Rachel Dolezal, Ja Du, and the transracial movement.

Rachel Dolezal (left) was widely mocked for pretending to be black. Now a transgender woman named Ja Du (right) claims to identify as Filipino.


When you were young, your parents might have told you that you can grow up to be anything. Surely they didn’t actually mean anything; they were probably thinking that you could become a doctor, or a firefighter, or maybe even president. But what about growing up to be an Asian woman if you were born a white man? Impossible right? Well, perhaps not.

A majority of people now accept the notion that someone’s gender at birth doesn’t necessarily match their real gender. Now, similar arguments are being made about race.

The Rise of Transracialism

You might remember the story of a white woman named Rachel Dolezal, who back in 2015 was exposed after years of tricking people into believing she was black. So extensive was her ruse, that Dolezal had even become the head of the local NAACP chapter. When her parents “outed” her, Dolezal faced heavy public backlash. She later conceded that she indeed was not black, instead arguing that she was transracial. Although she was born white, Dolezal claimed she identified as black.

However, the public wasn’t buying it. Dolezal was widely criticized, ended up losing her job, and became estranged from most of her friends. With such a strong negative reaction, one might expect that the notion of transracialism would disappear from the cultural landscape.

To the surprise of many, it has actually spurred a growing movement.

Transracialism’s newest spokesperson is Ja Du, a transgender Florida woman. Like Dolezal, Ja Du was born white but never felt like she really fit in. Ja Du (born Adam Wheeler), ended up changing her name to reflect what she claims is her true racial identity: Filipino.

“Whenever I’m around the music, around the food, I feel like I’m in my own skin,” she explains. “I’d watch the History Channel, sometimes for hours, you know, whenever it came to that, and you know, nothing else intrigued me more than things about Filipino culture.”

So strongly did this new culture resonate with her, that Ja Du decided to start identifying as Filipino. She even bought a Tuk Tuk — a popular type of taxi used in the Philippines — which she drives around the streets of Tampa, Florida:

Where to Draw a Line

otherkin, dragonCritics point out that Ja Du has set the bar extremely low for what is required to be considered transracial. While Rachel Dolezal took steps to alter her physical appearance and even joined an organization intimately concerned with issues in the black community, Ja Du appears to simply be a fan of Filipino culture.

As Filipina journalist Anne Branigin asks, “how in the world does being a fan of History Channel programming give you entry into claiming someone’s identity?” It seems as though Ja Du’s simple standard for a fluid identity could be applied to almost anything, not just race — which critics say creates a slippery slope.

Take otherkin, for example. “Otherkin” is a term that refers to individuals who identify as partially or entirely nonhuman. Some have decided that they are actually foxes or cats, and will often crawl or change their diet to better fit their self-image. not humans.

“I am a red fox-kin who was, as we call, awakened about a year ago,” says 19-year-old John from Knoxville. Upon assuming his fox identity, John says “everything seemed to come together for me.”

Like Ja Du, these people simply feel that they are something other than what they were born as. Is that enough?

Body Dysmorphia

Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental disorder characterized by the obsessive idea that some aspects of one’s appearance are deeply flawed. Anorexia is probably the most well-known form of body dysmorphia, but it can apply to anyone who feels severely out of place in their own body and chooses to act on those feelings.

Adam Wheeler was born a white male, but now identifies as an Asian female. What Adam saw in the mirror, he rejected. Since Ja Du reports to only feel comfortable when surrounded by Filipino culture, one can deduce that the rest of the time she has a nagging feeling of discomfort in her own skin – the main symptom of body dysmorphia.

Trans Connection

medical, brain, scanThe transgender community is often accused of suffering from body dysmorphia. To the casual reader, transgender and transracial seem like two sides of the same coin. Is there a fundamental difference between identifying as a different gender than the one you were assigned, and considering yourself a member of a race you were not born into?

Both gender and race are social constructs, as opposed to sex and ethnicity which are genetically manifested. By this measure, it would seem that someone should be able to choose their gender and/or race.

Not so fast, say researchers. Scientific studies have shown that the brains of transgender men (who were born female) respond to stimuli similarly to those of cis men (men that identify with the gender they were assigned at birth) — indicating a scientific basis for transgender identity.

