Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Honestly Trying to Understand...

Help me out here, internets. I'm honestly trying to figure this out. Hand to G-d, I am not trying to put anyone down, downplay anyone's orientation/gender identity/whatever. I'm trying to figure out where we draw the line, if we even do any more.

Bruce Jenner is male. I mean this from a biological/genetic perspective. His genetic code contains an X chromosome and a Y chromosome. This is a biological fact. It has nothing to do with whether or not Jenner identifies as a woman, or if Jenner feels like a woman, or any other feeling at all. Genetically, biologically, Jenner is male.

Now, look. Before anyone gets all butthurt, I don't give a flying rat's patoot what gender Jenner claims. Personally, I think it's an awful lot of hoopla, time, and expense; if this is some bizarre publicity stunt (as some seem to think), then Jenner has some severe psychological issues to address. If not, I accept it as legit, not that it's any of my damn business.

But biologically, Jenner is male. At the end of the day, an analysis of his genome will reveal that, yes, he is male. Period. Full stop.

So, why, then, shouldn't we accept that Rachel Dolezal identifies as black? If all it takes for Caitlyn Jenner to be accepted is her claim that she identifies as a female - flying in the face of the biological evidence to the contrary - why, then, can't Dolezal's claim to identifying as black be true?

From a biological standpoint, if we can ignore the basis for gender in favor of how someone feels or chooses to identify, then isn't it just as valid for race? Shouldn't Dolezal get to choose her race if she honestly identifies as a black woman? It seems to me that we're allowing one form of choosing while denying another.

Now, look. I'll grant there's a growing body of evidence that Dolezal's just a garden-variety fraud, but the question remains. If gender is a social construct, then why not race? Gender at least as identifiable traits and characteristics; race, well, not quite so much. Why are we so quick to accept one form of change but not another?

Again, I really do mean this as an honest question. I don't have a dog in the Jenner hunt; I neither care whether Jenner is male, female, or both, for that matter. I'm not being asked to pay for the surgery; I'm not being forced to participate in any of it; it really, honestly, truly means nothing to me. I don't mean to belittle Caitlyn Jenner in any way, shape, or form; whatever Jenner chooses is Jenner's choice to make and theirs alone. End.

I just reject the ideological inconsistency that says Jenner's choice is inviolate, but Dolezal's is false.

That is all.


Anonymous said...

Why is it that when a progressive white woman self-identifies as an African-American woman, she is roundly criticized, ostracized, and condemned by the liberal media while when a progressive white woman self-identifies as a Native-American woman, she is elected to the U.S. Senate?

I am confused.

Murphy's Law said...

Difference that I see is that Jenner didn't make his switch in secret in order to turn around and take jobs from real women by while lecturing everyone on what it's like to be a real women.

Anonymous said...


I think the issue is the direction of change; from "white privilege to minority" and from "male to female" - see each of the difference are not all equal. At least according to the social justice concept.

Jenner is moving away from the Patriarchal scheme so that is okay. But Dolezal is moving from 'white privilege" to minority status and that is not because well, that would take power away from the minorities. If anyone could claim to be one of the protected class, then what purpose is there to have a protected class?

Bob S.

Anonymous said...

You can identify racial characteristics in a person's genes.
That being said we are fully vested in the Age of Feelings. Screw fact.

Some time I feel like a motherless child.


Wolfman said...

I started to write an involved and thoughtful comment, but realized that, no, it DOESN'T make any sense. Asking for ideological consistency in SJW World is like expecting accurate portrayals of firearms in Hollywood blockbusters.

Jeff B said...

I think it's because she is identifying in whatever manner is most beneficial to her at the moment.


Tirno said...

Well, I'm Hispanic. I've a pretty damned good claim to it, too, as my father immigrated from Peru. Got red hair and sunburn easily from my mother's side, but I know what I've had to mark on my 4473s for the last little while under threat of perjury.

My kids will be marking the Hispanic boxes, too. It may be confusing to some people, since they are racially 50% Chinese, but what the hell, Peru had a president for a while named Fujimori, and depending on what the form syas, they can either check multiple boxes, or an Other choice for race.

That's all pretty solid. Good documentation and genealogy to support all of it.

But if we're going on the feelings thing, un-objective feelings that can be discovered late in life and cannot be gainsaid by other people, everything is up for grabs.

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that I have recently come to the realization that I'm not like other men, you know, in my heart, and I've come to realize that I am wrong-gendered. In my heart, I'm a woman. Furthermore, I am still attracted to my wife, so it would follow that I am a lesbian. As a practical matter, however, I recognize that most people will associate me with my outward appearance, and for the sake of simplicity, I'm going to stick with the pronouns of He, Him, His, and I'm still going to use the men's room and use the name my parents gave me when I was born. Because even though I'm a veteran, lesbian, wrong-gendered woman of color, it's still very convenient to be able to pee standing up. I'm also still a father of two, because let's be serious, even though I am now a woman, the bit of genetics my kids got from me swam over to the bit of genetics they got from their mother.

