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If I can change my sex, why can't I change my race?

(64 Posts)
fakenamefornow Tue 27-Sep-16 23:10:38

I am white British, family all.white British, from England. I have blond hair and blue eyes. I do have some African blood though, many generations back, I don't feel African in any way though, never even been there, and feel no particular connection to the continent. I love my African heritage though, just because it's interesting.

If I had a black husband, black children lived among a black community and this was were I felt most comfortable, why couldn't I describe myself as black? Actually I think know why, I just don't understand why changing sex (or rather gender) is treated so differently, when sex, unlike race, really is binary. Not wanting to offend anyone and apologies if I haven't used the corrected terms. I really am curious though.

Shallishanti Tue 27-Sep-16 23:15:05

actually we ARE all africans

fakenamefornow Tue 27-Sep-16 23:18:31

Yes I know. I only have to go back about 150 years to find my African ancestry though.

Shallishanti Tue 27-Sep-16 23:37:15

oh in that case go for it
am feeling a bit mentally underpowered right now, but I think there's some mileage in comparing race with gender (but not sex)- as race is an arbitrary social construct, like gender, whereas sex is an objective biological concept.
The woman who claimed to be black was derided, rightly so because 'race' is the source of real oppression- but sex is also the source of real oppression, with gender being a tool for the oppression
or something

LassWiTheDelicateAir Wed 28-Sep-16 00:43:24

Why do so many white people claim to be Native American? | Fusion
fusion.net/story/279637/white-people-claiming-native-identity/

ICJump Wed 28-Sep-16 05:43:05

In Australia, where we systematically tried to kill all the Aboriginals or if that too unseemly tried to breed it out by taking light skinned kids and telling them they were white, one for the markers of your aboriginality is if you are accepted by the community as aboriginal.
In areas like Tasmania when the last full blooded aboriginal died in the 1870s many aboriginal people look quite white but they a seen by their community as black. Similarly I have white friends who through marriage become "aunty"s and "Uncle"s and are considered part of an aborginal family.
There is also a guy in NT who is Scottish by birth but is considered Yolngu by his Yolngu family and community

So the short answer is if your family and your community consider you black then maybe you are.
As for trans changing sex given that lots of women are saying we don't accept that you are women I'm not sure they can say they become women

olderthanyouthink Wed 28-Sep-16 06:39:24

I've never understood this. Race is a pretty made up social construct and it's waaaaay more wobbly than sex or even gender.

I'm mixed race so I don't fit into a box easily, I'm often asked why I'm not more black or it's commented that I'm very white.... That's nothing to do with my skin colour (though I'm relatively pale as I don't go outside that much) but it's to do with how I behave relative to racial stereotypes.

On the flip side I'm often put into the category of black because I live in a white country, grew up in and live in very white areas and I'm not like the majority so I must be the other (it's a shame that it always black v white and skips over the other races). I've never been to a mostly black country before so I don't know how I would be seen there.

I often describe myself as grey because it's a bit more descriptive than mixed race and just to increase my awkwardness of not fitting in a box. I'm fine with being mixed, I don't think most trans people are entirely one or the other gender, like I'm not entirely one "race" so why can't they just be who they want without the whole uprising thing (bit of an understatement). They can't change their sex any more than I can change my ancestry the makes me mixed "race".

scaevola Wed 28-Sep-16 06:52:36

Mixed race is for more common than intersex. People who are intersex nominate the sex they want to live as, so in OP's case then yes just choosing is possible. Because intersex people usually have their sex assigned to them by their parents at birth, but it might well be totally wrong for them and they choose to change later.

In other cases, then yes it is also possible, and acceptance by the community is the. Key point.

Did anyone ever really consider Hayley Cropper a man? Other than of course people portrayed as bigoys such as Les Battersby?

fakenamefornow Wed 28-Sep-16 14:41:06

I guess the controversy about Rachel Dolezal was fuelled, in part, by the fact that she was seen to be taking the place, in civil rights campaigning, that belonged to a black person?

