There has been an enormous backlash against Rachel Dolezal ever since she came out and identified as a black woman. Both as a condemnation towards her for having the audacity to don a modern day blackface in order to appropriate black culture, as well as a harsh denial that identifying as a different race is the same as identifying as a different gender.

I’m going to be using the adopted “transracial” term throughout this blog post because despite its original meaning of crossing racial boundaries, it’s really the best we’ve got. Plus, it gives me a good opportunity to address the first critique of Rachel Dolezal’s identifying as a black woman: people claim that because there is no word for “transracial”, Rachel Dolezal must be lying. This of course would mean that before the early 1970s when transgender was added to the English lexicon, it was impossible for people to identify as a different gender. Not having an English word for something does not automatically discard it as impossible.

Rachel Dolezal must also be lying because you can’t feel a race, whereas you can feel a gender. Those who are transgendered typically are aware of the ‘wrongness’ of their body in relation to their identity as early as childhood. What does it mean to feel a gender though? It seems just as ludicrous as feeling a race. As a cis-man, I feel I should be adequately qualified to say what it feels like to be a man, and I am 100% certain that a trans-male would not feel their gender the same as I do. I am told, time and again, that there is no way for me to understand what it’s like to be trans, and that is fair, there’s not. I don’t claim to. But that lack of understanding works both ways. Being a man is not just the hormonal urges and biological make-up; chromosomes dictate gender just as much as genetics dictate race, and both have physiological effects on our selves, but any transgendered person will tell you there’s more to gender identity than your chromosomes. Why can’t it be the same with genetics? Yes, there’s also the social conditioning and cultural attitudes that affect gender as well, and this is precisely why gender is considered a social construct, much like, hey you guessed it, race!

Which leads me to my next point: Rachel Dolezal is merely a white woman appropriating black culture because that’s what white people do. White people wear Native American tribal feathers like party hats, and are shocked when they learn that trivializing sacred traditions for the sake of looking exotic at a rave is considered offensive. But by all accounts, Rachel Dolezal was not trivializing black culture, but was embracing it, thriving within it, and helping progress it. If becoming an embodiment of a member of a culture is by definition appropriation, why is it not appropriation when a man becomes a woman or vice versa? There are gender cultures. We each have our separate hairstyles and modes of dress; we have our own belief sets (for example with regards to sexuality); we have our own rituals, etc. Yes, not all men and women fall into those cultural boundaries, just as not all black and white people fit into their own respective cultural stereotypes. I say again, THEY ARE BOTH EQUALLY SOCIAL CONSTRUCTS. If Rachel Dolezal was indeed trivializing black culture, rather than fully immersing herself into it, then it would be appropriation. However, since she clearly is not, then there is no more appropriating than when someone identifies as a separate gender.

But of course, black culture has a long, sordid history of oppression by white people, so that makes it worse. Black people weren’t given the vote in America until 1965, and the Jim Crow One-Drop law forced even those with the most minute of black ancestry to face terrible oppression. The argument is that when black people are treated like white people, then white people can identify as black. But women only got the vote 45 years earlier in 1920, and if I want to get catty about it, women weren’t allowed to wear pants in school until 1972, and now men want to wear skirts? Women still receive a fraction of the pay that men make for the same amount of work, and there are still disturbing amounts of incidents of violence against women. So if we have to wait until black people have equality for a white person to be able to identify as one, why was gender allowed to jump the gun?

My favourite argument that I’ve come across thus far was that Rachel Dolezal was seeking to gain socially by becoming a black woman. Which is hilarious to me because since when has a BLACK WOMAN been the top of the social totem pole? White privilege and male privilege are no longer the accepted norm? Black women have taken the top spot? Please. And even if Rachel Dolezal benefited from identifying as a black woman, this trans-man wrote an entire article about how sweet being recognized as a dude is, and no one is asking him to hand back his penis card:

http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/05/male-privilege-trans-men/

Speaking of privilege, Rachel Dolezal is also condemned because she can just remove her shoe polish or whatever and do her hair like a proper white woman whenever she gets tired of playing dress up, and she can reclaim her white privilege; no harm, no foul. Just like a trans-woman could take off her dress and wig any time she wanted to get back that sweet male privilege, right?

A lot of transgendered people have been interviewed, as well as black people, as well as trans-black people, who all claim that Rachel Dolezal can’t be associated with them for a variety of reasons. So she must be lying, because intersectional identity politics teaches us that those from one group get to dictate how those from another group identify themselves. That was sarcasm. If you don’t get it, look up intersectionality. It’ll be good for you. I’m sure being transracial is quite different from being transgendered, or cisracial, but that doesn’t mean those groups have the right to denounce her identity just because it’s different from their own.

