Are your (boy/girl) twins identical?

Joe Rawlinson by Joe Rawlinson - July 27, 2020

As you might have already experienced, people ask all types of questions when you are out in public with your twins.

Are my boy/girl twins identical?

One frequent question for parents of twins is, “Are they identical?” This is particularly awkward when you have boy/girl twins.

The absurdity of this question in light of the obvious differences in boys and girls makes you wonder why people even ask this question in the first place.

Isn’t it obvious that your twins are different genders? Or are people just oblivious to that which is so plain to see?

Babies All Look the Same

When your twins are infants, they each look just like a generic “baby” to others. Twins that are all swaddled up and wrapped in blankets make it hard to distinguish boy and girl features.

Since random strangers aren’t changing your twins’ diapers, it might not be obvious to them at first glance that you’ve got boy/girl twins.

4 Critical Mistakes Expectant Twin Parents Make

If you give people the benefit of the doubt that they are just confused and they can’t actually tell the genders of your babies, it might take the sting out of their question.

Most People Don’t Know About Twins

The reality is that many people don’t understand the differences between identical and fraternal twins. Unless they have twins in their family or close friends that are twins, they might just associate “twins” with “identical”.

The questioner might actually be thinking, “Aren’t all twins identical?” Well, no. Not really. Come change my son’s diaper and then my daughter’s diaper and ask me that question again.

(RELATED: Expecting twins? Avoid these 4 critical mistakes expectant twin parents make.)

Wait, seriously, can boy/girl twins really be identical?

Identical twins develop from a single fertilized egg (or zygote). This contains either male (XY) or female (XX) sex chromosomes and will result in same-gender twins. Fraternal twins, like a boy/girl pair, form from two different eggs fertilized by two different sperm, each with its own set of sex chromosomes. Fraternal twins can be boy/girl, two girls, or two boys. So no, your boy/girl twins are not identical.

There is an extremely rare case that can happen where the zygote splits to form identical twins but one of the pair doesn’t get both sex chromosomes. Thus you’d have one girl with Turner Syndrome, a genetic disorder where she has just one X chromosome. This results in short stature and lack of proper reproductive organ development. Since this is very rare, you’d already know if your daughter has Turner Syndrome.

Answering the “Are they identical?” Question

Possible retorts to the question “Are they identical?” include:

“Yes, yes they are.” – this ends the discussion and you move on with life. This is particularly effective with strangers at the supermarket who are just trying to make small talk and you’ll never see them again.

4 Critical Mistakes Expectant Twin Parents Make

“Actually, we’ve got a boy and a girl” – This doesn’t clear up the mystery of what an identical twin is in the mind of the inquisitor. However, it is a good way to end the conversation.

“No.” – This is a fair answer and if you’re up to continuing the discussion, this will generally draw out further questioning.

How to Prevent This Question

If this question really gets on your nerves, you can prevent it.

Option 1: don’t leave the house. OK, that might not be realistic long-term even though it is the reality in the early months with twins.

(RELATED: Expecting twins? Avoid these 4 critical mistakes expectant twin parents make.)

Option 2: Dress your twins differently. Dress them in stereotypical boy and girl clothes. Yes, pinks and purples look great on little girls and makes it obvious they are such. Boys in blue or a Bob the Builder outfit clearly screams “Hey, I’m a boy.”

How have you responded to this question? Leave a comment and let us know what has worked for you or a snarky remark that gave you great satisfaction in delivering to an unsuspecting stranger.

Aren't all twins identical? Well, not really. - Podcast 137

original picture by Jeremy Miles and Stefan

4 Critical Mistakes Expectant Twin Parents Make

Further Reading

Dad's Guide to Raising Twins book
Don't forget to pick up a copy of the definitive guide to raising twins. "Dad's Guide to Raising Twins" was written for fathers of twins to help guide you through the first several years with twins. Click here to learn more about the book and get your copy.

16 thoughts on “Are your (boy/girl) twins identical?”

  1. I have boy/ girl twins and so one is pink and one in blue, even the buggy is pink and blue, but I still get asked are they identical. Drives me mad, isn’t it obvious.

    Reply
    • I too have boy girl twins. My daughters car seat is pink, my sins green cammo. My son is very masculine, as babies go, and my daughter petite, big blue eyes, obvious girl. Still they ask the insanely unobservant question…”Are they identical”? To which I reply, very kindly…”Yes, minus the penis/vagina issue. Yes they are.” I drive my wife insane, but the looks I get are worth it.

      Reply
  2. Questions about my twins never ever bother me no matter how odd or incorrect. I could talk forever about my twins. you need to be patient with people who ask because having twins is unlike any other experience And don’t know the genetics component of it. We know because we have the twins!
    even if it bothers u or u were asked repeatedly, you can always give them short honest answers with a smile without being condescending , annoyed or rude.

    Reply
  3. We told our doctor that we thought it was so dumb when people found out that my wife was pregnant with identical twins, they would ask if they were boy/girl twins. He is a very experienced OB/GYN doctor and specializes in high risk pregnancies, so he has seen it all. He told us that here was one case in his long career that there was a boy/girl set of twins in the same placenta. They sent the placenta away for testing when they were born and the results that came back indicated that they were identical (as much as a boy and a girl can be). I am 99.99% sure he was not messing with us. I just found a case of “semi-identical” twins being discovered. Same egg, two sperm (one containing XX and one XY). One was a hermaphrodite and the other fully male.

    Reply
  4. I have twin boys (fraternal) but as soon as you have twins you start having more detailed conversations with people asking all sorts of questions. One thing that I realized is that people don’t KNOW boy/girl twins CANNOT be identical. You’d think it would be common sense but you’d also think when people look at my red head and brunette boys (who look nothing alike) they would refrain from asking the question, but nope they still ask!

    Reply
  5. I have been asked this irritating question many times .My twin girls do not look alike at all in the face but the body parts looks the same . I have learned to be very polite when answering because most of the people who ask me this question are really amazed and in their mind they have never seen twins that are not the identically . Sometimes I reply “Yes they are the same” ,”yes they are really twins ” and some conclude in disbelief “ok but they are not identical “. Thanks for this topic now I know what i will do to avoid this question .As soon as they grow old I will buy different clothes.

    Reply
    • @Babalwa – thanks for sharing how these interactions with strangers go for you. It is always interesting to me how fascinated people are with twins.

      Reply
  6. You have to remember that while it may well be the 100th time that day you’ve had to answer the question, it will more than likely be the first time that person has asked it.

    There is no excuse for rudeness or being short with people. I am always delighted to talk about my twins, especially the ones who recognise that they’re boy/girl (hard not to nowadays) and only 5 minutes in realise that they’re about the same age and then ask if they’re twins.

    I had one old chap ask me when they were tiny if they were identical and I told him no, they were boy and girl. He looked confused then followed up with “But will they be?” Even he didn’t get a bad attitude from me.

    My wife runs a twins support group and some of the identical twins there look very different so it is a natural question for people to ask – identical doesn’t have to mean cloned.

    Personally I rather enjoy the attention the twins get and would rather have it that way than a single child who nobody ever notices.

    Reply

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