But I Have A Right To Be An Old Kingdom Egyptian

Jun 16, 2015 by

 

Hello, my name is Jesse. I am a white (British descent), heterosexual (nothing complex here), male gendered (the pieces and the mindset agree), American citizen (tacitly) of the 21st

Rachel Dolezal, recent head of the Spokane NAACP

Rachel Dolezal, recent head of the Spokane NAACP

century (accident of history).  I am fairly comfortable with all of these identifying characteristics, and feel no particular alienation from myself.

There are those however who choose to emphasize certain facets of their identity above other aspects of their identity. Road tripping through Oklahoma this summer I was naively surprised that “Native America” is full of Native Americans. There are American Indians dressed  in traditional garb, American Indians dressed  in plaid wool shirts and farmers overalls, and then outside of Tulsa I discovered an entire family, as white as me (the father was even an albino), all of whom wore “Proud to be Cherokee” tee shirts. When does one gives up on being something that one is clearly morphologically not, I thought in derision. But who am I to say? Identity can be a fuzzy thing. Who is it, or by what principal can one decide that someone else is or is not…well anything?

The identifying factors of many people’s identities does not seem so neatly packaged for them. Rachel Doezal, head of the Spokane NAACP has allegedly constructed an identity for herself. Claiming to be at least part African American she now faces sharp criticism for living a lie. She grew up with African American siblings. She attended a historically African American college, and for whatever reasons felt so drawn to that culture she chose not only to blend but to fight for the rights of her adopted community. So much of the trappings of racial identity are cultural constructs, historical adaptations to whatever events or geography fate threw at your ancestors.

Jenner was recently lauded for becoming more authentic.

Jenner was recently lauded for becoming more authentic.

America, and much of the world recently celebrated Bruce Jenner for his heroic transformation into what he deems his correct physical gender. But gender too is socially fluid. Our constructs of gender identity and what it means to be a man or a woman has changed over time, and varies geographically. Yet Caitlin Jenner is lauded, and Doezal is at worst vilified, at best considered to be unstable. There is of course the factor of Doezal’s deceit. She lied to her community, and her co-workers. Jenner on the other hand has been very public about his identity and transformation. However, If Doezal had even one ancestor of African descent no matter how far removed would she have as equal authentic legitimacy as an albino Cherokee?

The real me at last!

The real me at last!

Doezal’s outing and subsequent news coverage betrays a discomfort not just with her veracity, but with the process of creating a Post Modern identity. In the past decade we have seen a tremendous shift in our notions of normative sexuality. Recently the discussion has been expanded to include gender constructs. Even the CNN stylebook “directs journalists to go with the preference of the person, and when there’s no specific preference known, to go with whatever pronoun is consistent with how the person lives in public.” Race like gender has root in both biology and culture. Is our discomfort with Doezal a tacit acknowledgement that news agencies like CNN can’t see that the Emperor (Jenner) has no metaphorical clothes? Or will race be the next facet of identity that can be heroically self created? Perhaps the final frontier of identity will be era. I have always really thought of myself as an Old Kingdom Egyptian, and as soon as I can acquire the headdress and ankh, I expect CNN to refer to me as such.

 

 

 Works Cited

Jenner’s Very Public Transformation Is Calling Attention to Something Activists Call Misgendering. “‘Call Me Caitlyn,’ Jenner Says, but Not Everyone Is Listening.” CNNMoney. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 16 June 2015.

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