perspective. Developmentally speaking, enmeshment becomes a stronger possibility under these circumstances.

Image courtesy of J Stimp (CC BY 2.0)


  1. Hi I am an identical twin. I realized at the age of 21 when my sister and I shared a dorm room in college that I felt like I had no identy outside of my sister and that people mostly treated us as a unit including our family. I still have very few positive memories of even my parents ever treating me as an individual. However when I realized I felt like I had no self-worth beyond that of being a twin I realized I needed to find my own identity and made the radical decision to leave school, regroup, then move across the country and start my own life. This was very scary as I was extremely shy but the fear was harder than it all turned out to be. Of course that move created issues with my sister who didn’t have the same attitude but I write this because twins once they reach adulthood or an age where they can sort this out have to also take responsibility for how they are continuing to contribute to the perception of them as a unit. Are they putting each other over their relationships with their spouses? Do they only have the same friends? Do they only hang out in the same social situations? All it takes it getting involved in different activities with different social groups to become an individual. Most people I know would have no idea I had a twin if I didn’t mention it. It sounds to me like the twins mentioned in the article can’t change their past but they can change their future by starting to live independent lives that don’t concern the other one. Also, a spouse is not going to love that twins are on the phone with each other every day (spouses want to feel like they are the closest relationship – that is supposed to be the point of marriage) or if they give the sisters opinion if it contradicts their own. It is intimidating for others to have strength in numbers (my father was very intimidated by us once my parents got divorced and when we were teenagers made the rule we couldn’t come and visit him and his new wife together, all that did was make it so we didn’t want to see them at all). My spouse does tend to take my sisters negative qualities and If Im acting like her he’ll point it out and we do have some issues so I totally get this is problematic. But at the same time I have occasionally accused him of acting like his older brother or being influenced by his mom. I might just be more sensitive to it as a twin already so Im not saying this is all right at all but it just is part of human psychology. Its unfortunate what twins go through but at the same time they need to take responsibility and understand that their insistence on always being together if that is the case does impact their relationships with others and others cant really control that – they can. But in some ways it is the same as married couples who are never willing to go off on their own and have their own relationships and lives. I’d say to those women in your article, OK that’s too bad you’ve suffered but its now in your power to change all of that. Why does a guy even need to know they are a twin at their age before he gets to know them? At this point its their fault not everyone else’s.

    • Dear Debra,
      Thank you SO much for your thoughts regarding the blog. You authentically articulated what so many struggling twin pairs cannot bear to hear.
      Feeling victimized is sometimes the only available option.
      Would you give me permission to share your writing on a blog post?
      I will certainly not use your name and will delete or alter whatever information may be too personal.
      Regardless, I am truly grateful that you have taken the time to share your experience and perspectives.
      Warm regards,
      Dr. Friedman

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