A new comparison of transgender and transracial identities

April 26, 2021 • 9:20 am

The question of how we compare someone like Rachel Dolezal, who assumed the identity of an African-American although she was white, with someone like Caitlyn Jenner, who transitioned from a male to a female, is a philosophically interesting ethical question that, unfortunately, has been declared almost taboo. If you even raise it, as Richard Dawkins or  philosopher Rebecca Tuvel did, you’re subject to a mass pile-on on social media and deemed a “transphobe”.

But regardless of how awkwardly you’ve asked the question, it’s still one worth pondering. If you change gender because you have a strong feeling that you’re in the wrong body, how does that differ from changing race if you have a strong feeling that you’re also in the wrong body, but one with the wrong pigmentation rather than the wrong gonads?  Just arguing that the former is “biological” and the latter is not doesn’t satisfy me, for in both cases you have neurological wiring that compels you to assume an identity other than the one you’re born with. (I’m assuming that these are genuine feelings.)

Nor does it help to say that you have to dissimulate being black if you’re white, so it’s deceptive to be “transracial”, and that is the relevant difference from being transsexual. But that doesn’t convince me, either. One could argue, for instance, that it’s also being “deceptive” to be transsexual if you don’t tell people that you’ve transitioned. And frankly, I don’t care if a transsexual person is open about it or not; it’s their decision and I’ll respect it, as well as using their chosen pronouns.

Further, I doubt that the people who raise the “deception” argument would fault a black person who tried to “pass for white” to escape oppression, or a person who is, say, one-quarter black—and on those grounds seen as “black”—pretend to be fully white, or just not say anything.

This is an interesting but a tough issue, yet it’s a question that progressives aren’t supposed to ask, as somehow it’s supposed to make you “transphobic.” But it’s not—it simply asks whether the same rationale that deems transsexuality perfectly fine can be used to justify transracialism.  I haven’t fully come down on either side, though I think that some people—and Dolezal may be one—are so invested in the idea that they’re of a different race that we might at least consider regarding them of that race. Many may not, particularly African-Americans in Dolezal’s case, but we still need to know why we think one is okay and the other flat wrong. If we decide that the arguments for regarding them as different are not convincing, we may have to change our opposition to transracialism. Again, I’m assuming that the feeling of being of the “wrong” race is genuine, strong, and persistent.

So when a reader pointed out an argument in the Boston Review about why these two cases are different, and why we should accept transgenderism but not transracialism, I read it carefully. You can, too, by clicking on the screenshot below:

The argument and article are long, and I don’t want to be long-winded here, so I’ll try to summarize their take. But there’s no substitute for reading the original piece.

The authors begin by attacking the argument that there’s such a thing as being a “real” member of a race, or of a “real” sex. This they reject as “essentialism” because there’s no trait that, they say, absolutely defines either one’s race or one’s sex. But they err here, for they conflate sex with gender. Their argument is that sex is not essentialist because there is no one character that pins down people as members of one sex or another. But there is: gamete size. In humans, as in other animals and many plants, sex is indeed virtually binary, although there are cases like hermaphroditism that are intermediate. These cases, though, are vanishingly rare, and biologists have no problem classifying nearly every human, just as we classify fruit flies or cats or birds, as “male” or “female”. Evolution has created this binary as a way to allow sex to take place, presumably for adaptive reasons. Thus Caitlyn Jenner, in her former incarnation as an athlete, was indeed a “real” biological male.

Race, on the other hand, is more subjective for many reasons: mixing of different groups, gene flow between groups, and a lack of discrete races the way we have discrete sexes. So the authors are correct that you cannot specify whether someone is a “real” Asian or a “real” black person. But they err when they say that essentialism crumbles when it comes to sex. And they move so swiftly from “sex” to “gender” in their paper that you barely notice it. Yet sex is important, for what does “transsexual” mean if not the transition from one sex to the other? Of course the transition is one based on something that is malleable: gender—your self concept.

But this is largely irrelevant, because the authors dismiss the “reality” argument in favor of another one that they consider strong.