OlennasWimple Wed 28-Sep-16 15:22:59

Is race a social construct? confused

fakenamefornow Wed 28-Sep-16 15:26:29

I suppose it is working on the premise that all human beings can breed, therefore we are all the same race? Personally I think we are different races but prepared to change my view if persuaded.

olderthanyouthink Wed 28-Sep-16 16:01:48

I'm saying it's not a social construct because it lumps massive amounts of people to together in a not very scientific way because who is and isn't black varies by culture.

olderthanyouthink Wed 28-Sep-16 16:06:54

I'm saying it IS a social construct

(Sorry got distracted)

QueenJuggler Wed 28-Sep-16 16:18:20

Race is highly emotive because of the historical and current discrimination that is endured by minority race communities, especially black communities. Identify yourself as whatever you want, but IMO, don't expect me to believe that we are the "same" and that you've walked a mile in my shoes.

OlennasWimple Wed 28-Sep-16 16:33:34

Except there are physiological differences between people of different races, aren't there? Some examples here. So I can say that I am now black, but I don't magically change my bone density, any more than a man who says he is a woman can magically change their pelvic bones

olderthanyouthink Wed 28-Sep-16 16:45:04

Olenna that's exactly it! I could get a nose job, relax my hair, get a bum and lip reduction but that would make me white/ Caucasian/ European, would it?

SomeDyke Wed 28-Sep-16 16:45:52

"she was seen to be taking the place, in civil rights campaigning, that belonged to a black person"
As I recall, she supposedly went to a uni on a scholarship intended for black people, she taught classes on the African-American experience whilst passing as black, hence claimed to be teaching it from a first-person perspective that actually wasn't hers. My take would be although she had some experiences 'as a black person' when she passed as black, she did not have the experiences of being raised as a black person, and whatever experiences she did have when she was passing as black, that experience must have been coloured (no pun intended!) by the fact that she knew she could always step back to being white. And her passing seems to have included passing off a black man as her father who was actually unrelated.

I was just reading this opinion piece:
www.seattleglobalist.com/2015/06/15/rachel-dolezal-lies-hurt-black-people-spokane-ijeoma-oluo/38338
Very well written, a good read.

Plus the obvious link is why is this not okay when it comes to race, but okay when it comes to gender? Because, I suppose, no one reputable believes in a 'black brain', but a lady-brain is okay? Being black in America is born out of struggle, but being a woman isn't? When did they decide we got the vote/had our own souls/could own our own property/weren't the property of our husbands/fathers/brothers?....................

WindPowerRanger Wed 28-Sep-16 17:12:41

Race may be an uncertain and even unscientific concept, but it is a political reality. It makes sense as a cultural, social and political identity (we still all associate more with people of the same race than people of different races), and it affects one's treatment and life chances significantly, occasionally as much if not more than gender does.

The idea of a white person presenting himself/herself as black makes me very angry, and it's hard to articulate why. I think because the lived experience that makes up that identity is not theirs, however many black people they know or are related to or have given birth to. Experiencing it at one remove is not the same as experiencing it. It feels like the ultimate erasure, in which people from the oppressor group take over your identity in order to escape any stigma as oppressors and to appropriate (cherry pick) our identity as noble survivors.

I feel that any white person of any goodwill and understanding would say that she/he identified with black people not that s/he identified as a black person, and get why that distinction was valid and so important.

LassWiTheDelicateAir Wed 28-Sep-16 17:41:49

Race may be an uncertain and even unscientific concept, but it is a political reality. It makes sense as a cultural, social and political identity (we still all associate more with people of the same race than people of different races), and it affects one's treatment and life chances significantly, occasionally as much if not more than gender does

"Race" is the wrong word isn't it? But we are stuck with it now. I agree cherry picking parts of a particular ethnicity or culture which suit you is very questionable behaviour.

I'm not sure I could genuinely say I identify with black people , let alone as a black person. I'm not sure I understand what "identifying with" means. I can understand there are any number of groups whose lives are much harder than mine but identify with them?

DesolateWaist Wed 28-Sep-16 17:54:48

The idea of a white person presenting himself/herself as black makes me very angry, and it's hard to articulate why. I think because the lived experience that makes up that identity is not theirs, however many black people they know or are related to or have given birth to. Experiencing it at one remove is not the same as experiencing it. It feels like the ultimate erasure, in which people from the oppressor group take over your identity in order to escape any stigma as oppressors and to appropriate (cherry pick) our identity as noble survivors.

Change white person to man and black to female and it's damn near the same argument as transgender.

