Race and cultural identity differ; the same is true for biological sex and gender identity. People who describe President of the Spokane NAACP chapter, Rachel Dolezal’s, misrepresentation of herself as black, as indicative of being “transracial,” are really talking about cultural appropriation.
Cultural appropriation is, often, an expression of the value an individual places on a particular culture, so much so, that his or her own identity is significantly informed by it.
The argument that Rachel Dolezal and Caitlyn Jenner are the same, that transgender and the term, “transracial” share similar qualities, or that, because Dolezal identifies with black culture, she should be considered black, is problematic. For one, such arguments fail to recognize differences between biological sex, race, gender identity, and cultural identity. Biological sex and race are static, which isn’t the case for cultural and gender identity.
Being transgender isn’t about denial of biological sex, it’s about accepting that one’s gender identity cannot subscribe to norms espoused by society; it’s about allowing one’s own instincts and natural tendencies to determine how one chooses to live and, socially, identify. Biologically speaking, Caitlyn Jenner keeps the sex she was born with. But, in all other ways—behaviorally and otherwise, the label of “man” is no longer appropriate.
Racism isn’t about culture.
Racism is discrimination, inequality, and social stigma directed towards a group of people based solely on the fact that they were born of a certain race and have, often times, its physical traits, ect.
Being on the receiving end of racism, as we have seen, brings with it a host of experiences unique to those who are members of that race, or another oppressed racial group. The implications of Dolezal’s actions are connected to a long history involving the topic of race and culture in this country, just as the comparison to Caitlyn Jenner relates to much research, scholarly and otherwise, concerning gender and sexuality.
With that being said, here are two transgender people of color ‘making waves’
Janet Mock: The New York Times bestselling author of Redefining Realness and the host of So POPular! — a weekly MSNBC digital series about culture. She is a sought-afterspeaker and the founder of #GirlsLikeUs, a social media project that empowers trans women. Her book recounts her journey towards womanhood and serves as a inspiration for transgender people of color everywhere.
“Sometimes people try to destroy you, precisely because they recognize your power – not because they don’t see it, but because they see it and they don’t want it to exist.” – Janet Mock
Laverne Cox is an activist and actress on Netflix’s hit series Orange is the New Black. She was born in Mobile, Alabama, and was the first openly transgender person in history to receive and Emmy nomination.
“My third grade teacher called my mother and said, ‘Ms. Cox, your son is going to end up in New Orleans in a dress if we don’t get him into therapy.’ And wouldn’t you know, just last week I spoke at Tulane University, and I wore a lovely green and black dress.” – Laverne Cox.
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This article originally appeared in BlackEnterprise.com