“Transracial” is not the new “Transgender”: Why Race and Gender Are Not Synonymous.
Since the scandal, a whole host of other ‘transracial’ people have been coming out of the woodworks. In 2017, a white German model, Martina Adam, claimed to have transitioned to become a black woman after undergoing a chemical tanning procedure.
She wrote, 'I love my new ebony look very much. Therefore, I’m currently testing various things to emphasize my exotic look’ [...] ‘My transformation to a black woman continues, I already bought me beautiful, long black natural hair, with afro curls. Soon I let my blond hair colour change into black and get African curls in my hair. Then comes the hair extensions with African natural hair. After that I have an appointment with my surgeon’.
Meanwhile, in Florida, a white man changed his name from Adam to Ja Du and claimed that he wanted to transition to become Filipino because “Whenever I’m around the music, around the food, I feel like I’m in my own skin”. He even ditched his car in favour of a TukTuk and created a Transracialism support group on Facebook.
In November 2018, it emerged that a white artistic director, Anthony “Ekundayo” Lennon, had been benefiting for years from an Arts Council England fund that was specifically dedicated to artists of colour. His response? He describes himself as an “African born again”, claiming that “although I’m white, with white parents, I have gone through the struggles of a black man, a black actor”. He decided to ditch his birth name, “Anthony David Lennon” opting to go by ‘Anthony “Taharka Ekundayo” Lennon (a name he picked out of an African book).
These are just a few of the public stories of white people taking cultural appropriation to a whole new level. These people are questioning why society is growing to accept transgender identities but continues to mock transracialism. They believe that race and gender are synonymous, and one should be able to change their race if they feel more aligned to that particular ‘culture’. They put forth the idea that racial fluidity is just like gender fluidity and we shouldn’t box people into racial categories just because of their ancestry. To put these opinions at bed, these are three reasons why transracial is not the ‘new’ transgender, and why we can’t equate race with gender:
1. They’ve Appropriated the Word “Transracial”
Rachel Dolezal brought the word ‘transracial’ into the mainstream, however, neglected to mention its true definition. Transracial is originally an academic term that refers to the act of adopting a child of one race or ethnic group and placing them into a family of a different race or ethnic group. Transracial was a term that embodied children who were stuck in between two identities. It speaks to the millions of children who are denied an intimate knowledge of their birth cultures and are constantly torn between their multiple identities by being raised in an environment different to their own racial or ethnic backgrounds. Rachel Dolezal, Martina Adam, “Ja Du” and Anthony Lennon have not been through this experience. They haven’t grown up torn between two cultures and are undermining the identities of these millions of children. They’re taking away a word that explained the experiences that these children were faced with, appropriating it for their own gain.
2. Race and Ethnicity is Rooted in Ancestry… You Can’t Just Pick and Choose
Unlike gender, which is assigned to you at birth, your race or ethnicity is rooted in ancestry. You can’t inherit your gender but you do inherit your race. The fact that these people believe that they can pick and choose parts of the ethnicity they want and later decide to revert to their whiteness is white privilege at its worst. They have the option to decide when to carry the burdens and discrimination felt by other races whilst also reaping the ‘benefits’ by taking money from organisations created to empower and help black communities. Rachel and Anthony Lennon both benefited financially for their decision to go through adult life as a black person. Meanwhile Ja Du and Martina Adam have no doubt benefited financially from the publicity gained by coming out as ‘transracial’. They literally robbed black people of the money they deserved, and yet had the audacity to say it was fair because they ‘felt black’. Black isn’t something you can just decide to be. You can’t turn around, put on some makeup and perm your hair and assume that you’re now navigating the world as a black person.
3. They are Insulting the Transgender Community
The whole outlook that transracial identity is the same as transgender identity is frankly insulting to the Trans community. Trans people don’t choose to be trans, they’re born that way. Conflating these two identities implies that you can choose to be trans, and equally you can choose to be a different race. Transitioning as a trans person is a violent, painful, long and difficult process that can result in job-loss, isolation and rejection. You can’t compare the Trans experience to some white people deciding to get a tan, perm and changing their names to something more African.
There is a difference between transitioning into a new gender, which doesn’t harm anyone else, and choosing to live a lie to the detriment of other people who form the oppressed group that you’re so desperate to be a part of. The whole transracial concept embodies white supremacy and the fact that white people can continue to steal from the oppressed, even by pretending to be part of the community itself.
Article by VERVE Operative & Blogger Chanju Mwanza