The same cannot be said for transracial people, who show no difference in brain activity compared to the “normal” population. As of now, scientists have been unable to identify any evidence supporting the transracial theory.

No Harm, No Foul

But does that mean that transracial people don’t exist? Can someone be totally mistaken about their own identity? In the cases of otherkin identifying as non-existent creatures (such as dragons or mermaids) we could probably say “yes”.

But what about Ja Du? As a society, can we readily accept her as a woman while also rejecting her Filipino identity?

Even if we decide that transracialism is a myth and people are just confused about their own identities, that begs another question: should we care? Ja Du isn’t hurting anyone or trying to claim benefits normally reserved for Filipinos. Nobody wants Ja Du to stop appreciating Filipino culture, but is claiming another race as your own a step too far?

 

46 comments

  1. J says:

    I personally have no interest in dating a women taller than me. Where does personal preference balance with discrimination. Expressed out of non-egotistical love by the sender & interpreted by the receiver holistically it can be worked out. If done Egotistically, we have the current state of affairs. IE: Can a “discriminating woman” be a good thing?

    1. LtBil Drat says:

      If you falsely identify race, color, origin, it’s a federal crime to obtain any benefit from it. The prosecuting authority will have the right to present scientific evidence against you in the courts and, conversely, you would have show your defense. It’s like saying a bank robber or embezzler using a defense of “I didn’t identify as a crook”.

  2. Beth K says:

    There’s discrimination and there’s who you are interested in dating. While most of us would not discriminate in hiring, housing, or even socializing with a neighbor because of age, sex, physical appearance, most people are a lot more discriminating on who we’ll date or choose for a life partner. Most people certainly “discriminate” because of which sex someone is (e.g., gay or straight), a few don’t (the truly bisexual). Most people want a partner within a “reasonable age” of ourselves – 30 years older or younger is not acceptable. Some are more discriminating – only like blond(es) or only like people with brown eyes, only want people who are very thin or only want people with a few (or many!) extra pounds, or so forth. Is that necessarily wrong? Really – does a 70 year old have to consider 20 year olds? Or, should a 20 year old consider an 80 year old? While in a few cases it’s the right choice, in most cases they won’t have a lot in common, especially the notion on whether to have children with that partner, It’s impossible if the woman is older, but probably possible where the man is older. What about the race of partners? If we don’t blame someone who only dates blond(e)s, should we criticize them for discriminating against all non-white races, and many people who are white? Is there anything wrong with such a preference for someone in a dating/romantic/sexual/marriage partner? Same with whether the potential partner is tall or short, disabled or not, or any number of other reasons which may be “deal breakers” for some.

    I’m just thinking aloud here.

    1. Moniqa Aylin says:

      The facts are:
      1. Our *preferences* in attraction are heavily shaped and influenced by a (Western) culture that overwhelmingly values young, healthy, thin, cisgender, conventionally attractive, white people (plus myriad other traits).

      2.Our dating *choices* don’t exist in a vacuum but in this culture where people are marginalized when they do not possess such traits and in the context of a history where people have been marginalized and oppressed because of them for centuries.

      Nobody is saying anybody HAS to date or sleep with or marry X type of person to prove they aren’t prejudiced. However, it is important to consider the difference between refusing to ever date a person with X trait and thinking about whether one might consider giving it a shot if they happened to meet a person with X trait who has many other qualities one seeks and/or if they happened to get along well.

      And it’s important to also examine the *reasons* behind our preferences. There’s a lot we might learn about ourselves and our unconscious biases.

  3. A. R. says:

    I was born multiracial. So why do anyone have to choose a race? I think that we are all one race human and until we all realize that the world will always be filled hatred. My mother is white and native American and my father is west Indian. We live in a country that says I have to choose. I relate to all of my heritage and cultures but I am told that I’m African-American which is not true. I am just a human being that’s trying to make it through this thing called life. Race is just a way for people discriminate against each other so that they feel superior to another person. We are all from the dust that we must return to. Everyone just need to learn to accept each other for who they are. And stop worrying about what race someone is. Evil comes in all colors the same as good comes in all colors. If a person wants to be transgender gay or bi or choose another culture who are we to condemn them. We all leave this place the same way. So just stop the hate already. And live life and enjoy it for what it is. We only have one chance to get right and then it’s over. No matter what the culture is death is the only way we move on to another realm. It’s just a waste of living worrying about race and culture. It all leads to the same place.

