If Bruce Jenner can change into a woman, then why are we so opposed to Rachel Dolezal changing into an African American?
I threw that click-bait up onto my Facebook wall, not expecting the anger that would ensue. It didn’t come from transgenderists who were appalled that I would dare to equate one man’s need to identify with his gender and come to grips with that which will never be gripped again. The anger however did come from a couple of faceless Facebook friends who took me to task for belittling the “black experience.”
One friend demanded to know “how does a transvestite compare with a white woman lying about being black?” That person was quickly reprimanded and corrected by yet another Facebook friend: “Caitlyn is transgender, not a transvestite. You may want to find out a little more.”
Of course she’s right. Caitlyn Jenner is a transgender that comes with a lot of attachments. Her recent layout in Vanity Fair was manufactured – as much a product of the media as it was a product of a gender reassignment team. How many retouch artists, Photoshop experts, PR hacks, reality show runners, etc. were part of this excruciatingly personal and important process?
More importantly, how many individuals who don’t feel right in their own gender identity or sexuality will be inspired by Caitlyn Jenner to take the leap and start hitting for the other team? Maybe even more importantly – how many of those individuals expectations are hinged on the phoniness and media glare that is part of Jenner’s transformation?
It seemed only weeks ago he was plowing into a Prius on Pacific Coast Highway, wearing jeans and a baseball cap, and then suddenly here is this gorgeous woman gracing the cover of a national magazine. Transformations are seldom that immediate. I would think the process is formidable, painful both physically and psychologically.
So when we see a young woman whose own family throws her under the bus to reveal that she is not black, but is indeed white – should there be an uproar?
Think about it…
Both Jenner and Dolezal made a decision to change their persona. Jenner’s involved the scalpel of not only reconstruction and plastic surgeons, but also the “digital scalpel” of what we used to know as airbrush artists, and today as Photoshop geeks. Dolezal’s physical change was more subtle. Much more subtle than either Jenner’s transformation, or that of Michael Jackson – who suddenly became white.
Rachel Dolezal was narc’d out by a mother and father who cared less about the great work that she did with the NAACP, and more about getting their licks in and throwing their own daughter under the bus.
I believe that Rachel Dolezal’s transformation was done for all the right reasons. Like Jenner, there must have come a realization that she would be more comfortable living in the guise of another reality. Also like Jenner, she adopted a new look – this case involving not the medical world but the social one.
Unlike Jenner, Dolezal did not seek out the attention of the world. Her reality was working within a foundation that has done great work addressing problems of equality, diversity and civil rights. Dolezal identified so much with African Americans, that she decided to jump in for the big win. Totally.
Jews worldwide embrace those who “convert” to their religion. So what’s the difference here? Is it the fact that Dolezal lied about her true heritage? Let’s stand in line when it comes to casting that stone.
We lie about our age. We lie about our income. We lie about our prowess. We lie about our qualifications to get jobs.
Dolezal will face a ruined career, and the slings and arrows of being called “crazy” by the media and anyone with a Twitter or Facebook account. The bravery that Jenner summoned up makes for great headlines, and she got them.
Dolezal wanted nothing but to “convert” to another culture, and to do it her way. I applaud Jenner for her decision, and I also applaud Rachel Dolezal.
My Facebook friend gave me the big kiss-off with this rather hostile post: “I have stated my case. Why you would applaud a fraud who lies is beyond me. You still feel that you are qualified to give an opinion about a race of people being marginalized…well, I guess its your thread. Enjoy!”
I had to remind my Facebook friend that I am indeed a member of a culture that is currently being marginalized. It’s not easy being a Jewish activist that is pro-Israel, especially if you’re attending an American college or university. As far as I’m concerned, if there was someone working for Stand With Us, The Jewish Federation, or even Hillel at UCLA and it was revealed that they weren’t really Jewish, just pretending to be Jewish…I’d give them a big hug and thank them for what they are doing.
I’m left with the image of Rachel Dolezal’s parents being interviewed on CNN. Two scurrilous people who are willing to sacrifice the great work of a woman who wants to take on the problems of a race that she loves, and for that we strip her bare and call her crazy. I hope the NAACP continues to rely on her great work.
I also hope Caitlyn Jenner gets her E! docuseries renewed.
OK, not really. I’m not big on the Kardashians. I prefer watching Chopped.
No pun intended, Ms. Jenner.