From the hand of fate, we are all dealt our cards. To each, 23 chromosomal pairs – each one a blended representation of the genetic precedents that have preceded us. Outside of identical twins, no two chromosomes are ever the same and their sequence similarity to our forbearers diminishes rapidly with each iteration; i.e. next generational birth. By the time you have gotten to 10 generations back, there is only a 50:50 chance that you share any of a given ancestor’s DNA. This is to say, that our genes are not our genealogy. Yet we are still related, regardless of our germline.
Our human need for kinship runs deep. With those that we believe to share bloodline or tradition, we have banded for millennium. Together, we have suffered and shared in life’s hardships and spoils. When separated, we swiftly re-partition into the groups that we feel we belong. As humans, we deeply seek and need to be members of “our tribe”.
In cultures spread across time, “banishment” has been put above “death” as the-ultimate-punishment. If you broke with accepted traditions or appeared to reflect something too far afield from the “norm”, ex-communication was the group’s response.
First impressions are critical. Extraordinary effort is placed on distinctive dress to ensure one’s quick recognition amongst the tribe. Perhaps a specific type of feathers, jewelry, garment or graphic design. To belong was to be safe; as true then as it remains today. As time has passed, our history has ridden alongside us. Visual triggers remain a key way to reinforce our tribal clustering. Whether it is skin color, gender or any other physical feature that could be used to filter, identify and sort. Our legacy biological systems are built on these visual tools.
Yet we’ve begun the long journey “to see past what we see.” To notice the extraordinary similarity we share with those who may appear to look just a little different. To realize that we so often share more in common with those whom we have shared aspirations but perhaps a different external wrapper. And to acknowledge that even with those that we seem to share little, we all share the same responsibilities. To respect (and harness) our differences, to expect shared resources and to demand just treatment and equal opportunity.
On the long journey we have seen many moments of remarkable advancement. Milestones in which freedom and equal rights have been extended to those for whom they had long been denied – providing more integration, then more evidence of our remarkable similarities and synergies. We find ourselves becoming increasingly comfortable with the expanded safety and productivity of our new empowered tribe.
Yet, habit is stubborn. New ways seldom run free from the past. When tired, worried or repressed, we cling to the old. Revert to reflex. Cower from the new. Our slow advances on gender and race, get hip-checked as revelations on sexual exploitation (#metoo), or police brutality (#blacklivesmatter), starkly remind us of today’s residual societal asymmetries.
Similarly, our remarkable global progress on gay, same-sex marriage and gender rights become clouded by anti-scientific policy recommendations proposing that natal birth designation provide an irrevocable definition of gender. If enacted, this line of thinking would seriously reverse the rights for those in the transgender community – critical and current ballot box issues that would reverse the path of inclusion and return us to our dark history of narrow-minded banishment.
To be born is a miracle. For some a work of the divine and for all a demonstration of the pristine – to be human. Every birth a never before (or again) blend of history. A forward-looking statement derived from the trials and tribulations of every forbearer that precedes us. In some, we will seek to claim direct kinship or a shared bloodline. But with all, we have shared upside and obligation.
We each fulfill a space on a spectrum. How we think, in whom and how we love will all be completely unique. The veneer of our surface belittles the richness of our core. As individuals we can become exceptional but only as communities can we be unstoppable. This is our true birth-right, as is our right-to-vote; squander neither.