Wednesday, April 21, 2021
HomeActivismRachel Dolezal is to BLACKFACE what some DRAG QUEENS are to TRANS...

Rachel Dolezal is to BLACKFACE what some DRAG QUEENS are to TRANS FACE

Rachel Dolezal
Rachel Dolezal

She isn’t transracial. She’s not trans anything, She is a white very delusional woman who should really seek help.

First my apologies to any and all drag artists I might have offended with the title. There are a lot of drag artists who use their skills without using defamatory language or ill intent. To those artists, a heartfelt apology for lumping you in with the likes of Rachel Dolezal.

But to the drag queens who can’t just stop using words you know harm trans people you have a lot in common with Dolezal. Both you and her are putting on face, utilizing cisgender privilege for profit and fame.

Rachel Dolezal is white.

She is not black. She wears makeup and does her hair to make her appear as black. She does this to fool other people into beleaving she is truly black. Thusly she puts on the blackface show.

She is not transracial. She is not trans anything.

Rachel Dolezal’s life experiences have nothing in common with the transgender experience for this one reason. Transgender people live to be authentic, willingly forgoing cisprivilage. Rachel Dolezal fools people into making them think she is someone she is not, all the while making full use of the white cisprivilege she was born with.

Camille Gear Rich wrote this highly problematic commentary for CNN in which she argued that “Rachel Dolezal has a right to be black.

CNN)When it comes to identity, America takes one step forward and two steps back.

On Monday, Rachel Dolezal, the head of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, resigned in shame because she had posed as a black woman even though she is biologically white.

The outing of Dolezal seems ironic given the recent public embrace of Caitlyn Jenner, the transgender woman formerly known as Bruce Jenner. Jenner seems to have ushered in an era of greater tolerance about the constructed nature of identity. After all, when a transgender woman is elevated to the cover of Vanity Fair, it’s as though we have reached a tipping point. We can accept the idea that one’s social identity can be radically transformed if it doesn’t match with what one feels in the heart.

The stark difference in Dolezal’s treatment forces us to ask what’s the difference between claiming a gender identity versus a racial identity? Why is it that we celebrate Bruce Jenner’s gender change and frown upon Rachel Dolezal’s racial change?

Dolezal’s claims have been compared to the struggles of the transgender community, prompting questions about the legitimacy of being transracial. When asked about the comparison, Dolezal said she does relate to the transgender experience after reading Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair profile.

“I cried because I resonated with some of the themes of isolation – of being misunderstood, especially in this very high-pressure, high-risk, low-trust, pressured, stressed, even borderline attacked experience in my life right now,” Dolezal said.

When all else fails we can always look to John’s sense of humor and reality.

Kelli Busey
Kelli, Busey is managing editor at Planet Transgender


  1. I’m sorry, but I can not buy into “ethnic transition”. A person’s racial heritage cannot change from what was inherited at birth.

    By the same token, neither can gender.
    OK shut up.
    No. I’m arguing this point.
    No, shut up you are losing this argument.

    Margo, I’m saying gender is known at the youngest age we know who we are. Not by looking into the mirror of course, but how we feel inside.

    That’s different than being aware of racial incongruence if there were such a thing.

    Really lay on my couch and tell me why you feel gender incongruence is a thing and racial incongruence is not.

    Oh shut up.

  2. From my own perspective as a transsexual Lesbian feminist coming from an Ashkenazi Jewish background, the question of racial/ethnic transitions as compared to sex/gender transitions is a lot more ethically complicated than presented here. Like the African-American scholar and commentator Melissa Harris-Perry, I feel a sense of empathy with Rachel Dolezal, and see real parallels between gender and ethnic transitions. At the same time, I’m inclined to the view that the insane way race/ethnicity is treated in the U.S.A. might require Dolezal, or someone in her position, to take a boldly “out” or nonbinary stance as to ethnicity that I must admit to avoiding for much of my life in the realm of gender since transitioning as a trans woman.

    First, I would emphasize that asking “What should someone in Dolezal’s declared position do?” is not to agree with all her choices. There is at least one that I will strongly disagree with below, for the same reasons that I regard ethnic transitions themselves valid, as many traditional societies consider them. And she is confronting allegations evidently unrelated to racial/ethnic status, such as the charges of harassment and unauthorized disclosures of information that have led to the call for her resignation at the Police Ombudsman Commission in Spokane (with other two members also asked to resign for the same reasons). Her lawsuit against Howard University, found without merit, also raises serious concerns. Here I am addressing the larger issues.

    In my view, Rachel Dolezal’s situation is in many ways — not all! — analogous, not to blackface or transface, but indeed to legitimate transitioning from one gender to another, both socially and physically. She didn’t out herself with the intent of regaining white privilege: she has been living her desired race/ethnicity 24/7. If she hadn’t been outed by her parents, she would have continued doing so for another week.

    In many cultures without insane rules of “race,” events such as her marriage or her increasing associations with and assimilation into the Black community might have afforded her opportunities officially to immigrate or be adopted into that community. The initiation of young Louis S. B. Leakey into the Kikuyu people of Kenya, or of many African slaves and people of European descent into the Haudenosaunee or Six Nations (often known as the Iroquoian Confederacy), provide ready examples.

    Given the lack of such options, due both to the toxic nature of European racism, and the fragmentation of African cultures in the U.S.A. as a result of the African/African-American Slave Holocaust, my conclusion is that the best ethical response for someone in Rachel Dolezal’s position would be to check “Other” on forms and declare that she is a woman of Afrocentric identity and European (and if applicable Indigenous) origins. This is the equivalent of being trans and out about one’s birth assignment, or out as nonbinary or genderqueer.

    The main ethical complication of making an ethnic transition and not disclosing it when appropriate is that there are situations where the specific disadvantages of growing up as a survivor of the African/African-American Slave Holocaust could be relevant. And failing to disclose could invite precisely the kinds of allegations about one’s motives that Rachel Dolezal has encountered over the last week. There are also situations where failure to disclose my trans status could be inappropriate, and Rachel Dolezal’s case has led me to examine more carefully what these situations might be (e.g. if I were teaching about female childhood socialization, or invited to take on a leadership role in a campaign on women’s reproductive rights).

    The dangers of Rachel Dolezal’s nondisclosure are highlighted in her alleged treatment of a woman student who identified as Hispanic, and had grown up in a Spanish-speaking country. Dolezal told this woman that she did not look Hispanic enough to represent her group, and that another student would be called. Here Dolezal’s closetry caused her to reject a woman very much in her own position. If she had been out, Dolezal could have joined with this student and the class in a conversation about white privilege and more generally light-skinned privilege as they can affect people of various groups and identities.

    As others have pointed out, racial/ethnic passing as opposed to sex/gender passing can be ethically problematic because it often requires the invention of ancestors and lineages (as opposed to the legitimate creation of lineages that happens when a newcomer is adopted or assimilated into many traditional ethnic groups and societies). This is like the distinction between converting to Judaism and assimilating into the Jewish community, versus inventing Jewish parents or grandparents who survived the European Holocaust of 1940-1945. When we remember that the African/African-American Slave Holocaust, including the horrors of the Middle Passage, has lasted not five years but five centuries and more, the seriousness of this issue should become clear.

    In short, if someone is living full-time in an ethnic status other than that assigned (explicitly or implicitly) at birth, then trans rather than transface/blackface is the better parallel — but not an exact one! Being out about both one’s own identity and one’s known descent seems the ethical choice, as does a larger choice for us all: to resist and move beyond both the sex/gender and race/ethnicity systems that cause untold human harm.


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