The main reason they think that transracialism has no merit while transsexualism does is because they see both race and sex (conflated with gender) as not only socially defined, but socially malleable over time. Most important, they see making judgments about whether one category can be accepted and other other (transracialism) should rest on consequentialism or utilitarianism—whether the overall effect on society is good or bad. Allowing people to be transsexual, they argue, has no detrimental social consequences, while allowing people to be transracial does. (All quotes are indented):

Let us make one methodological comment at the start. When considering whether to revise rules for gender or race classification, we think that there are important considerations at both the population level and the individual level. While it is important and good to value a person’s autonomy and respect their identifications, we also think this good must be weighed against the population-level effects of revising our classifications. In cases where revising a classification would have a negative sociopolitical impact that outweighs the good of respecting how an individual identifies, we think that the classification should not be revised. And we think that revising the rules of race classification to accommodate transracial identification into Blackness is a case like this.

The main reason they see transracial identification as socially detrimental is because of reparations. If we want to make amends to a group because they’ve been oppressed for centuries (and I agree that we have to do something like this for groups like African-Americans), you have to identify the people who qualify for reparations.

Ergo, the reason why transracial people like Dolezal shouldn’t have their identities respected is that they should not qualify for any reparations to blacks because they haven’t experienced the historical oppression of being black, i.e., being seen as a member of the black community. (This, they say, is not a form of essentialism.) Why, then, should they benefit from assuming the identity of a black person? The authors conclude that accepting transracialism is detrimental to society.

From the article:

Now return to race. Being Black in the United States is similar to being a person who qualifies for IRSSA [Canadian “Indigenous Residential Schools Settlement Agreement] reparations in at least one important respect: being Black isn’t simply a matter of internal identification; it is also a matter of how your community and ancestors have been treated by other people, institutions, and governments. Given this, we think that race classification should (continue to) track—as accurately as possible—intergenerationally inherited inequalities. More directly, we need conceptual and linguistic tools for identifying those who are entitled to reparations for racial wrongs, where by “reparations” we mean institutional correction of intergenerational inequality. These might include, but are not limited to: affirmative action in employment and education; compensation for past economic and personal exploitation; debt-cancellation for affected populations; medical, home buying, and college aid; institutional apologies for past harms; and the creation of a standardized curriculum which explicitly addresses the role of racial oppression in state-building.

Central to this argument, then, is the observation that in the case of Blackness, inequality accumulates intergenerationally. For example, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black women born in the United States are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women. What explains this? Arline T. Geronimus, public health researcher and professor at the University of Michigan’s Population Studies Center, has argued using a series of empirical studies that the intergenerational effects of racism explain a number of decreased health outcomes for Black Americans, including lower birth weights and higher rates of pregnancy-related complications for Black women. Geronimus famously termed this phenomenon “weathering,” a term that refers to the idea that “Blacks experience early health deterioration as a consequence of the cumulative impact of repeated experience with social or economic adversity and political marginalization.”

This assumes of course that there must be compensations or reparations of a sort, and I have no quarrel about that, though others might.

Now I’m not sure about their claim that “inequality accumulates generationally,” for surely it does not. While there is clearly inequality between blacks and whites that is largely a holdover from slavery, I don’t see the inequality as increasing or “accumulating”.  Legal separation, for example, is completely gone. The fact that there is inequality, and that it’s a holdover, is sufficient to make a good argument for some form of reparations (I see affirmative action in colleges as one form of this). And yes, it does seem wrong that if there are reparations for black people, that Rachel Dolezal should be included.

But shouldn’t she? I’m not going to argue that point strongly, but by becoming a member of the black community she has subjected herself to same historically-inherited racism that devolves upon all members of that community. And she has done so without coercion by others. (She was indeed seen and accepted as black.)

You might be asking yourself at this point, “Well, women have experienced the same historical discrimination, so aren’t some reparations are in order here as well.” (I agree again, in that there should be some attempt to compensate for historical sexism.)

So what’s the difference? If a transracial person doesn’t deserve reparations because their original race wasn’t historically oppressed, doesn’t that apply to transsexual women as well? If Rachel Dolezal shouldn’t benefit from affirmative action because her “group” is wrong, should transsexual women be able to benefit from reparations given to biological women, like those assured by Title IX?

