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Is Trans Ethnic Really A Thing*

So I really try to only view tumblr for the pretty pictures, because honestly, tumblr is full of problems. However, every so often someone I follow for some reason or another posts something which is controversial or deeply problematic. Usually it is just to mock it, although occasionally I realise someone I follow for the pretty pictures is personally incomprehensible.

So, trans ethnic is showing up as the belief that you were born in the wrong race/culture. Unsurprisingly, it's a bunch of white people claiming to be non-whites. It was yesterday that I discovered trans ethnicity as a described concept as part of a conversation between two Hourou Musuko fans, and how being trans ethnic (in this case being a white American but thinking the person should have been Asian Japanese) was exactly the same as being transgender.


Not one to engage in social justice junkies on tumblr, I resisted the urge to directly respond, instead tracking down some kind of at least minimally academic treatment of this issue. Going down the rabbit hole, I found a link from Feministe (which I read and sometimes comment on) to Modern Primate. He adequately breaks down why the internet definition of trans ethnicity is a not a real and creates problems for trans people.

Although he also brings up a very good point that trans ethnic could be, and maybe should be, the correct term for children adopted by parents of a different race/nationality/ethnicity. I might even go so far as to say it seems appropriate for many students I have had over the years who have been half-Yamato Japanese and half-Korean or Half Caucasian American or Half-Filipino. For these students, especially the ones who spoke English as well as or better than they spoke Japanese, I know that they often felt like they were standing with each foot on the edge of an ever widening gap, afraid that the choice of one ethnic identity would mean disavowing or losing their other identity. The concept of crossing from ethnicity to ethnicity depending on circumstances or location would be something which I think would be very familiar to them.

I even think an argument could be made even that the term might apply to those who move into an ethnically homogenous country as an immigrant and assimilate, becoming distinctly different in cultural views, attitudes, language, gesture, and carriage than their original ethnic and cultural background, but I think such an argument would have to be very, very careful in how it proceeds. I still think the simple "immigrant" or "assimilant" is far better than trans ethnic.


In past articles/posts, I have complained about the way in which queer and trans struggles have led not to an acceptance of our identities, but rather the appropriation of our language and discourse to create more boxes in which individuals, usually teens or early twenty-somethings, place themselves in while searching for that elusive concept known as "identity." One of the most harmful things a trans or queer person can hear is, "it's just a phase." And yet I don't know any person who didn't go through a number of phases. I went through a skater phase, a punk phase, a Trekkie phase, I even went through a phase where I thought I was a fiscally conservative, but socially liberal moderate Republican!

But our gender identities and sexual orientations were never phases. For many of us, they existed prior to the years in which we changed identities, labels, and affiliations the same way we tried on clothes, and for all of us they are fundamental parts of who we are and are directly related to how we experience oppression, especially in terms of violence. At first, I was very pleased when I started going to conventions or hanging out in other fandom areas. "Hey," I thought, "these people really don't give a crap about labels. If I tell them who I am, they just believe me, and that's pretty cool!" Unfortunately, over the past ten years, I've become increasingly critical of fandom "identities" and otherkin and "trans ethnic" people and a million shades of gendersomethingorother. And an awful lot of them seem to be white.


I believe some of these children, and children are what most of them are, have legitimate subaltern identities. Percentages alone tell me some of them really are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Some of them really are queer. I don't personally discount the labels of asexual or pansexual. I recognise nonbinary gender identities. However, I feel strongly that our percentages of LGBT folks haven't much changed over the course of human history, at least not in modern times, and what we see now is simply better visibility. Thus I conclude that most of these children will grow up to be heterosexual, cisgender members of society.

When they try to place themselves into new boxes; they're ultimately missing the point. They have freedom to adopt these labels because of all of the work previously done by feminist and queer activists to break down the constructed concept of "heterocisnormativity." What they don't seem to realise is that ultimately, it is the destruction of the previous labels which was the whole purpose. These kids are reacting to their ability to be pretty different without fear of institutionalised oppression. They may still find themselves the target of individualised acts of bullying, but this is not the same. Ultimately, the creation of further labels, especially ones which dip into the very worst of teenage absurdity, they actually do themselves and others more harm by "othering" the very freedom they have to not be taken as "other."

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