The Uproar Over ‘Transracialism’

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, Philosophy, United States on 2017-05-18 19:53Z by Steven

The Uproar Over ‘Transracialism’

The New York Times
2017-05-18

Rogers Brubaker, Professor of Sociology
University of California, Los Angeles


Rachel Dolezal in 2015. The controversy over her choice to identify as black has lingered.
Credit Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review, via Associated Press

Rogers Brubaker is a sociology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the author, most recently, of “Trans: Gender and Race in an Age of Unsettled Identities.”

The world of academic philosophy is ordinarily a rather esoteric one. But Rebecca Tuvel’s article “In Defense of Transracialism,” published in the feminist philosophy journal Hypatia this spring, has generated a broad public discussion.

Dr. Tuvel was prompted to write her article by the controversy that erupted when Rachel Dolezal, the former local N.A.A.C.P. official who had long presented herself as black, was revealed to have grown up white. The Dolezal story broke just 10 days after Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair debut, and the two discussions merged. If Ms. Jenner could identify as a woman, could Ms. Dolezal identify as black? If transgender was a legitimate social identity, might transracial be as well? Dr. Tuvel’s article subjected these public debates to philosophical scrutiny.

The idea of transracialism had been rejected out of hand by the cultural left. Some worried — as many cultural conservatives indeed hoped — that this seemingly absurd idea might undermine the legitimacy of transgender claims. Others argued that if self-identification were to replace ancestry or phenotype as the touchstone of racial identity, this would encourage “racial fraud” and cultural appropriation. Because race has always been first and foremost an externally imposed classification, it is understandable that the idea of people declaring themselves transracial struck many as offensively dismissive of the social realities of race…

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In Defense of Transracialism

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Passing, Philosophy, United States on 2017-05-04 01:28Z by Steven

In Defense of Transracialism

Hypatia: A Journal Of Feminist Philosophy
Volume 32, Issue 2 (Spring 2017)
Pages 263–278
DOI: 10.1111/hypa.12327

Rebecca Tuvel, Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Rhodes College, Memphis, Tennessee

Former NAACP chapter head Rachel Dolezal’s attempted transition from the white to the black race occasioned heated controversy. Her story gained notoriety at the same time that Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner graced the cover of Vanity Fair, signaling a growing acceptance of transgender identity. Yet criticisms of Dolezal for misrepresenting her birth race indicate a widespread social perception that it is neither possible nor acceptable to change one’s race in the way it might be to change one’s sex. Considerations that support transgenderism seem to apply equally to transracialism. Although Dolezal herself may or may not represent a genuine case of a transracial person, her story and the public reaction to it serve helpful illustrative purposes.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Caitlyn Jenner, Rachel Dolezal and instability in gender and race

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, Social Science on 2016-12-08 03:10Z by Steven

Caitlyn Jenner, Rachel Dolezal and instability in gender and race

Maclean’s
2016-12-04

Sujaya Dhanvantari

Sociologist Rogers Brubaker examines transgender and transracial differences

TRANS

By Rogers Brubaker

In Western culture, gender and race were traditionally thought to be unchangeable and fixed for life. Black or white, male or female: These were forever separated by the binary logic of absolute difference. But even as the old colonial theories of racial determinism have long been discredited, the notion of changing race is still ethically troubling. Not so for changing gender, which is now socially accepted in unprecedented ways. That is why celebrity trans woman Caitlyn Jenner and transracial civil rights activist Rachel Dolezal, born white but now identifying as black, are not the same kind of “trans.” Inspired by those two news stories, UCLA sociologist Rogers Brubaker explores the unstable categories of gender and race in his new book

Read the entire review here.

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Trans: Gender and Race in an Age of Unsettled Identities

Posted in Books, Gay & Lesbian, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Science on 2016-09-29 00:41Z by Steven

Trans: Gender and Race in an Age of Unsettled Identities

Princeton University Press
2016-09-27
256 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/2
Hardcover ISBN: 9780691172354
eBook ISBN: 9781400883233

Rogers Brubaker, Professor of Sociology
University of California, Los Angeles

In the summer of 2015, shortly after Caitlyn Jenner came out as transgender, the NAACP official and political activist Rachel Dolezal was “outed” by her parents as white, touching off a heated debate in the media about the fluidity of gender and race. If Jenner could legitimately identify as a woman, could Dolezal legitimately identify as black?