Dembroff and Payton don’t seem to think so, because, unlike racism, they see sexism and oppression of women as different—because sexism does not accumulate intergenerationally:

Notice that this argument does not apply in the case of gender and gender inequality. Gender inequality, unlike racial inequality, does not primarily accumulate intergenerationally, if only for the obvious reason that the vast majority of households are multi-gendered. While parents often are responsible for ingraining patriarchal ideas and rigid gender norms in their children (it is extremely difficult to avoid!), this is not a “passing down” of socioeconomic inequality itself but, rather, of a socialization that perpetuates gender inequality.

This seems to me a distinction without a difference. If one passes down socialization that perpetuates inequality, is that really different from the passing down of socioeconomic inequality itself, which after all is said to derive from racist attitudes? In both cases (and I think Kendi would agree with me for race), there are social attitudes passed down that perpetuate oppression. And in both cases the inequalities need to be rectified. The authors go on to explain the difference further, but it doesn’t convince me any more:

Notice that this argument does not apply in the case of gender and gender inequality. Gender inequality, unlike racial inequality, does not primarily accumulate intergenerationally, if only for the obvious reason that the vast majority of households are multi-gendered. While parents often are responsible for ingraining patriarchal ideas and rigid gender norms in their children (it is extremely difficult to avoid!), this is not a “passing down” of socioeconomic inequality itself but, rather, of a socialization that perpetuates gender inequality.

Perhaps I’m missing something, but whether or not inequality accumulates intergenerationally or arises anew each generation because of attitudes that carry on intergenerationally seems irrelevant.

I’ll draw my discussion to a close with just a few remarks. Yes, it does seem wrong for someone like Rachel Dolezal to benefit from reparations. But is it okay for transsexual people to benefit from reparations? After all, a transsexual woman like Caitlyn Jenner never experienced misogyny like many biological women do.

It may be the case that society would be worse off if everyone were allowed to assume the race they wanted than if transsexuals were allowed to become the gender they wanted, but I’m not talking here about mere “I feel like I’m black” transracial folks. Presumably the feeling would have to be honest, persistent, and deep-seated—just as people who want to switch genders are examined by psychiatrists and doctors before they are allowed to transition. It’s never a matter of mere assertion; it has to be something that is real and embedded in one’s persona and psychology.

Dolezal may be a genuine case of transracialism. Nobody accepts her as black, but if we reject her blackness, I think we need reasons for it that are better than, “she’s not a real black person” or “she shouldn’t be qualified for reparations, because she’s claiming to belong to a group in which inequality accumulates over generations.”

I got the sense from this article that the authors had a preordained conclusion they wanted to support, and then adduced some unconvincing arguments (at least to me) to arrive at this conclusion. But given that much of society has reached the conclusion that, for sex, you are who you feel you are, it’s incumbent upon us to find relevant differences between that attitude and one that allows the same possibility for race—or even other characteristics.

As I said, I remain open to arguments for accepting transsexualism but not transracialism. I just don’t think that this article is that home run argument. There are surely deep gut feelings behind our drawing distinctions here, but I don’t think these authors have brought those feelings to light, nor do I know what they are. They need to be aired.

If you want to read further about this, have a look at the paper that got Rebecca Tuvel in trouble. Click on the screenshot below:

47 thoughts on “A new comparison of transgender and transracial identities

  1. In the case of Dolzeal, I have often wondered that **if** Dolzeal didn’t know the identity of her father, who would or could be able to question her claims?

    Also, if Dolzeal decided to trace her ancestry (don’t know if she has), she could discover she has a PoC ancestor somewhere, and then make a (Elizabeth Warren-style) claim on that basis.

    I do wonder if it is OK to deny that someone is “black” or a “PoC” in the absence of any knowledge of someone’s ancestral history?

    I myself believe Dolzeal doesn’t believe or know she has any specific knowledge of any black ancestry she might have – given her defensive and ‘guilty’ reaction when a TV interviewer questioned her on the issue. However, those autho-wokists adamant about her status don’t know her ancestral history, so are they “choosing” what race she is?

    Naturally, these sorts of thoughts and discussions are taboo among the autho-wokists.