    1. hsw says:

      First, I think it’s great if someone WANTS to celebrate their culture. It’s our roots – where our family started – and if that’s of interest there’s nothing wrong with it. I do agree with you that being forced to self-identify is pointless and wrong. That comes from a place of superiority and has no place in our lives. Years ago, as I’m sure you know, people were forced to self-identify as “negro” if they had even a drop of blood that “qualified” them as such. Later, when we came to the Civil Rights era and such government programs as affirmative action, a list was developed and served, in the beginning, primarily as qualification for such programs. It still serves a similar purpose, as many organizations are required to track their hiring and employment of minorities and women – which sadly, for some organizations, is still necessary.

      But outside of the employment world, if you’re not trying to qualify for anything, why should you have to choose? Why do we care?

    2. Rogers James says:

      Amen.

    3. LtBil Drat says:

      Thank you A.R.
      It’s for exactly the reasons you articulated that race, gender etc should never be a consideration in a college application, job application, housing application etc. Like you said, treat everyone the same. Base their job application on the most qualified…period. Base their college application on the most qualified. Base their housing/mortgage application on the most qualified. No special favors or circumstances. I’m with you.

  4. James says:

    If a person claims to be a dog and barks. He is diagnosed as a schizophrenic with an Identity disorder. But if a male claims to be a woman and dresses, talks, etc he is trans. I don’t care what someone wants sexually;it’s none of my business. I don’t care about race, color, etc. If you are a crappy person, then I don’t like you. So why aren’t we identifying things for what they are. Mental illness is not an insult. Doesn’t mean you have to change or be treated. But it’s still a disorder. Not a normal thing. Why are we so obsessed with identity. I believe it because we have to much time on our hands. This never comes up in every day life in my world. Just saying.

    1. Auntie M says:

      If a man identifies as a dog and barks, fine by me.

      If he bites……

  5. Miranda Allison Young says:

    As long as she is not trying to defraud anyone, it is nobody else’s business what she wants to call herself.

    1. James says:

      I agree. Crazy is better when you keep it to yourself. And it’s no one else’s business until you effect others.

      1. hsw says:

        It’s “affect.” Normally I’m not the Grammar Police, but when you’re trying to be smarter than everybody else it helps to know now to spell.

        Not going to engage as I know it will be pointless, but you set yourself up to look exactly the opposite of smart when you identify things as mental illnesses that are not.

        Peace.

  6. Steve Sexton says:

    Who cares what she calls herself and actually we have different ethnicities.(no matter how much we try we cant change that) the truth is we are all the same race because there is only one race The Human Race The sooner EVERYONE realizes that the better off we will all be
    “That’s just the way I see it I could be wrong”

    1. Steve Sexton says:

      one more thing if your talking about the color of someone’s skin that just comes down to a person chemistry (which sorry we cant change that either)
      https://www.today.com/parents/rare-biracial-twins-surprise-black-dad-white-mom-t107380

  7. John Owens says:

    I think human is human. Cultures are different, and we can prefer one culture over another. Beyond that, I don’t really have much time to think about it. I speak Spanish really well, a little Chinese, but I can’t become “Hispanic” (which isn’t really a race) or Chinese ( which actually is not a monolith, racially speaking. I’ve lived in Scotland when I was a child, but I can’t really even become a Scot. A person of Swedish or Irish ancestry cannot become an American Indian or a Tutsi or Hutu or Matabele. It just cannot be done. They can pretend all they want, as long as they don’t insist everyone else go along with it.

  8. Gilbert Mason says:

    The sentence that stood out the most to me was:

    “Both gender and race are social constructs, as opposed to sex and ethnicity which are genetically manifested.”

    This statement is true if you understand why. The way gender is being described is that of a culture – same goes for race. The key here is that it is a man that enjoys female culture, and enjoys Filipino culture. He is not and will not be recognized as a woman based on every chromosome in his body, and he will never be a Filipino based on physical evidence such as a birth certificate. He could move there and be naturalized as a citizen if they allow it.

    You cannot change your race, you cannot change your gender. Some may find this mean to say this, but it’s scientific fact.
    Facts don’t care about your feelings.

