As you have no doubt read, there is a lot of controversy over the revelation that Rachel Dolezal, president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, has been pretending to be black for years. And it should surprise no one that conservatives who refuse to acknowledge transgender individuals’ identities used the opportunity to draw comparisons between the two.
This is ridiculous.
We know for a fact that transgender people are, for lack of a better word, real. MRIs have shown that a male-to-female transgender person has a brain that is like a woman’s, and that female-to-male transgender people have brains that are like men’s. Biological sex is hardcoded into the human genome and, on occasion, the body doesn’t match the brain. When trans people say they feel trapped in the body of the opposite sex, it’s more than a euphemism: On a biological level, that’s exactly what’s happened.
This isn’t true for race, for which biological influences aren’t much more than skin deep. There is no difference between the structure of a white person’s brain and that of a black person’s brain in the way that there is between a male brain and a female brain. Rachel Dolezal isn’t a black woman trapped in a white woman’s body; she’s a white woman who has chosen to identify as black.
I’m not going to speculate as to why she has made that choice. Although, for a really solid critique of her behavior and its consequences, read this.
What I will say is that it remains a science fact that it is impossible for her to be transracial in the way that Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner are transgender. Race and sexual identity are differently different, with biology making the latter run far deeper than the former. To equate Rachel Dolezal’s performance of another race with the trans community’s deeply-rooted and unchosen identities is to trivialize both race and gender. Don’t do it.