    1. Also, if Dolzeal decided to trace her ancestry (don’t know if she has), she could discover she has a PoC ancestor somewhere,

      On that basis, since everyone on the planet is descended from savannah apes in Africa (most likely East Africa, near to the rift valley ; but Sahelanthropus tchadensis does raise questions over being quite that precise), then everyone is “black”. Or, at least, “of African descent”, regardless of skin pigmentation.
      Which is fine by me – it would render the whole question of racism (“America’s Original Sin”, as I have seen it described, inaccurately – It’s not just American) as interesting as the question of who rubs which of their mucous membranes against which mucous membranes of some other person or people.

      1. I am a woman of Northern and eastern European ancestry, born into white culture in America. In spite of that I have always been drawn to Africa and never identified with the nationality of my father (Austria). But knowing as you state, that all of our ancestors came originally from
        Africa, I have never allowed myself to be pigeonholed into one race or another…I identify with the human race. I had no difficulty whatever identifying with the culture of my husband (Nigeria) and as an African wife, living in Nigeria, I chose to often wear the traditional dress worn by other women there. I was completely accepted no matter what I wore, even though my skin was pink and theirs was dark brown. It’s amusing because white women in my American culture lay in the sun to get tanned, and perm their hair, or wear dreadlocks or braids and no one bats and eye. Black women in America frequently straighten their hair, or use skin-lightening products and no one comments. African men coming to America discard their traditional garb to don Western business suits, etc. Now with this new ‘wokeness’ I am told I can’t wear my Nigerian dress, or everyone is now required to be culturally ‘correct’. Asian women get offended if white women dress in traditional Asian clothes. These attitudes are absurd. In this day and time of multiculturalism and intermarriage, we should all be free to assume the identity we choose, without criticism from the identity police. More power to Ms Dolzeal.

        1. From an Irish-European heritage, and married to a Russian, when I came to making a choice which new-to-me language to learn about 5 years ago, I considered Chinese (for averageness), Arabic (for utility at work – ha!) and Swahili (because I really enjoyed working in Tanzania). Ninasoma Kiswahili polepole.

    2. I think Rachel Dolezal is way more ‘black’ then Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood are female.
      Races, whichever way you define them are 100.000 years old at best. The male/female dichotomy in mammals is at least 150 million years old, if not older..
      Therefore, I’d say yes to Dolezal and no to Terry Miller, Andraya Yearwood or Caithlin Jenner.
      The more I get acquainted with militant transgenderism, the more my baloney flags go up. I’m sorry for those few who suffer real transgenderism, but they are being used, IMMO.

  2. What it comes down to is Richard Dawkins asked a question and no one wanted to attempt to answer. They just started screaming and yanking their awards away like toys they don’t want to share.
    In the future, no one is going to remember one humanist, but they’ll remember Dawkins for his contributions to science and to the popularization of science.

  3. I’m undecided on whether trangenderism and transracialism should be treated differently, but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to see a significant difference. If both gender and race are social constructs, and if one can choose their gender because gender is a social construct, why is what’s true about gender not true about “race”?

    Regardless, this article wants to ignore the argument that has been repeatedly made by activists and become accepted within the Overton Window — that transgenderism is a legitimate, innate, entirely normal phenomenon that must be accepted — so it can skip over the question of why that view is true of transgenderism and not of transracialism. Skipping over that question allows the author to address only the question of whether accepting transgenderism and rejecting transracialism serves the interest of a specific political agenda. This is not how science, medicine, policy-making, or reality as a whole should be measured or discussed. In fact, I think one of our biggest problems as a society at the moment is filtering every question and event solely through a political agenda-driven lens. Agendas should be decided by reality. What’s reported as “reality” should not be decided by agenda.

    I’m reminded of people who claim that all of the lies promulgated by the NYT’s 1619 Project are acceptable because the project promotes a certain agenda to their satisfaction. The question shouldn’t be whether or not something helps promote certain politics or policies, but rather whether or not something is true. Once we know whether or not something is true, we can proceed from there.

    Reality/factual information –> Agenda and policies

    NOT

    Agenda –> Decide what to claim as “reality” regardless of whether it’s true

  4. The quote starting with “Notice that this argument does…” appears twice. I think you meant to include a different quote the second time around.

    1. I noticed that in the emailed version I saw earlier this morning; but was hoping to see it corrected in the web version. Well, maybe later.