    1. John Owens says:

      Totally factual, Gilbert. Of course, someone will cite something to the contrary, and believe it too, just because they had a reference, but the facts also don’t care about references, and references aren’t fact.

    2. Linda says:

      Aren’t gender and sex basically the same thing in this context?

      I’ve read that being transgendered is caused by society attributing specific roles to each gender. Look at the very ancient artwork of India, their Gods / Goddesses look quite androgynous, and that is basically how civilization probably started. Transitioning from wanderers to stable communities probably called for males to capitalize on masculine traits and females on feminine ones. Maybe transgendered people long for the role of the opposite sex they were given at birth. It may not be the gender they want but the role.

      I’m curious if society came to accept males wanting to be divas and females wanting to kick a**, if that would eliminate the label of being transgendered. If so, it seems just avoiding that sex reassignment operation would be a big bonus.

      1. Gilbert Mason says:

        I have a hypothesis that body dysmorphia is more prevalent in densely populated areas such as large cities, possibly due to the stress of highly populated city life and the lack of nature. I’m sure there is data to back this and it would be interesting to investigate. Sounds like a job for Jordan Peterson.

        1. Linda says:

          Gilbert, why because of the lack of nature? I tend to agree it might be more prevalent in the city but for different reasons… because there is usually more emphasis placed on certain styles and looks.

        2. John Owens says:

          I postulate that it might just be heavy societal influences, like strange piercings, outlandish haircuts, science fiction, lack of common sense.

          1. Linda says:

            John, I attribute those characteristics as expressions of one’s self as an individual and separate from the heard mentality. Dysmorphia like anorexia and bulimia are serious disorders, difficult to treat, and can be deadly.

          2. John Owens says:

            I agree that they are serious mental disorders, Linda, but people ARE able to convince themselves of just about anything, or allow others to do so. If they had any common sense, it would be impossible for them to be convinced of most of that stuff. I mean, that dude thinking he is a Filipina? Not all pinays look the same– some are darker, some are lighter, their faces are different, etc., but he is severely disturbed, and anyone who humors him is contributing to his insanity.

          3. Linda says:

            John, the guy is not happy and I’m sure encounters a ton of discrimination. No one can help how they think or feel unless someone helps sort through their ideas to find the root cause, or better yet, to use an affect bridge in hypnosis to identify the initial synthesizing event that caused that belief. It is repressed into the subconscious with no conscious memory of it and we are far more driven by our subconscious than our conscious mind.

          4. John Owens says:

            Still, if he was my brother or my son, or my neighbor, I would not humor him. I might speak some Tagalog to him, but he may think he is from Cebu, or another of the islands, and need another dialect, although I doubt he speaks any of them. I would do that to show his subconscious he is not a pinay nor a pinoy.

        3. Gilbert Mason says:

          I threw in nature without much basis. Humans are organisms of nature and therefore need nature instinctively. Clean air, sun light, relaxing sounds of nature, clean food, all necessary for a health body and mind.

          I just watched a study on rats that were placed in dense populations and they found there were more cases of mental illness in the rats.

          1. Linda says:

            Gilbert, nature probably helps realize what is really important in life and what is just fluff. Even so, when I’m in rural areas too long I get so bored. I need something happening, something that stimulates the mind, which is usually found more often in the city. Then it’s good to get away from the city stress too. Every decision has trade offs.

            Some of these “denials of the self” manifestations may result from repressed incidents in early childhood? A mother could have said, “I wished I had a girl.” Why wouldn’t one accept their actual packaging and then express their affiliation with other forms of packaging?

  9. Auntie M says:

    The original essay fails to delineate between race as a cultural affiliation and race as a set of biological perameters. As for the later, genentic research shows that humans are all of one species and “race” is a fluid term both as self-defined and as applied by others.

    Let us move beyond such concerns and recognise in love the kinship among all creation– human, animal, vegetal, mineral, emphermal, and beyond.

    ~namaste

  10. Auntie M says:

    Further, body dismorphia is a delusion in which a person is unable to recognise hirn physical form. This differs from recognizing the form and feeling the form to be an anomaly in comparison to the spirit or cultural identity.

    Those who are transgendered predominately recognize and acknowledge thier biological sexes while identifying with another, or multiple, cultural or spiritual gender.

