When Bruce Jenner came out and said he identified as a woman, it was no surprise that the left and the media jumped on the bandwagon, given the logical path already laid down from the issue of homosexuality. Any criticism was seen as “bigoted” and “transphobic” because Jenner was born as a woman… even if he remains both genetically and anatomically male (I have not seen a report that he has undergone surgery). If the contention that homosexuality is both completely inherited and static has precious little hard evidence, the argument that being transgender is similar rests on thin air. Still, that didn’t stop ESPN and others from celebrating Jenner for allegedly having “courage” of some sort. Apparently, even hard biological facts like sex are now seen as “oppressive” (but not highly questionable “facts” that try to use neuroscience to prove that being transgender is completely genetic and inherited). People should simply be what they identify as, and everyone else should agree with it.
Enter Rachel Dolezal, a leader of an NCAAP chapter and a mixed African-American woman. Except, well, she actually isn’t a mixed African-American. Her parents outed her as actually being Caucasian, pointing out that she has both Czech and German ancestry… which is as white European as one can be. The story is so absurd, full of lies about hate crimes, stereotypical African-American hairstyles, and an adopted black child that she claimed she gave birth to, that one would initially think that the story was written in The Onion. When the story broke, the Internet went nuts, and the range of reactions have been interesting, to say the least. Many African-Americans seem angered and offended by Dolezal, and some people have speculated that she has some serious mental problems to have done this for so long. Others, of course, have found the whole thing humorous and thus have created many mercilessly satirical memes.
The most interesting reactions, however, have to do with the comparisons with Jenner’s situation. The connection was readily apparent to many people, and so the question was asked: If Jenner can identify as a woman and we are told that we cannot disagree with that under threat of being called a “bigot,” then why can’t Dolezal identify as black? Why can’t she be trans-racial? This question has been asked both honestly by confused liberals who don’t know how to respond to this and sarcastically by conservatives who are pointing out how contradictory the general progressive reaction here is.
A few of the more consistent progressives have bit the bullet and have said, why yes, Dolezal can be black if she wants to be. Who are we to say otherwise? However, the majority of progressives seem to sense that this is obviously absurd, to say nothing of how complicated it could make their arguments regarding white privilege and minority disadvantages. One can only imagine the chaos that would ensue if a white person who claimed to identify as black applied for an African-American scholarship. However, how can they save face when the connection to Jenner’s claim to be a woman is so clear?
Well, when in doubt, use casual dismissals and accusations of phobia and racism because this way, you can shame people into silence. Such a tactic was used by an MTV.com writer, Rachel Paoletta, and her article is titled, “Here’s Why You Must Not Compare Caitlyn Jenner and Rachel Dolezal” (emphasis mine). Wait, we must not? Why not? Oh wait, I see it: Paoletta claims that such comparisons are “transphobia and racism operating under the guise of a philosophical conversation.” (emphasis not mine this time). In other words, you can’t have this conversation, and if you try to, well, you’re a racist and a bigot. So much for liberal thinking.
The article as a whole is so poorly argued that it is both funny and painful. I cannot resist pointing out how it’s full of blanket assertions, reeking of desperation to cover up a contradiction but failing utterly. Paoletta gives two main reasons why we “must” not make this comparison: One, it harms black people, and two, it harms trans-gender people. The first argument is stated here:
If what her parents say is true, Rachel Dolezal assumed a race that wasn’t her own, as well as, in the words of one Twitter user, “an oppression that wasn’t hers”:
This is so easy to blow up that it’s embarrassing. If progressive logic is correct, who says that this race isn’t her own? What if she identifies as it? What if she, gasp, was born that way but in a white person’s body? How dare Paoletta just assert that the African-American race is out of bounds for Dolezal. Also, how dare she say that Dolezal can’t claim the “oppression” as hers as well. First of all, as someone who
pretended claimed to be black and portrayed herself as such, she may very well have experienced some prejudice such as, say, being pulled over for no reason, so in this way, she has already made the oppression hers. Secondly, why can’t others say these blankets statements about Jenner? “Jenner assumed a sex/gender that wasn’t his own, as well as an oppression that wasn’t his.” Even some women have pointed out that, until Jenner knows what its like to go through menstrual periods and eventually menopause, they aren’t going to call him a woman. To say nothing of unequal treatment that women have suffered in the past and still do in the present.
As for her second point, this is her main argument:
According to her parents, Rachel Dolezal was born a white woman. If this is true, she’ll always be a white woman, and therefore will never live the experience of a black American. Caitlyn Jenner, on the other hand, has always been a woman. Simply put: Rachel has (allegedly) been pretending to be a black woman for years — Caitlyn isn’t pretending to be a woman because she’s always been one.
More bare assertions that can easily be turned around. Who does Paoletta think she is, saying what Dolezal was born as? Just because her parents are white? After all, most gay people have straight parents (it’s the “traditional” way to come into existence), but that doesn’t mean they aren’t born gay (allegedly). Also, where is the actual evidence and argument that a transgender person was always the gender they claim? It seems rather obvious that they underwent change; heck, many transgender people choose to have surgery. Obviously, they were not largely born that way, so contrary to that linked FAQ, there is absolutely no reason to think that transgender people are somehow “born” differently than what they obviously are.
Again, this quote can easily be modified while keeping its basic logic: “According to her parents (and biology), Bruce Jenner was born a man. If this is true, he’ll always be a man, and therefore will never live the experience of a woman.” The article is so easily dismantled that one wonders what kind of cognitive dissonance is required to write it. Progressives may object that an MTV article is hardly the place to see good argumentation, and I would agree, but then again, I actually think that this time it is indicative of how progressives are reacting if you look around.
Others have tried to say that the difference is that Jenner never lied like Dolezal for apparent gain. Not only is it dubious to say that Jenner never lied (what was he doing for the majority of his life as “Bruce,” then, if he was really Caitlyn all along?), this completely misses the point and showcases a severe inability (or unwillingness) to make logical connections. The point is not that Dolezal was being secretive and Jenner wasn’t. The issue at hand is whether or not realities such as sex and race are up to individuals to simply determine themselves. If sex and gender are so flexible that people like Jenner are free to claim one or another and society must agree, then it seems we have no choice but to accept Dolezal or anyone like her who wants to simply choose which race she’s a part of. The amusing thing is that Dolezal may very well have a better scientific claim to being black than Jenner does to being a woman because some have argued that race is just as much or more so a product of cultural identification rather than biology, as opposed to the clear biological markers for sex.
I’ve written before on how progressive logic on the transgender issue runs into problems in practice, and this is another example. This is what happens when blind, feelings-based ideology runs rampant and tries to silence dissent with cries of “phobia” and “bigotry.” How ironic indeed that progressives try to portray themselves as the ones relying on reason.