Taking the controversial pairing of “transgender” and “transracial” as his starting point, Rogers Brubaker shows how gender and race, long understood as stable, inborn, and unambiguous, have in the past few decades opened up—in different ways and to different degrees—to the forces of change and choice. Transgender identities have moved from the margins to the mainstream with dizzying speed, and ethnoracial boundaries have blurred. Paradoxically, while sex has a much deeper biological basis than race, choosing or changing one’s sex or gender is more widely accepted than choosing or changing one’s race. Yet while few accepted Dolezal’s claim to be black, racial identities are becoming more fluid as ancestry—increasingly understood as mixed—loses its authority over identity, and as race and ethnicity, like gender, come to be understood as something we do, not just something we have. By rethinking race and ethnicity through the multifaceted lens of the transgender experience—encompassing not just a movement from one category to another but positions between and beyond existing categories—Brubaker underscores the malleability, contingency, and arbitrariness of racial categories.

At a critical time when gender and race are being reimagined and reconstructed, Trans explores fruitful new paths for thinking about identity.

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Part One: The Trans Moment
    • 1. Transgender, Transracial?
      • “Transgender” and “Transracial” before the Dolezal Affair
      • The Field of Argument
      • “If Jenner, Then Dolezal”: The Argument from Similarity
      • Boundary Work: The Argument from Difference
    • 2. Categories in Flux
      • Unsettled Identities
      • The Empire of Choice
      • The Policing of Identity Claims
      • The New Objectivism
  • Part Two: Thinking with Trans
    • 3. The Trans of Migration
      • Unidirectional Transgender Trajectories
      • Reconsidering “Transracial”
      • Transracial Trajectories, Past and Present
    • 4. The Trans of Between
      • Transgender Betweenness: Oscillation, Recombination, Gradation
      • Racial and Gender Betweenness
      • Recombinatory Racial Betweenness: Classification and Identification
      • Performing Betweenness
    • 5. The Trans of Beyond
      • Beyond Gender?
      • Beyond Race?
      • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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From Jenner to Dolezal: One Trans Good, the Other Not So Much

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-08-11 20:43Z by Steven

From Jenner to Dolezal: One Trans Good, the Other Not So Much

Common Dreams
2015-06-15

Adolph Reed Jr., Professor of Political Science
University of Pennsylvania

By far the most intellectually and politically interesting thing about the recent “exposé” of Spokane, WA, NAACP activist Rachel Dolezal’s racial status is the conundrum it has posed for racial identitarians who are also committed to defense of transgender identity. The comparisons between Dolezal and Republican Jenner (I’ve decided to opt for that referent because it is an identity continuous between “Bruce” and “Caitlyn” and is moreover the one most meaningful to me) began almost instantly, particularly as a flood of mass-mediated Racial Voices who support the legitimacy of transgender identity objected strenuously to suggestions that Dolezal’s representation, and apparent perception, of herself as black is similar to Bruce Jenner’s perception of himself as actually Caitlyn. Their contention is that one kind of claim to an identity at odds with culturally constructed understandings of the identity appropriate to one’s biology is okay but that the other is not – that it’s OK to feel like a woman when you don’t have the body of a woman and to act like (and even get yourself the body of) a woman but that it’s wrong to feel like a black person when you’re actually white and that acting like you’re black and doing your best to get yourself the body of a black person is just lying.

The way Zeba Blay puts it, on the Black Voices section of the HuffPo, is by declaring how important it is to “make one thing clear: transracial identity is not a thing.” What is clear is that it’s not at all clear what that statement is supposed to mean. It seems to suggest that transracial identity is not something that has been validated by public recognition, or at least that Blay has not heard of or does not recognize it. But there’s an obvious problem with this contention. There was a moment, not that long ago actually, when transgender identity was not a “thing” in that sense either. Is Blay’s contention that we should accept transgender identity only because it is now publicly recognized? If so, the circularity is obvious, and the lack of acceptance arguably only a matter of time.  Transgender wasn’t always a thing – just ask Christine Jorgensen.

But the more serious charge is the moral one, that, as Michelle Garcia puts it, “It’s pretty clear: Dolezal has lied.” But here too, it’s not clear what’s so clear. Is the point supposed to be that Dolezal is lying when she says she identifies as black? Or is it that being black has nothing to do with how you identify? The problem with the first claim is obvious – how do they know? And on what grounds does Jenner get to be telling the truth and Dolezal not? But the problem with the second claim is even more obvious since if you think there’s some biological fact of the matter about what race people actually belong to utterly independent of what race they think they belong to, you’re committed to a view of racial difference as biologically definitive in a way that’s even deeper than sexual difference…

Read the entire article here.

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