    Just as in race, “gender” has outward biological manifestations, cultural performances, and spiritual identifications.

    Also, there is a precedent that one can marry into another “racev and “become” jewish, native, etc. as well as honorary membership into racial or gender cultures.

    I continue to marvel at how on any of these topics one individual feels the ability to define any of these for another.

    Let us live in a spirit of harmony.

    That ye harm none, do as ye will.

    The lord works in mysterious ways.

    Out of the one arose the myriad.

    Live and let live.

    ~ PAX

  11. Auntie M says:

    For goodness sake,

    If you want to call yourself a rock, I’m cool with that,

    But if you eat dinner with us two-legged and use a bowl,

    Wash the bowl.

    Such is the nature of enlightenment.

    Have you eaten? Wash your bowl.

    If you call yourself a rock and ait on the earth relying on wind and water and geothermal forces for your metabolism….awesome! Go for it!

  12. Anita French says:

    For a solid education on gender, check out http://www.feministcurrent.com and get woke.

  13. chris says:

    May I will look to some of you as an alien (what race is that?) as I’m from Germany. I have lived more than 20 years in foreign countries. I lived with Asians, and with Africans and Afro Americans and many other so called black people. And I lived with them very peaceful and all of them was more nice to me than my own people from Germany (just a notice). So many people believe that they are something special just because they was “lucky” enough that they got a white skin.

    I have seen racism even from “black” people. In the Caribbean for example. Black dominican people believe they are better than black Haitians. So stupid and irritating. I learned that even black people can be racists, what a strange world.

    Ok, some of them have reasons to be angry on white people because of history specially in the US but they also forgot that it was white people who entered a civil war to fight for the rights of the black. So it is time to forget like it’s time to see that Germans today are not Nazis anymore.

    So not every white people is a racist so not every black one. There are stupid people on all “races”.

    But as others wrote before already, there is only one race and that are humans. But we have many people who dont get this. As some say hey that are dogs, but dogs have different races, so why humans can not have different races? May be right. Humans comes in many colors, so are dogs come in so many sizes, shapes, colors and so on. But theire are all still dogs and so we are all still humans.

    We humans are just crazy. We have different believes. We can not agree thta there is only one God for all doesn’t matter how different people call the father. Is it God, is it Allah or one of many others? Sit they all up in haven and play cards together and lough at us stupid humans.

    We fight even for our religions. Religion brought so much suffering to the world.

    But back to the point, doenst matter in which God we believe there are also some sientific facts and today we know that all human beings came out of Africa and that you can find some DNA from our ancestors in every human. So once we all was black, point!

    But what does this mean? The bibel says that God created the first human according to himself, his own looking. But if the first human was black as we know today (remember first people come out of Africa) does it mean that God is black as well?
    Interesting question for me because THIS would make all these discussions about races absolutely sensless. And beside of this all these stupid racists would pray to a black God. Wouldn’t that be funny?

    So the conslusion is, we are all humans and we all have one God and we should learn to live in peace with each and every other human on earth and give every one the freedom to belive in his God and call his God what ever he want.

    Christians are not better then muslims or buddhists and so on. And by the way so many people call themself Christians just because the attend church every sunday but the rest of the week they act not like a christian should. The catholics even make it worse, the do a lot of wrong things and on sunday the confess and all is forgiven….

    For me is just like this. The things you do make the person not the things you say.
    Just because people go into a church makes them not christians, or do you become a car when you enter a garage?

    It’s the things you do what makes you a christian. But what is a christian? Better than a muslim or a buddhist? I do not believe so.

    So it end up, it makes no difference if you are a christian, a buddhist, a jewish or moslem or what ever. All what does count is that you are behaving as a HUMAN. Humanity is colorless, and don’t care about religion.

    So believe what you want, be proud of what ever color you have and know that you are belong to one race the human race.

    I hope my english is not to bad to make my point here clear.

    I wish all of you a peaceful merry christmas

    God bless you all
    In schah Allah
    shalom
    namaste

  14. RMC says:

    Race is not real. Ask any geneticist and they will tell you that the genetic difference that codes for SUPERFICIAL traits (skin pigment, etc.) is trivial. “RACE” IS NOT REAL. Hence these transrace folks are deluding themselves.