Now, who exactly is going to oppress me with their privilege by claiming it ain't fuckin' so?

ASM826 said...

I'm liking this, there's some alternate persona I haven't discovered yet, but when I do, watch out.

Maybe a Klingon/Romulan hybrid...

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

Just to throw this out there:

"Bruce Jenner is male. I mean this from a biological/genetic perspective. His genetic code contains an X chromosome and a Y chromosome."

In fact, there is evidence that gender is not always that simple, even just from a biological perspective. Sure, in something around 99% of the population it is, but not for the rest.

The research is sparse (both funding and research subjects are pretty hard to come by), but there is evidence that transgendered individuals have physical brain development within the ranges found in their identified gender rather than their physical gender. There is also evidence of significant differences in in utero hormonal exposure (either timing or amount) from that of the birth gender and similar to the identified gender.

In other words, someone in Jenner's position may very well have a physically female brain in a physically male body.

That's not even considering the "usual" intersex conditions, or the cases where someone with an XX chromosome pair develops as a fully functional male (or the other way around).

LabRat said...

A question that gets more interesting the more I think about it, actually.

Biological sex- this one is largely academic to the social context/your post; I have a massive pet peeve with people who think it's the final GTFO answer to gender, because it's just not (and this isn't Jay), and sex and "gender" (some biologists use this word to describe variants within a species that have very distinct life histories and reproductive strategies, with multiple categories of "male" and "female", others think the concept of gender only applies to humans) are pretty damn fluid in many corners of the natural world.

At the end of the day sex is defined biologically across nature as whether you have large gametes or small gametes, relatively speaking. No one has managed to come up with a strictly biological definition for "male" or "female" for humans because there isn't one that hasn't been thoroughly broken by some condition of intersex out there- and the varieties of ways you can be biologically intersexed is huge, and it's more common than most people think- because it's not anyone's business and often it's just easiest for the intersexed individual to choose a gender and go from there- though it can get weird for those who were assigned one at birth they later find just plain doesn't match.

I very much share Jay's nunyabidness approach to transgender issues- at the end of the day it doesn't really matter what I think about someone's gender/gender expression/whatever, because it's none of my business unless we're having sex, and just plain simple politeness to call someone what they want to be called. I'm not the arbiter of whether someone is "really" whatever gender, and neither is anyone else, and the degree of interest/entitlement to that role out there actually kind of creeps me out.

LabRat said...

Had to break this into two parts...

Ironically, I think of race as more of a social construct than gender is at the end of the day. Yes, there are genetic markers for some groups, but they only describe probability for certain population groups- even in dog breeds where there has very often been constrained and tracked breeding for many generations, DNA tests for what breed aren't actually all that reliable. More than one person in the dog world I know has had their purebred for which they have a twelve generation pedigree tested for kicks and had some hilariously wrong result come back. There are people whose ancestry is very well known that don't have genetic markers for "their" group, because they only describe likelihoods, not certainties.

Worse than that, they don't actually line up well at all with the groups of "race" that we are all culturally familiar. There simply hasn't *been* a functional definition of racial categories in humans that's held up to genetic scrutiny, and most of those markers are for population groups within an accepted race- and very often a defined race doesn't match real genetic distinctiveness at all.

Africa is the most genetically diverse, and contains the most genetically distinct populations, than all other regions and "races" put together. Black people in the Americas, unless African heritage is quite recent, are mutts; they're a stew of various African groups, various Native American groups, Caucasians, and occasionally some other things. (We are all bedmates in slavery.) White Americans are also mutts. Hispanics are HUGELY mutt-y. I can go on. So race is DEFINITELY a cultural construct, more than gender is.

Which of course does not mean that race isn't "real", or doesn't have some very significant social importance with large and wide-ranging effects. And that's the context the NAACP "I identify as black" case belongs in. I lean hardest toward Murphy's answer- it's a problem because lecturing someone about their experience and the issues surrounding that racial category when you only came to that identification recently and LOOK white is a big-time No for the same reason black people are aggravated by random white people informing them what their experience actually is. Which God knows happens- I really freakin hate being lectured by men about what being a woman is like, and it happens *shockingly* often.

From a purely theoretical point of view, if race is a cultural construct, then choosing to identify that way should be fine, and mixed-race people often DO identify with one group much more if not entirely as one group than another without controversy. But the reality on the ground doesn't necessarily make that so simple. And the debate in Native American groups about that is particularly fierce.

So... not sure in general about the question, though lean hard to this particular case being not-okay. And I know for a fact a significant number of feminists would object to a transwoman doing the same thing in, say, NOW.

Stingray said...