WindPowerRanger Wed 28-Sep-16 17:57:39

Well, quite Desolate.

VestalVirgin Wed 28-Sep-16 18:07:14

Race is a social construct, and a relatively recent one. I think the English invented it to justify their oppression of the Irish. (Yes, the Irish. They had all those "scientific" proofs that the typical Irish skull was different from the English one, and deducing someone's personality from the form of their skull was all the rage back then. I think that was before they used it to justify enslaving black people, but I might misremember.)

Before that, people of course did notice different skin colours, etc., but divides were along class lines and along culture lines, skin colour was less important. (I think there's some hilarious medieval story of a knight who married an African noblewoman and had children that looked like chessboards, as people back then had no idea how a mix of white and black skin would actually look)

Sex and physiological differences between people with different ancestry are real. Gender and race are social constructs.

My guess as to why identifying as a gender is more accepted than identifying as a race is because sex-based oppression, which leads to gender, is more deeply entrenched and much older than racism, and that black men are seen as human and worthy of sympathy in a way that women are not.
People do not see sexism in the same way they see racism. Sexism is the status quo everywhere, and much of it is invisible because it is so normalized. People just don't see that identifying as "woman" is appropriating the lived experience of an oppressed class.

Comejointhemurder Wed 28-Sep-16 18:08:55

I think that gender is a social construct so you can 'change gender' but not change sex because it is a biological fact that you can't. You can't change chromosomes or DNA.

Race is a little more complex and nuanced in that not everyone who comes from an ethnic background will obviously 'appear' to have come from that background. I know a woman with very pale skin and red hair who has dual heritage. All of her siblings have much darker skin, 'afro hair' and are 'visually' dual heritage.

Her Dad (Caribbean) didn't believe she was his child until a DNA test confirmed it. Her heritage is white European and Afro-Caribbean; she carries all the history of her BME heritage. She identifies as dual heritage because that IS her heritage.

But she doesn't experience the day to day ingrained prejudice that her siblings do because she doesn't look 'non white' to the rest of the world.

So her race is an undisputed biological fact but the wider world doesn't 'see' it. And she has been accused of appropriating BME culture in the past or 'identifying' as BME when she isn't. But she is.

That's just one example. I know another family with both parents being dual heritage and 2 DC being 'visibly' dual heritage and one DC having pale skin and straight blonde hair.

I know an extended family of Pakistani origin with pale skin and very red hair.

fakenamefornow Wed 28-Sep-16 18:09:11

As I recall, she supposedly went to a uni on a scholarship intended for black people, she taught classes on the African-American experience whilst passing as black, hence claimed to be teaching it from a first-person perspective that actually wasn't hers.

Why does it seem fine (apart from with a small minority) for a MtoF trans person to speak for women and take roles reserved for women and anyone objecting is shouted down as a bigot? If my African heritage was closer, a grandparent say, and I was raised by my African family, I think I would definitely have some claim to a black identiy whereas a transgender person will always have the DNA of the sex they were born with and non of the sex they identify with.

LassWiTheDelicateAir Wed 28-Sep-16 18:34:36

Race is a social construct, and a relatively recent one. I think the English invented it to justify their oppression of the Irish

I don't think so. They might have taken advantage of it but they didn't invent it.

Come, tell me why it is that the Celts and the Germans are fierce, while the Hellenes and Romans are, generally speaking, inclined to political life and humane, though at the same time unyielding and warlike? Why the Egyptians are more intelligent and more given to crafts, and the Syrians unwarlike and effeminate, but at the same time intelligent, hot-tempered, vain and quick to learn? For if there is anyone who does not discern a reason for these differences among the nations, but rather declaims that all this so befell spontaneously, how, I ask, can he still believe that the universe is administered by a providence?

Said Hippocrates of Cos (yes that one as in hippocratic oath)

Or an historian of the 3rd century Han Dynasty describing barbarians of blond hair and green eyes as resembling "the monkeys from which they are descended."

Or

The Invention of Race in the European MIddle Ages I: Race Studies, Modernity, and the Middle Ages | Geraldine Heng - Academia.edu
www.academia.edu/321674/The_Invention_of_Race_in_the_European_MIddle_Ages_I_Race_Studies_Modernity_and_the_Middle_Ages

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