  5. I reject the notion that racism accumulates trans-generationally. (This is different from the idea that discrimination can extend across generations, and that institutions can be called to account for that.) The cultural action of taking onto oneself the things that happened to other people is not automatic. As in the case of Ireland, there are some people who invest in the oppression of their ancestors, and some who don’t. There was a time when we would have said that to do so was unhealthy. The similarity between being transgender and being non-white (particularly black) is that both are viewed by the trend-setters as bring desirable. (The authors make this comment: “We focus here only on Blackness; we don’t assume these considerations apply to all race classifications.” My italics.) In other news, I saw a thing over the weekend about casting transwomen for a role depicting a transwomen, and asking, If transwomen are really women, then can’t a woman play that role?

    1. I also don’t believe racism necessarily accumulates trans-generationally. However, I believe that the effects of racism do. If whites have enjoyed (which they most certainly have) a differential advantage in each generation, then it is likely that those effects have an accumulative effect- including the one where later generations are less overtly racist and yet still remain blind to the debt incurred by over a century of institutionalized disadvantage.

  6. There are biological demes and biological sexes, and socially defined races and socially defined genders. The socially defined characteristics are far more fluid than the biological ones, although they all overlap to some extent, given enough time.

    My suspicion is that using a ‘Noble Lie’ to promote a religious, political or social outlook will eventually collapse under the weight of contrary evidence.

    1. “My suspicion is that using a ‘Noble Lie’ to promote a religious, political or social outlook will eventually collapse under the weight of contrary evidence.“

      Well said!

  7. The issue of who deserves reparations based on skin color is complicated by immigration from Africa to the United States: Do they deserve reparations, too? After all, there was slavery in sub-Saharan Africa prior to European arrival and these immigrants may also be the victims of colonialism.

    It’s interesting to me how so many people obfuscate sex/gender time and again. Even people whom you would think have basic knowledge of biology. That is not the case and I encounter the conflation of sex and gender again and again.

    My suspicion is that there is not a good argument against trans-racialism, especially if one adopts the standard that the mere declaration of let’s say, a woman saying she is a man, means that she is a man…and that any woman not wanting to date or have relations with that person is a transphobe.

    If identity is indeed fluid…then it applies to all aspects of life.

    1. > It’s interesting to me how so many people obfuscate sex/gender time and again. Even people whom you would think have basic knowledge of biology. That is not the case and I encounter the conflation of sex and gender again and again.

      That’s because they aren’t really independent concepts. Biological sex has a social expression in most social animals, including us. We can mess with this, dress up for dramatic effect of various kinds on and off the stage, and the ability to do so full-time offers some people a happier life.

      But the idea that these are two independent logical notions is a kind of dualism. It posits that you are born with a soul whose gender is, a priori, completely unrelated to the sex of the body into which this soul is inserted. It’s just an accident that 99% of the time they agree, in this theory. We don’t have to accept this dualistic theory. The existence of two different words does not imply the existence of the things the speaker believes in — after all, people talk about god all the time.

      Or more scientifically, you may add extra concepts to your theory of the world, and give them names, but if this is a poor description of reality, then it should not gain widespread acceptance. The continuing conflation even by people supposedly writing carefully about exactly such issues indicates, to me at least, that such people don’t actually think this dualism is a good description of reality.

    2. One should not forget that many, if not most, POC Americans have slaveholder ancestry. Should that exclude them from ‘reparations’?
      I think it is clear that ‘reparations’ should take the form of improving the education of the less advantaged, regardless of race.. It would obviously help ‘minorities’…

      1. I agree. It seems to me that the lowest of low hanging fruit for “reparations” is to fund schools on a per-student basis, not on the basis of how rich (i.e. how much tax is paid) the neighborhood is. Students in poorer neighborhoods struggle with poorly equipped schools that can’t afford to hire and retain good teachers. Fixing that is a solid step to closing up the education gap.

    3. Yes, it can’t be stressed enough how ridiculous that transphobia accusation is. Not wanting to have sex with just anybody makes one a ‘just anybody phobe’?

  8. Regardless of the race/gender discussion it is interesting that Caitlyn Jenner is running for governor of California. And also doing so as a republican. So deciding to be a woman instead of a man did not change her politics much. That is an uphill battle regardless of what state you’re in.