If only LabRat had a blog she could do this sort of thing on...

Anonymous said...

No one gives a rats ass whether anyone identifies as a woman, black, or a toaster. It's the fraud that's illegal. Madoff is not in jail for identifying as anything, he's there for defrauding investors.

Jay G said...


I'm so glad you caught this one, and I was REALLY trying hard not to get too wrapped up in the "ZOMG THIS IS SCIENCE" aspect (besides, it has been MANY years since I wore my "Biologist" hat...). You got it dead-on: I don't mean by any stretch to disparage Jenner or others in that situation; I cannot imagine *anyone* would willingly go through the kind of scrutiny and "hurr hurr" that Jenner has been through since announcing the change. It's gotta be real, at least to the person in question, and if I'm not footing the bill, I really have no say in the matter. Ain't my circus, ain't my monkeys.

You absolutely nailed it, though with "I think of race as more of a social construct than gender is at the end of the day." Yes. This. Which is what brought about my question - by and large, the biggest "race" issue is black and white. And, honestly, it ain't about color - look at Indian/Pakistani folks; they're darker than a LOT of those who identify as African-American, yet race isn't an issue there.

But if race is a social construct, which I believe it is, why do some have a problem with the concept Dolezal has brought up, of people identifying with a race to which they don't belong? Sure, in this specific case it appears that she was doing so for personal gain (or, possibly given her lawsuit against Howard University, revenge), but surely this isn't the only case.

Granted, Dolezal and others - Elizabeth Warren and Ward Churchill spring to mind - seem to be identifying as minorities for their own personal gain. That begs the question, though: Why? Why claim to be something you're not, something that - especially in the case of Dolezal - is so easily disproven.

Then again, I've never been a big fan of people in general...

ProudHillbilly said...

Apparently, she is also trans-professorial, having identified herself as a professor without actually having achieved position.

Petsonally, I was grateful when today I learned that since I identify as a skinny person I AM a skinny person.

ProudHillbilly said...

Apparently, she is also trans-professorial, having identified herself as a professor without actually having achieved position.

Petsonally, I was grateful when today I learned that since I identify as a skinny person I AM a skinny person.

Anonymous said...


Have you asked the US Senator from Mass this question?

The Native American Senator and Professor Elizabeth Warren should have all the answers.

LabRat said...

Jay- yeah, nothing but respect for you, I should have made it clear when I was responding to you and when I was to either commmenters or the world at large...

I honestly can't see logically why *not* in the purely theoretical sense if not this case. That's one of the reasons it's so profoundly contentious among Natives. You have the Elizabeth Warren types claiming Native-ness because it's advantageous in some way, others doing it because it's somehow cool, and then you have people who grew up on a reservation never questioning their status as a member of the tribe who get booted when someone gets froggy about who really "counts" as a member of the tribe (usually for determining who has a vote among the tribe- and who gets a share of casino profits...).

Grog said...

Jay, I've been pondering this as many others have, and to my view Jake and LabRat described the circumstance accurately. I don't care how Jenner chooses to identify, to criticize him would be no different than criticizing Erin Pallete for being who she is. I'm using him and her for convienence of typing, not to appear contradictory.

However, regarding the other hypocrites in this discussion, dolezal, warren and churchill, the question that you asked can be answered easily, they're dishonest at their core, they see lies and manipulation as the best way to walk through life. Which leads to the question, how did they get there. There's no quick answer to that, but my view, FWIW, is that people who think in this fashion have adopted that mindset early in their learning curve, for lack of a better phrase, or they've allowed others to manipulate their perspective on life. Consider how many politicos have advanced the "white guilt" fraud meme over the last 10 or so years, dolezal seems to have adopted it not because of an identity crisis, but because she viewed the "issue" as a method to advance her position in society.

She lied about who she is, and now she's been caught in the lie, and too bad for her.

Kermit said...

I think LabRat's right; "race" is a far more fluid and harder-to-define concept than gender/sex, at least in humans. Regardless of what one "self-identifies" as, a "male" will always genetically have a Y chromosome, and a "female" never will (leaving out certain trisomy chromosomal disorders, of course). A "race," however, has no definitive genetic markers, only tendencies towards them for a certain population; their presence or lack thereof is not an absolute indicator, and never will be. "Race" is really undefinable from a genetic standpoint.

Personally, I don't understand Jenner's decision, I think he'll regret it, and I don't approve of it at all. But my approval and understanding are not required, and he/she never asked my opinion. I -do- understand Dolezal's actions, as she's evidently doing this for personal gain.

In short, the difference is, Jenner is doing this because he/she wants to, and not asking anyone else to pay for it. Therefore, since it does not affect us, harm us, or incur cost upon us, we have no say. Dolezal is castigated for pretending to be something she is not because she -is- using it for personal gain, at others expense.