[Ads-l] Early WOTY nominee: "transracial"

Benjamin Barrett gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
Wed Jun 17 07:27:51 UTC 2015

I'm confused by JB's e-mail below. Cases of gender not matching sex have 
been documented in many cultures for hundreds of years (see 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wartime_cross-dressers, for 
example), so selecting gender is not something that is novel today 
though it appears that the number of people who reject a perfect match 
between their gender and natal sex is growing by leaps and bounds.

Also, the words "choose" and "choice" I think are misleading--though I 
admit I have the same inclination to use them; a nephew of mine 
announced a few days ago that he is gender-fluid and is now wishes 
people to use male pronouns to refer to him (i.e., he was my niece until 
about a week ago). Thus, for example, the vasty majority of cisgender 
males probably do not choose to be "male" and to claim that transgender 
females _do_ make a choice does not seem appropriate.

To be clear, here are definitions from Wiktionary and the Oxford 
Dictionary sites, which seem pretty solid.

Wiktionary (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/transgender)
1. (narrowly, of a person) Having a gender which is the different from 
one's natal sex: being assigned male at birth but having a female gender 
or vice versa. (Compare transsexual, and the following sense.)
2. (broadly, of a person) Not identifying with culturally conventional 
gender roles and categories of male or female; having changed gender 
identity from male to female or female to male, or identifying with 
elements of both, or having some other gender identity. (Compare 
genderqueer, transsexual, and transvestite.)

Oxford Dictionary 
Denoting or relating to a person whose self-identity does not conform 
unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender

Wiktionary (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/transsexual)
One who has changed or is in the process of changing their physical sex 
(because it did not match their desired sex) by undergoing medical 
treatment such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and/or sex 
reassignment surgery (SRS).

Oxford Dictionary 
1. A person who emotionally and psychologically feels that they belong 
to the opposite sex.
1.1. A person who has undergone treatment in order to acquire the 
physical characteristics of the opposite sex.

In general, a person's sex is of course not their choice; however, in 
the case of Oxford Dictionary 1.1, a transsexual who has undergone sex 
reassignment is the unique case in which a person's sex is their choice. 
Also, only in the case of Oxford Dictionary definition 1 does a person's 
sex not match their sex identification.

In the case of transgenderism, a social construction (gender) is changed 
through social mechanisms, and in the case of transsexualism, physical 
attributes are changed through permanent (surgical/hormone replacement) 
means. I would think that doing things like changing your hair style, 
changing skin tone through non-permanent means and adopting speech 
patterns all fall into the case of social constructions, but regardless, 
transgenderism and transsexualism provide adequate precedent for 
whatever might fall under the category of "transracialism."

Among the many interesting things about the Rachel Dolezal story is the 
use of "fluid" in "16 Key Takeaways From Rachel Dolezal's Interview With 
Melissa Harris-Perry" by Lilly Workneh (http://huff.to/1IOsouC):

Dolezal acknowledged that her birth parents, Larry and Ruthanne Dolezal, 
raised her, but she does not identify them as "Mom" and "Dad." Instead, 
she said her family is "fluid" and she identified a black man named 
Alfred Wilkinson as her dad. "He's amazing, absolutely amazing," she said.

I can't help but wonder if "fluid" is a backformation from "genderfluid."

FWIW, Dolezal is reported in that article as never having used the word 
"transracial" to describe herself.

Benjamin Barrett
Formerly of Seattle, WA

Learn Ainu! https://sites.google.com/site/aynuitak1/home
> Joel Berson <mailto:berson at ATT.NET>
> June 16, 2015 at 7:24 PM
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header 
> -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: Joel Berson <berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject: Re: Early WOTY nominee: "transracial"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> I have been thinking that some word ought to be a WOTY nominee, but 
> I'm not=
> sure that "transracial" is it.=C2=A0 If today a person can choose 
> their ge=
> nder, we refer to that as "transgender". Not in the OED, of course, 
> but wha=
> t Google says unambiguously (that is, without citing any authority) 
> when on=
> e asks "define transgender".=C2=A0 When we use "transsexual" it 
> implies, I =
> think, that the person's "sex" is not their choice.
> So does "transracial" align with "transsexual" or "transgender"?=C2=A0 
> Do w=
> e need a new term?
> Joel
> From: Bonnie Taylor-Blake <b.taylorblake at GMAIL.COM>
> Sent: Tuesday, June 16, 2015 1:03 PM
> Subject: [ADS-L] Early WOTY nominee: "transracial"
> =20
> I know "transracial" has been around for several decades, with its
> most prominent usage applied to interracial adoptions, generally of
> black children by white parents.
> But the word now seems to be gaining a usage with respect to the
> situation of Rachel Dolezal, born white and now living as and
> considering herself to be black.
> No doubt this new (?) usage has been influenced by the uptick in usage
> of "transgender" because of the recent transition of Caitlyn Jenner
> from male to female.=C2=A0 The view seems to be that Dolezal has
> "transitioned" (or has been attempting to transition) from white to
> black, hence "transracial."
> Or have I simply missed earlier instances of "transracial" used in the
> sense of, well, "passing"?
> -- Bonnie

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