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Rachel Dolezal, after and before. Photograph: NAACP / internet

Rachel Dolezal, after and before. Photograph: NAACP / internet

While the timer hasn’t buzzed to end “the Jenner Moment,” in comes white Rachel Dolezal identifying as African American. Dolezal, 37, an academic and president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Spokane, Washington, was “exposed” by her estranged parents as “misrepresenting herself” as an African American.

Halford Fairchild, a professor of psychology and African studies at Pitzer College and the former president of the Association of Black Psychologists, said that Dolezal’s behavior is the opposite of passing:

“To ‘pass’ as black is comparatively unheard of,” Fairchild said in an email. “But it illustrates a certain ‘insanity’ when it comes to issues of ‘race’ in American life and culture.”

“Rachel Dolezal is black because she identifies as black,” he said. “Her identity was authentic, as far as I could tell.”

As you can imagine, I am deeply disappointed with a profession/academic arena that does not appear to be able to discern the difference between “authentic” and “a certain ‘insanity.'” A certain kind of insanity is further illustrated in how some media contribute to the discussion in our time of massive identity confusion:

Steven W Trasher (African American writer-at-large for Guardian US; named Journalist of the Year 2012 by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association): Rachel Dolezal exposes our delusional constructions and perceptions of race.

Gary Younge (African American feature writer and columnist for the Guardian based in the US): Rachel Dolezal’s deception: her ‘black identity’ doesn’t make sense or make her black.

Meredith Talusan (transgender writer and photographer based in New York): There is no comparison between transgender people and Rachel Dolezal.

Talusan insists that the way people connect the obvious dots between entitled, white, rich Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner, and entitled, white, rich/educated Rachel Dolezal “reveals the enormous bigotry that many cisgender people have against trans people, more than anything else about race or gender. Some people are willing to make any negative comparison – no matter how far-fetched – to discredit and shame us trans women.”

It is an explanation firmly set in victimhood – meant to explain away all contrary explanations. I contend that this has nothing to do with “enormous bigotry against trans people,” nor is the conversation meant “to discredit and shame trans women.”  This has to do with the massive identity confusion of our day when virtually anyone can claim any identity, so long as the APA have Psychologists like Halford Fairchild saying “she’s black because she identifies as black. Her identity was authentic, as far as I could tell.”

Talusan explains that “the fundamental difference between Dolezal’s actions and trans people’s is that her decision to identify as black was an active choice, whereas transgender people’s decision to transition is almost always involuntary.”

Where does one start?

“Involuntary” identity is claimed by gender/sexual identity groups as a kind of pass from any deeper discussion about identity and personhood. Who is Talusan to say Dolezal “chose” her black identity as opposed to being involuntarily caught up in being African American? With a confessed lack of choice comes a lack of responsibility for one’s identity. Talusan cannot distort logic her way no matter how committed she is to being a victim.

To follow the logic from Jenner to Dolezal (from transgender to transracial; and we haven’t even talked about poor Michael Jackson when he struggled with his own personhood) is not to make “a negative comparison no matter how far-fetched,” it is to shed light on the desperate incurable contradiction of being, it is to reflect on the identity amnesia of not knowing one’s true self.

Changing Colour ~ Changing Gender?

It is fascinating that pro-transgender supporters are so quick to be Dolezal’s detractors, when her almost bizarre race identity is further illustrative of the identity confusion of our day. You’d think that Dolezal would be embraced by the same logic used by the growing politically powerful sexual & gender identity groups.

For an interesting discussion as it relates to race and gender, read Nuriddeen Knight’s An African-American Woman Reflects on the Transgender Movement.

For a raucous and skeptical take, read Richard Seymour’s As long as you think you’re white, there’s no hope for you.

For an informed discussion on identity issues, Psychologist Mark Yarhouse writes extensively on the topic of Understanding the Transgender Phenomenon.

We are of course, skeptical that Dolezal can claim for herself to be African American, for the same reasons that we are suspicious that Jenner can merely claim to be a woman. Alistair Roberts notes that even feminists challenge Jenner’s gender change:

… [Jenner’s transition] is but a façade or hollow parody of womanhood, rightly challenged by many feminists and others who recognize in transgender ideology a challenge to and reduction of women’s identity and a denial of its unavoidable relation to the particular realities of their mode of embodiment. Turning a man’s genitals inside-out, giving him some fake breasts, and altering his facial appearance does not a woman make. Jenner’s Caitlyn persona will never be more than a veneer over or defacing of his more fundamental identity as a man. Forgetfulness of this fact diminishes us all, undermining or rejecting the deep humanizing reality of sexual difference.

Forgetfulness of this fact diminishes us all:

We are all diminished. Thus Jesus speaks into our world, “the thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I have come to bring life – real life to the full.” Fully alive, fully identified, fully named, fully belonging, fully cared for, fully the object of the attention by the One who made you for Himself.

He brings deep humanizing reality into our lives, for we are never more ourselves then when we are more in Christ. This is more enigma than dogma.

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