The final argument is, of course, she’s just lying. There’s no such thing as being transracial, so she can’t be one. She’s a big fat liar. Except, there’s kinda precedent. Given the fact that race is a social construct, it shouldn’t be that difficult to identify as a race separate from the one you were born with. We actually have names for those kinds of people, and given the seemingly natural transphobic nature of most people, they’re all slurs: Wiggers, for instance, or an Uncle Tom for the opposite. We have Bananas, and those white guys who are super into Japanese culture. I don’t know if they have a name, but most people just call them creeps. In Asia, there is that whole eye-widening craze. Hell, the one instance that I’m surprised NOBODY has mentioned in this clusterfuck of a media shitstorm is Michael God damn Jackson. You could argue that he had his skin disease and that’s why he bleached his skin, but his skin disease didn’t cause him to get facial reconstruction surgery to thin out his nose and lips, or straighten his hair, effectively erasing any remaining “blackness” he once possessed. Michael Jackson never openly identified as being white, but it is not a far stretch of the imagination to envision it as a distinct possibility.

It is possible Rachel Dolezal is lying. Sure. But people are arguing so vehemently about the strictest impossibility of anything similar ever even taking place that you have to question why transracial is different from transgender. Why is a white person identifying as being black so offensive while a man identifying as a woman is accepted (among progressives, anyway)?

My first guess was that white people are simply greater villains than men, but I don’t think that’s true. Slavery, the biggest divide between whites and blacks, didn’t occur just in America. Africa had its own share of slavery, and when white slavers came to the African continent to buy slaves, it was African tribesmen who sold them. I’m not trying to justify or condone anything, but I would like to point out that I can assume with almost 100% certainty that both individuals in every instance of those slave exchanges, for both races, were men. White people have done terrible things, but so have black people, so has every single race in existence, and again, in almost every instance, it was likely being perpetrated by a man.

Simone de Beauvoir in her book The Second Sex points out that it is much more difficult for woman to combat against men because gender pervades all the other divisions. Whites and blacks have a clear distinction, as do the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Most combative groups have distinct dividing lines between them. Men and women, however, permeate all those groups. It is almost impossible for men and women to strictly work against one another because of this, and also because quite frequently men and women love each other deeply. The biological connection that men and women share makes it much more difficult for us to hate one another, whereas there is no such courtesy among any other groups.

It’s also possible that people identify more with their race than they do with their gender, and that is why people are getting more anxious over someone identifying as transracial than transgender.

For the group that claims to be the critical thinkers of the modern world, I really feel like progressives have dropped the ball. If you want to argue with me that transracial isn’t a thing, go for it. I’m not married to the idea. I just need to see a better argument that can’t just be put up against transgendered people with just a few words switched out, like I’m going to do here with this Huffington Post article:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/12/rachel-dolezal-caitlyn-jenner_n_7569160.html

Gender divisions may ultimately be a construct, Moore notes, but “sex is determined by your chromosomes.” And it’s secondary sex characteristics that primarily determines gender privilege, and the way others in the world interact with your gender identity.

Transgender identity is a concept that allows men to indulge in femininity as a commodity, without having to actually engage with every facet of what being a woman entails — discrimination, marginalization, oppression, and so on. It plays into gender stereotypes, and perpetuates the false idea that it is possible to “feel” a gender. As a man, Jenner retains his privilege; he can take off the wig and the nylons and navigate the world without the stigma tied to actually being a woman. His connection to gender oppression is something he has complete control over, a costume he can put on — and take off — as he pleases.

It’s unclear what Jenner believes his authentic gender identity to be — he has yet to comment publicly, and actively dodged the question when a reporter asked him what genitals he had under his skirt on June 10. “I don’t understand the question,” he answered, ending the interview abruptly.

Jenner’s delusion and commitment to living as a woman is profound. And it’s inherently wrong. The implications of a man, donning femininity and then using that femininity in order to navigate women’s washrooms is offensive. 

I won’t do the whole article because a lot of it is too specific to Dolezal’s case, and frankly it’s annoying to bold all those words, but you get the idea. If you want to call me transphobic for making the comparison between transgender and transracial, then I will call you transphobic for automatically assuming that someone who identifies as something they weren’t born as is a liar and a pretender, or worse, mentally ill.

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