Do you remember back when the great icons of the feminist movement all hated transgender women like Caitlyn Jenner? You probably don’t. The progressive movement has made a lot of effort to hide that part of their past, and that even today some of the aging icons of the ’60s radical feminism still hate trans women.
Of course, this is ancient history, even if some outdated relics still cling to their old views. Most feminists and progressives today fully support transgender rights. So why bring it up now?
Because of Rachel Dolezal. the Spokane NAACP leader who turned out to be from a white family and with apparently no recent black ancestry, has drawn the anger of progressives everywhere, partly in response to how some conservative writers have been suggesting that Dolezal’s case proves something about Caitlyn Jenner.
Well, it’s proved that leftist-progressives are hypocrites about their liberal social values. There’s been a string of attacks on Dolezal, outrage, denunciations and most importantly lots of explanations about why it’s okay to accept someone born a biological man who identifies as a woman but totally wrong to accept someone who was born… what? Born white?
Scientifically, that’s not even a thing. Let’s say: Born into a family mostly of European descent but choosing to identify as black. And that’s exactly what Dolezal has now said. I quote from a recent interview: “I do consider myself to be black and that’s because, you know, that’s how I identify.”
So why does the left now say that’s not acceptable but Caitlyn Jenner identifying as a woman is okay? Why are they saying that Caitlyn really is a woman but Dolezal is not really black? I personally agree that Caitlyn Jenner is a woman; she’s gone to great lengths to have her life match her identity at this point. But so has Dolezal! Some leftists have claimed it’s not the same because she’s “just pretending to be black.”
Now, if I were to put on a pair of lederhosen and speak in a silly accent, you could accuse me of pretending to be German. But Dolezal has spent almost all of her adult life living as a black woman. She has black children. She went to a traditionally black college. She’s dedicated her life’s work to the NAACP. That’s a heck of a lot of pretending!
The progressives are all tangled in knots trying to denounce Dolezal but embrace Jenner. HuffPo writer Zeba Blay said “transracial identity is NOT a thing.” She talks about “cultural appropriation” and how outrageous it was that Dolezal dared to take up “spaces specifically designated for members of a marginalized group.” She said how it “disrupts the discussions” that the left is trying to have about race and gender identity. She said how it’s “skin color that primarily determines racial privilege.” Wow, where does that leave light-skinned black folk? Are they just pretending too?
And she said that the idea of “transracial identity” is something that would just “allow white people to indulge in blackness as a commodity” but they’re not really engaging “with every facet of what being black entails.” She thinks that they couldn’t possibly relate to the oppression of black people. That as a “white woman” (note Blay refusing to recognize Dolezal by her chosen identity), she could just “take out the box braids and strip off the self-tanner” and go back to “not being black” at any time. In other words, she thinks Dolezal is faking it.
Dana Beyer does the same thing, doubling down on how Jenner is definitely not pretending to be a woman but somehow Dolezal’s 15-plus years of living as a black person is definitely just pretending.
Beyer gets so confused that her own argument falls apart when she desperately tries to make some point about how race is not actually genetic (which is true) but gender somehow is biological, only it’s not either. Darn, being a total hypocrite on identity issues must be tough sometimes.
Here’s where we get back to the old trans-hating feminists. All those arguments above? Those arguments were exactly what the leaders of the feminist movement were saying right through the 1970s and most of the 1980s about transgender women – and some of them still say it today. Not just some random weirdos on the outskirts, I’m talking about the most famous leaders of the feminist movement.
In 1977, Gloria Steinem said that transsexuals just “mutilate their own bodies” to “conform to gender roles” that feminists totally rejected back then. Janice Raymond in her book The Transsexual Empire said that transsexuals are just part of “patriarchal myths,” and that in the way trans women acted they were just trying be like “women according to man’s image” of what women are. In other words, transgender women were faking it because they act too feminine! She went on to say transsexuals are just a patriarchal plot to “colonize” feminist spaces and culture.
Sheila Jeffries wrote that “transsexualism should be seen as a violation of human rights” (that is, of the rights of women to their own spaces). Germaine Greer also supports the transgender as Patriarchal Conspiracy idea, writing in 1999 that “governments that consist of very few women have hurried to recognize as women men who believe they are women and have had themselves castrated to prove it.”
Today, people like Blay and Beyer (and many, many more) are saying about Dolezal exactly the same things that Steinem and Greer and company used to say about transgender women: That they’re just fakers. That they’re just offensively acting out some kind of patriarchal stereotype. That they’re unfairly invading the culture and safe spaces while appropriating the struggle of the people they’re just pretending to be. That what they’re doing is an aggressive invasion. That they’re being used by conservative forces in society to create a distraction from the vital narrative that the special elite in charge of the progressive movement want to push forward.
You can’t have it both ways. For my part, I feel everyone has a right to define their own bodies and their own identity. That means I have to support both Jenner’s identity and Dolezal’s identity. There’s one important difference between the two: Dolezal may have lied to people – and that’s ethically wrong. Some of it might even be legally fraud. If you want to condemn her for that, I’ll agree with you. But that has nothing to do with what she defines as her identity.
Some other conservative writers, like Kira Davis, reject the idea of a person having a right to define their own identity. So Davis seems to think that both Jenner and Dolezal are in some way faking it. I strongly disagree but at least people who think that way are being logically consistent, thus I could have a reasoned debate with them.
But the progressive left aren’t making any sense right now. You can’t be for one and against the other. You can believe that both Jenner and Dolezal have a right to express the identity they feel inside, or you can believe that neither of them have that right to their own body and self. But you can’t embrace one because it fits your politics and reject the other because it’s not convenient. I mean, not unless you don’t really care about the truth.
Kasimir Urbanski doesn’t write on a specific subject; he’s EveryJoe’s resident maniac-at-large. A recovering Humanities academic and world-traveler, he now lives in South America and is a researcher of fringe religion, eastern philosophy, and esoteric consciousness-expansion. In his spare time he writes tabletop RPGs, and blogs about them at therpgpundit.blogspot.com.
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