  9. With racial identity, it has to be purely cultural, doesn’t it? Dolezal simply embraced Black culture to such a degree that she pretended to be black. It is only an identity, rather than a strong preference, because society and its history has created racial identities and sort of forces individuals to choose one. In a truly colorblind society, Dolezal would just be characterized by a unique set of preferences like everyone else.

  10. I read the linked CDC press release cited in the article. It summarizes recent research (2019) on racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health and pregnancy outcomes.

    The idea that “inequality accumulates intergenerationally” seems to be based on long-term measures of disparities over time from 2007 to 2016 in the CDC research.

    The report does summarize big racial and ethnic differences. But in the list of key findings from that long-term research, the press release actually says

    “Disparities were persistent and did not change significantly between 2007-2008 and 2015-2016.”

    Setting aside the problem that observations over 10 years are not the same as comparisons between generations (because the human generation time is >10 years), that seems to support Jerry’s intuition that these disparities (which are awful) are not increasing or accumulating intergenerationally (or at least that there is not evidence of that accumulation).

  11. I haven’t read the linked article, will do that soon. However…

    One could argue, for instance, that it’s also being “deceptive” to be transsexual if you don’t tell people that you’ve transitioned.

    I’d say that if your identity is relevant to the discussion or decision, then keeping it to yourself is wrong in both cases. if your identity isn’t relevant, keeping it to yourself is no problem. Identifying as American? No problem, proud you think that way. Voting while not a citizen claiming you identify as an American? Problem. Trans identify 99% of the time? No problem, be as private as you want to be. Trans identity when biological sex differences come into play? Disclose. Black identity 99% of the time? No problem, be as private as you want to be. Black identity when you’re running for President of your NAACP chapter? Disclose.

    I doubt that the people who raise the “deception” argument would fault a black person who tried to “pass for white” to escape oppression

    I would absolutely not fault anyone for ‘passing for…’ to escape a realistic threat of oppression or violence. Not blacks. Not gays. Not trans. Not Jews living in an anti-Semitic area. Not Americans traveling through Afghanistan (…go ahead, say you’re Canadian). But I don’t think this is very relevant to the discussion, since that’s a coerced identity and what we’re talking about when it is right or wrong to withhold information about ones’ voluntarily chosen identity.
    Still not sold on Dawkins’ tweet being useful or bringing up a relevant point of discussion. Still think it implyies trans people are liars, and thus, is just a liberal variant on the right’s “Just Asking Questions” method of smearing people. Though I’ll give him that he didn’t have seem to realize that’s what he was doing.

        1. That only suggests that woke advocates are being inconsistent in their analysis. It in no way asserts that trans people are liars. His subsequent tweet made this explicit. He said: “I do not intend to disparage trans people.”

          What we are seeing is an example of the woke not arguing in good faith. It is dishonesty in service of moral rectitude, something we see all the time among people of faith.

          1. Can anybody provide an example of any autho-wokist ever arguing in good faith on the gender issue?

            Nope? Me, neither!

  12. Reparations is a very bad idea that will only produce greater divisions in our country. What needs to be done is to ensure that all poor blacks and poor whites have an equal chance to succeed thru education, healthcare and whatever else is required. This will take trillions of dollars, but it’s the right thing to do that will make the country better and more competitive. People that talk about reparations never mention native Americans who were slaughtered and had their land stolen. Reparations is a bad joke.

    1. Ironical in this context is that African Americans have, in all probability, more slaveholders among their ancestors than your average American.

  13. There’s an important difference between the sex/gender and race dimensions when it comes to reparations and what they would (presumably) be addressing. Race is far more salient generationally than sex/gender. Families of newly freed slaves had no assets to pass on to their children. The children had little to pass on to the following generation. So today, a white kid wanting to go to college or start a business is far more likely to get help from the parents and grandparents than a black kid. If they do go to college they are more likely to have to borrow more to do so, because there’s no help coming from the family. If they fail to complete college their student debt will follow them further.

    This generational pattern doesn’t follow when it comes to sex since, naturally, families are comprised of both males and females.

  14. Regrettable that these discussions ignore those of us who claim trans-ancestry. We in this community receive, from our innermost soul, a strong feeling that we are not only in the wrong body, but were in fact assigned the wrong ancestry (through our parents) at birth. In my case, my innermost soul told me that my real ancestor was Dimitri Ivanovich, the lost son of Tsar Ivan the Terrible, and that I am therefore rightful heir to the throne of the Russian Empire. Needless to say, my innermost soul also tells me that the Empire still exists, and if anyone tells me otherwise, I consider that a микроагрессия.

