27 June 2015

A Black Woman--Like Me? Like You?

You may have noticed that, until today, I hadn’t commented on the woman of Czech, Irish, Swedish and Native American ancestry who claimed she’s African-American and became the president of an NAACP chapter.  Frankly, I haven’t been thinking much about it, partly because I think the whole idea of classifying people by race is silly.  We’re All African; Get Over It!

But this morning I heard someone echo the canard conservative talk-radio personalities have been parroting:  If she wanted to portray herself as Black, it must mean that there’s no such thing as “white privilege”.  (If anything, those talk-radio guys show us that there’s no such thing as “white superiority”.)  People like them believe that laws to protect people of color, women, LGBT people and others are “special privileges”; never mind that white men have enjoyed such privileges since the day this country was founded.

It reminded me some things a few people told me when I was starting my transition.  “Oh, you’ll have it made,” said one.  “Men are going to hold doors open for you.”  Oh, sure, I transitioned for that.  And it more than makes up for the times I’ve been slandered (in particular by Dominick, but also by others) , accused of things I didn’t do, rejected and passed over for jobs. 

And then there was Elizabeth—who, I have since realized, resents anyone who is happier than she is—who accused me of transitioning so that I could “go to the top of the Affirmative Action food chain” and get a job that should go to her or some other “real” (Yes, she used that term!) woman. 

Uh-huh.  I took hormones and abuse, and underwent surgery, just so I could teach gender studies or gender theory or some such thing.  I can just imagine what someone like Elizabeth—who, I also realize, wants to be a Second Wave Feminist with a man who will support her—would, if she were black, say about Ms.

What I’m saying is that I made my transition so I can live my life—which, I suspect, is the reason why Caitlyn Jenner made hers.  In fact, I’d say that’s the reason, or at least an important reason, why most trans people go through their process of becoming who and what they are.  Really, there aren’t many—perhaps any—other reasons.

I suppose Rachel Dolezal  is claiming blackness for the same reason.  However, contrary to what some believe, that is about the only comparison that can be made between her and transgenders.  I’m not saying that a person couldn’t have been born in the “wrong” race; it’s simply something I don’t understand because I’ve never experienced it (though I’ve often felt I should have been French, which is a cultural—for me, anyway—rather than a racial identity).  On the other hand, I understand how it feels to have been born in the “wrong” body—which is still how most people define transgenderism.  More important, I understand what it’s like to be brought up, educated and acculturated in the “wrong gender”.  Most important of all, I have experienced growing up with the mind and spirit of a gender different from the one in which I was living and presenting to the world every day for the first 44 years of my life.

Hmm…Maybe I do understand a little more of Ms. Dolezal's dilemma than I thought.  But just a little.  Whatever the case, I find no reason to worry about whether she claims she’s black, white, Martian, Tralfamadorian or whatever.  All I can say is that it’s very, very unlikely she’s claiming blackness just so she can teach Black Studies or be the President of an NAACP chapter.  After all, as a white woman, there are all sorts of other things she could do—even though she wouldn’t have the same access and other privileges white cisgender men enjoy. 

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