    1. Rev. Ned says:

      I agree fully with your statement about genetics. However (comma) I don’t think anyone, who identifies as who cares what, is “delusional”.

  15. Rik Venerable says:

    A persons biological determination is based on ancestry, not personal choice. For example: I am a blond hair, blue eyed Caucasian male with European heritage of my Irish, Scottish, English and German ancestors. I cannot self determine my race or ancestry.

    I can enjoy the attributes of of races. I can wear contacts to make others believe my eyes are brown or use chemicals to change my hair color. I can dress or groom myself as other races do to mimick them. But I cannot change my DNA to become anything other then I am.

    If your choices don’t affect my life, you are free act like and to be what and who you wish to. Just acknowledge that science trumps personal choice.

    God created our differences for his purposes, we should enjoy who we are in his eyes.

  16. Lin Amendt says:

    First of all, the author is using the word “gender” when most of the usages demand the word “sex”. “Sex” is between your legs, “gender” is a completely different thing, and both are different from orientation. You can identify as a specific sex, gender, or orientation, but your sex does not change until you are a post-op Trans person.
    Anyway…why do we care? If we were all androgynous good human beings, why should we be concerned with putting people in little identifying boxes except to make it easier for ourselves to discriminate? Here the word “discriminate” means “tell the the difference”.
    Thanks.

  17. pastor Peter says:

    oh the end is nigh!..fires,famine,pestilence,climate change,increased government scrutiny and trans everything….did you ever stop to think that trans people are not happy with their lot in life? whether it be economic,social mental stability or just feeling loved. being trans anything is a joining of an identifiable group…a group that receives recognition publicly…and political correctness gives the group strength….oh praise the trans group as they are worthy and do not deserve to be persecuted….lonely peole flock to these ideals…and there are many lonely today…this is a sad commentary on society today…overcrowding causes stress…this is an end game…nature will fix mankind…enjoy you existence now…as time is fleeting…madness takes its toll

    1. Rev. Ned says:

      We definitely need a sarcasm font!

  18. Tatiacha says:

    As a site focused on the spiritual why is reincarnation not being discussed in this context. It seems to me a significant recent life or series of lives in one culture can bleed over to the current life. If she was Filipino recently and suddenly in this life looks in the mirror and sees this white face, why is it far fetched that she relates more to the Filipino culture. Perhaps it was a wonderful life (s) there for her previously and the contrasts of this life and culture are difficult to deal with for her.

  19. Bill Fox says:

    Some of this is covered by scripture and some isn’t. Unless I’m directly affected, it is mostly in the “not caring” category. Everyday seems to be Halloween!

  20. Rev. Ned says:

    If you can pick your gender, what’s so horrible about picking your race? Who am I to care? I will not lose any sleep over either concept.

  21. carol andree says:

    Everyone has the right to live their lives as they feel right for them. We are all souls and therefore no differences. The packaging is different n society makes the rules but we must choose what is right for us. What makes us complete and able to dwell on this earth in peace n love is more essential than others thoughts n rules. If someone is not to our liking, walk away but leave them to be themselves. As long as they r doing no harm to others they can do what they wish/need for themselves. Live and Let Live and be True to our Spirit. We are all One and yet different. Celebrate with each other n make Life enjoyable instead of a struggle.

  22. John Owens says:

    I have a real problem with fake people anyway, and people who think they can pick their race? Lunacy. OK. If I “choose” to be a Poarch Creek Choctaw Indian, I can participate in the profits from their casino. I don’t think that’s gonna fly. There are special contract considerations given to members of minorities (which is racism to prevent racism). If I “choose” to be a member of one of those minorities, I can get more freebies from the government, or more favoritism to win a contract. No. If you can prove your genes contain genes from several races, I’d say, yeah, you can choose ONE, if you like, but you can’t go back and change it. Other than that, you cannot CHOOSE your race, any more than you can choose your height. If we were interested in racial equality, we’d stop talking about race all the time, and talk about culture and behavior. Just my two cents’ worth, which is no less nor more valuable than anyone else’s here.

  23. Dennis E loucks says:

    I can identify with other races quite well. That does not make me that race.
    There really is only 1 human race, but that is a whole other debate.
    I am truly sorry but a white person can not be Asian or Black any more than white people would accept a person of color as white. That is the bottom line.

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