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Racially Trans

Recently, two people have been publicly outed amidst much criticism as ‘ethnic frauds’ – Rachel_Dolezal was outed as ‘not black’ in June, and more recently Andrea Smith was outed as ‘not Cherokee’. I have no intention of adding my own criticism or defence to these two specific situations, which are no doubt fantastically complicated. However, I can’t help but consider the analogy with another more recent and high profile case – that of Caitlyn Jenner.

Caitlyn-formerly-known-as-Bruce, who was already pretty famous, became slightly more famous after outing herself as a trans-woman.

Most reasonable people were supportive of Caitlyn’s decision to become a woman, and the plight of trans-people gained some much needed airtime. There was no shortage of asshat opinions, either, but I rarely listen to spiteful ramblings. Disagree, or fail to understand, by all means, but do so with decency. Personally, I was sceptical, given Caitlyn’s reality-TV background, but I suppose that TV Personalities can have real problems too and so I will cede the benefit of the doubt.

But if men can like men and women can be born in men’s bodies, then perhaps white people can be born in black bodies, and black women can be born in Cherokee bodies and like men. The semantics becomes confusing, but then we don’t even know how sexuality works and why some girls like girls, so why doesn’t the principle hold for race as it does for sex?

I anticipate the argument that representing yourself as something you are not is fraud, and bad. Getting a job with a fake degree? Uncool. Ticking “black” on the race box to get a BEE job? Uncool. Except – why does Caitlyn get to tick “female” on the gender box? I realise it isn’t quite the same. There’s a difference between claiming to be something you are not in order to get something you aren’t entitled to, and being genuinely confused about what you are.

But if you are confused about what you are – as a race or as a gender – it’s somewhat understandable if you make the wrong call sometimes. Even if Rachel and Andrea aren’t the poster children of the trans-racial identity, can we be so quick to write them off purely as frauds?

Stereotypes are hard, man!


{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Hermann 2 July 2015, 10:29 pm

    As a trained Actuary and having worked for an Insurance company I know Women on average live longer than men. So they pay a lower premium. We even have a “Women’s Own” policy which is cheaper as statistics prove that women generally drive better (have less accidents). Caucasian males live longer on average the Black males.

    But then statistically a few gender or race changes will hardly be of any statistical significance.

  • Chris 3 July 2015, 5:22 am

    Seems that the cost of changing race or sex by far overwhelms the benefits of cheaper insurance. As you say, trans people are unlikely to bother the insurance industry statistically.

    Also, I don’t know why Micheal Jackson didn’t occur to me when I wrote this. He actually performed a physical race change.

  • Octavo 6 July 2015, 8:45 am

    The genetic differences that control for things like facial features and skin colour do not generally confer a difference in brain organisation, whereas gender differences do. It has been shown through fMRI that people suffering from gender dysphoria actually have a brain structure that more closely resembles an opposite gendered brain. Thus there is a valid physiological reason for their feelings. I’m not sure the same claim can be made for racial differences.

    • Chris 6 July 2015, 9:12 am

      Assuming you eliminate the possibility that ‘racially trans’ people are distinguishable via brain physiology (likely, as you point out), you’re still left with the fact that there is differentiation by race according to some other mechanic – by that same mechanic, some people may identify atypically.
      So while racially trans vs sexually trans probably isn’t like for like, they may still be analogous.
      As for whether the mechanic whereby people differentiate by race makes any sense, well…

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