Please stop asking transracial folks these questions Offensive questions often come from people's deep attachment to the idea of race identity being linked to biological essentialism.

"When did you decide to be a Black man?"

No one would ever think to ask a cisracial person this question, because most folks were born with the physical characteristics commonly associated with the racial identity they inhabit. But when it comes to transracials, curiosity often gets in the way of treating our neighbors with respect.

For an increasing number of people – and no, not just Rachel Dolezal; UCLA professor Rogers Brubaker reveals in Trans: Gender and Race in an Age of Unsettled Identities that there are many examples of transracial folks throughout history – the race they actually are does not align with the one they were assigned at birth. Some people's questions are the obvious result of not thinking before speaking. “Which lunch table do you sit at?” is a clearly ridiculous and microaggressive inquiry to make of a transracial person who’s already identified him- or herself.

Race vs. presentation

When British-born influencer Oli London came out as Korean, he became part of the final push to make transracialism a grown up movement facing more welcoming hugs than transphobic leers.

Offensive and bizarre questions often come from people’s deep attachment to the idea of race identity being linked to biological essentialism. Many individuals have an incredibly difficult time separating these ideas, causing them to inaccurately conflate being a trans person (whether trans of race or gender) with a drag queen, even though these are completely unrelated concepts.

Related: Past due: it's time to support Transracial people

A lot of trans folks in the community have started doing a fantastic job of educating CIS folks on the difference between a person dressing differently from their race or gender as a part of performance from a person whose race identity actually doesn’t match the race they were assigned at birth.

Perhaps the most important part of this ongoing conversation is the topic of operations. Trans advocates have long asked that people stop inquiring about surgery (and enhancers like tanning/bleaching creams) altogether, because altering surface level physical details does not make a person white, Black , male, female, straight, gay, or any other identity. Just ask Michael Jackson.

Many trans people don’t alter their presentation at all, because identity doesn’t require specific physical characteristics. While it isn’t uncommon for people to choose to alter their physicality to align with the way they perceive themselves, having specific body characteristics or skin tones is not at all necessary to have a white, Black , asian, male, female, queer, or any other identity.

Lauded civil rights activist and former NAACP president Rachel Dolezal is often viewed as transracial folks' Caitlyn Jenner.

While a number of trans individuals see no need for surgery, others often face struggles with insurance to have necessary medical care covered. However, in either instance, it’s a completely personal issue. Trans folks should be afforded the same privacy as anyone else, and, sadly, this often is not the case.

How do I politely learn about others’ racial identities?

All of this may seem confusing for people who’ve grown up with traditional views of racial identity, but speaking as a person who was raised in a particularly unenlightened environment, one can feel confident that trans individuals and advocates are often willing to help educate individuals wishing to better understand their neighbors.

We learn when we speak to each other candidly about issues that may be difficult, even if we mess it up sometimes. While emerging understandings of race may feel overwhelming to people who weren’t raised with these ideas, there are two simple steps to follow when approaching the topic of race with another person you don’t know well:

  • Ask a person how they identify.
  • Accept the answer, and don’t try to make anyone prove their race to you!

Easy, right?

Be good out there.

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15 thoughts on “<span class="entry-title-primary">Please stop asking transracial folks these questions</span> <span class="entry-subtitle">Offensive questions often come from people's deep attachment to the idea of race identity being linked to biological essentialism.</span>”

  1. If you're looking for something even more ludicrous than the alphabet soup of sexual/gender dysfunction, you may have found it here.

  2. Not only is this author a science denier like all libs now. But they’re also a reality denier! (Oh yes!!)

  3. When are they going out all of you mentally ill people in the insane asylum? Hopefully sooner then later.

  4. Guys, please remember that transracialism absolutely is a thing and not something to joke about. Consider all the persecution faced by members of this community. A third of college kids born as white already identify as non-white but are openly slurred by so-called antiracism activists like the fraud Kendi. There is no provision for their safety or advancement unless they hide their transracial identity and "fake" being their real race with what neurotypicals see as good enough neurotypical evidence, like having a cisracial of that race in your family tree.

    Please educate yourself and embrace your local transracials. I promise you they are there, but most of them have to keep it on the downlow like the gays in the 1920s. This is important stuff.

    • I wonder why (if it is any way accurate) "a third of college kids born as white" are trans-racial.

      Probably nothing to do with being told that being born white is original sin and to be born evil.

  5. You will never be a sis. Your spray tan is two shades too light and your perm is something an octaroon would be ashamed of. You try to "ape the apes" but you're rhythmically and tonally off and often miss the vowels and butcher the consonants, Your attempts at rap battles are especially pathetic and might even get your cracker ass kicked. Your slang is not current -- often shit you picked up from 90s movies. Your attempts at sponteneity are hampered by your lingering neurotic social phobia, very often precisely when the mood calls for boisterousness. One day, after exclaiming "you ain't no sis, sis", a real sis will "bus a cap in yo ass" putting an end to your affectatious days. And a black anthropologist 200 years from now will excavate your grave and identify you as a "cracka-ass muthafucka".

  6. I usually answer the questions as long as they are genuinely asking not just being nasty. However I make it very clear that most transracials wouldn't and why it is offensive to them (as well as myself).

      • A transphobe would say "You had a 50/ 50 chance of being born a boy or a girl. You were born a boy. You will never be a girl."

        I don't know why trans people can often be so intolerant of others. I do think there is a potential "fake transracial" issue, just like a potential (though much less common) "fake transgender" issue, but transgender and transracial that deeply different. Races are much closer to each other gene expression-wise than sexes are.

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