The revelation that Rachel Dolezal, now former head of Spokane, Washington’s NAACP chapter, is white but identifies as black has prompted a social media and cable news blitz as the country tries to make sense of a person who has artificially constructed her racial identity. Many have dubbed her as “transracial,” while others have decried that “transracial” is not actually a thing. Caught in the crossfire is a group that actually does identify as transracial, but whose identities and experiences in no way relate to Dolezal’s fabrications.
Dolezal seemed to accept the comparison between her and Caitlyn Jenner’s stories during her interview with NBC News, saying that she “resonated with some of the themes of isolation, of being misunderstood.” But there is no comparison to be made between the actual identities. There is significant evidence that there is a biological origin for transgender identities and that transgender identities are wholly authentic. While conservative estimates place the number of transgender people in the country at 700,000, there doesn’t seem to be anybody quite like Dolezal, whose deception (to herself and others) seems entirely manufactured. In other words, the nature and language of gender identities does not translate into conversations around race; there is no such thing as “transracial” in terms of a person who identifies as a race other than what was assigned at birth. But “transracial” does mean something else, and the people who identify with that word, adoptees raised in a family of a different race, are speaking out.
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