    Preferred personal pronoun: Ваше Императорское Величество.

  15. … by becoming a member of the black community she has subjected herself to same historically-inherited racism that devolves upon all members of that community.

    This is the main reason the woke were so outraged. If, nowadays, some people voluntarily assume a black identity, and then do fine career-wise, it rather suggests that “systemic racism” isn’t the massive negative that the woke suppose.

  16. Having now read the article, I don’t necessarily agree with all their logic but I think they arrive at a decent social policy position. I agree that any time society provides concrete economic benefits linked to an identity, disclosure of how you qualify for that identity is important. But, while I agree that this should likely disqualify some transracial individuals from accessing ‘reparative’ social benefits (such as scholarships, affirmative action), unlike the authors I don’t see this as a reason to reject transracial claims altogether.

    The “inequality accumulates intergenerationally” argument I don’t really get as it pertains to allowing people to express themselves. I do get the point they’re making, but I don’t get why that should make us less liberal about race-based identity claims in “regular life” when the identity is irrelevant. Yeah, whether you are ‘really black’ may matter for a school application. So have rules about who qualifies for those things. But for buying a coffee from me or if you’re coming over to my house for a poker game, if someone who wouldn’t qualify for the scholarship still identifies as black, then I’m going to respect that identity in those circumstances. Why not do so?

    So I guess that’s a long way ’round to Jefferson’s “neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg” approach to religion, now applied to identity. I will respect your sincerely held identity claim, be it gender or race. But society may insist on a non-self-identify rule or category for those cases where an identity claim might indeed ‘pick someone’s pocket’ or ‘break someone’s leg.’

  17. That article is unsatisfying to me. I care more about the inherent differences in these categories, if any. As I said on a previous post, there’s some evidence that transgender/sexual people have brains more similar in structure to the sex opposite to the one they were born. I don’t know how strong this evidence is, and I’m not qualified to interpret it any further except to say that if this is the case, then there’s no such analogue when it comes to race as far as I know. Which makes transgenderism more ‘feasible’, if you like, than transracialism. Here’s some wikipedia stufff on trans brains: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causes_of_transsexuality#Brain_structure

    But- I can’t really come down on any side of this with any certainty. I really don’t know. I will note some ironies, though. The above distinction would probably not be acceptable to the woke sorts, who would likely insist on a total blank slate view of everything. Thus, their justification for transgender identity is ‘it’s how you feel- great’, but since they can’t use the biological distinction in brain structure I mention above, they can’t use that distinction to differentiate it from transracialism! And so they’re in a bind if it all comes down to subjective feelings: they can’t accept transracialism for political reasons, but their own logic dictates that they do! And to make the case that there is a distinction, one being wrong and the other right, they’d have to admit something which ain’t kosher in the woke universe.

    A related irony: there are some gender critical radical feminists who disavow the very notion of trans identity for various reasons. One of these is to say ‘it’s stupid to think there are male and female brain differences, so that trans justification is wrong’. Their political biases mean they can’t accept average brain differences!

    So I’m still flummoxed, really. Maybe the only lesson here is not to let your political line interfere with your reasoning.

  18. Rachel Dolezal is presumably much more likely to reap the disadvantages of being “black” in the here-and-now than she is to receive some sort of possible reparations benefit in the far-off future?

    One disparity between a transracial white-to-black transition, as compared to a transsexual male-to-female one, is that the people who seek the latter often seem to retain the (for example, sporting prowess) benefits of their privileged pre-transition status.

  19. As far as arguments go, the consequential argument does in my opinion have power. If race matters societally in a different way to sex/gender, then it’s worth treating those cases as different in terms of practical solutions.

    What this does, though, is effectively take away any sort of conceptual warrant for being so outraged when people conflate and question the distinctions. How can you be so angry at someone asking why the categorisations in one case mean X and in another mean Y when there’s no real non-arbitrary difference between them? That sort of reasoning is part of what it means to explore what it means to be moral.

