Rachel, Caitlyn and Why We Can’t Have It Both Ways
Culturally and biologically, Rachel Dolezal is blacker than Caitlyn Jenner is female. Most of my fellow liberals will not like that statement, but consistency is not popular. Ask LeBron James.
Columnist David French writes about a phenomenon I have noticed as well. There seems to be an absolute belief that Caitlyn is a woman, Dolezal isn’t black, and I don’t have to explain myself because it’s obvious.
Black in America
Dolezal told television network KREM news: “I actually don’t like the term African-American. I prefer black, and I would say that if I was asked I would definitely say that yes I do consider myself to be black.” This is consistent with notions of race as entirely social constructs.
Does Clarence Thomas’ black skin make him “black.” If blackness (or whiteness or any other race) is a matter of culture, shared experiences, and labeling, then those who reject prevailing standards of what it means to be black or who haven’t lived in that world don’t truly “belong.” But Rachel Dolezal embraced prevailing black culture and fully identified and shared the experience for a decade? How does she not belong?
I am not the expert on transgenderism that everyone seems to be now in the wake of Caitlyn, so I could be mistaken in my interpretation. Biologically, Caitlyn was assigned a male sex at birth. While she has had plastic surgery to make her appearance more female, she is still chromosomally male.
As French notes, Dolezal is the one who adopted the “correct” stereotypes — liberal, oppression-minded, and activist. Jenner, from her plastic surgery and photoshoot, seems to embrace a big-breasted, hyper-feminine model that looks like a caricature of exactly the kind of woman a man would concoct in his head of the ideal woman. She is also a conservative Republican. Not sure that political ideology comes to mind when we think of transgenderism, but hopefully Caitlyn can change that for the sake of the Republican party who struggles when it comes to social issues like these.
So long as consenting adults are involved, the heart wants what it wants, and the rest is just details. Much human pain is the result of denying the heart its deepest desires, that the path of indulgence is the path of human flourishing. If Caitlyn Jenner wants to be a woman, then she’s a woman. If Rachel Dolezal wants to be black, then she’s black.
If identity is a precise, lived experience combined with a specific cultural and ideological response, then Rachel and Caitlyn both fail. Dolezal nor Caitlyn lived their experiences long enough, could both drop their identities anytime they wanted, so despite the apparent deep desires of their own hearts, they’re not what they are purported to be.
So Caitlyn underwent cosmetic changes to appear to be something that society would say that she is not. So did Rachel Dolezal. The more you dig, the more similarities are revealed. They both were motivated by very deep feelings combined with tacking off a cultural checklist. Both Dolezal and Jenner mark themselves the way they want to be seen by embracing stereotypes. You can reject or accept them both and remain logically consistent. Accepting one and rejecting the other is also your choice, but where is the logic in the distinction?