    The more I think about this issue in particular, the thing that comes to mind is ancestor worship. That we are meant to be in some way honouring those who brought us into existence, and their lives and culture. Sex is arbitrary in that way, but culture is not. I think this is why so many on the left defend sexist practices by other cultures but would not stand for it in their own. It’s not implicit racism, or even hypocrisy, but follows from the importance we put on who and where we come from.

    Taking that on board, the outrage over the comparison makes more sense than anything else I’ve heard from anyone. Not sure how many intellectuals would talk in ancestor-worshipping terms for fear of sounding superstitious, but it makes a lot more sense than the ways they defend it using their modern secular arsenal of arguments.

  20. the link to the articie appears to be missing. It’s here:
    http://bostonreview.net/race-philosophy-religion-gender-sexuality/robin-dembroff-dee-payton-why-we-shouldnt-compare

    I haven’t read such a poor, deeply confused argument in a long time. “trans women and cis women alike are burdened by the legacy of patriarchy” they say, (whatever that means) but also accuse others to “nosedive into essentialist logic as soon as transgender or transracial identities arise” and so on. They also have a racist position.

  21. We are discussing another case of people trying to find data to support their conclusions.
    It seems like race and sex are either imaginary distinctions of no consequence, or immutable characteristics that define a person’s identity, depending on what advantages can be gained in the particular situation at hand.

    I think the ultimate goal is to get everyone to believe that trauma and victimhood can be passed on for a specific number of generations, as can responsibility for oppression. It seems like the target here is that events occurring in the 89 years between 1776 and 1865 are the ones that permanently define the chosen groups.

    I guess trauma experienced by other groups does not get similarly passed on. The trauma experienced by White sharecroppers, which might well involve living in an unheated shack, and toiling in the fields from early childhood to pay a family debt that probably will not ever be paid, does not get passed to newer generations. My mother was one of those children, and she still has terrible scars on her hands from picking cotton as a little girl.
    I suppose the same logic applies to those who toiled and died in coal mines, or worked in all those factories during the industrial revolution.
    Or those who came here to escape pogroms or genocide. Not just the Jews, but Cambodians and Vietnamese come to mind immediately.
    It might be interesting, should one develop a time machine, to go back and interview, prior to their grisly deaths, some of the civil war dead and see how they react to the idea that their sacrifice will not be a consideration when their descendants, seven generations hence, will be required to personally accept the blame for the practice of slavery, and make payment to others, who themselves have never met a slave.

    Trans-racial and transsexual folks seem to be succumbing to personality disorders, although there are plenty of people who are multi-racial, and might reasonably choose to promote that part of their heritage that gives them a current advantage. I also suspect that people identifying trans-racial are going to become more common among kids being taught that their white skin marks them as irredeemable.

  22. Ahahahaha! So it all comes down to money, eh? “Real” Black people don’t want “race-fakers” to get any share of any potential reparations money which they’ve been nagging for. Well, what the hell, woman have been oppressed for longer and farther than Black people have, so they should get reparations too. It’s all a scam, really.

  23. The idea that Dolezal’s, Krug’s and various other trans-racial cause célèbres should be treated as different from their transsexual opposite numbers because of the reparations issue makes no sense that I can see. Forget about the fact that reparations are at this point barely a gleam in their proponents’ eyes, very unlikely to ever be realized; does anyone actually think that Dolezal, who has has been actively promoting herself as black for more than a decade at least, had reparations in mind? The reparations argument is one of the more outlandish red herrings that I’ve come across in this transgender/good, transracial/bad farce….

  24. The South African authorities in their apartheid days were experts in classifying people as being of one race or another. It was their life’s work to get it right.

    Yet even they had to admit that some people assigned at birth as being of one race, were actually members of another race. Transracialism was something that had to be accepted much to the horror of those few white people who found out they were actually black.

    If even racists have to admit they are not white, but actually black, then how can transracialism not exist.

  25. So transracialism can’t exist in the United States, but can exist in , say, Hungary or Slovakia or Ireland
    How is that possible?

  26. If there’s actually “white privilege” why would anyone transition away from being white?

    There’s a huge amount of value currently in being part of an “oppressed” group, and perhaps, for some people, they simply want to associate as an oppressed person, in whatever form that may manifest itself. I’m not suggesting that this is a conscious decision, although there have certainly been cases where this is obviously true.

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