Neither Male nor Female, But Always Jew or Greek

The politics of identity are taking up more and more oxygen.

The line separating gender and race in the social construction sweepstakes is becoming even wider and brighter as feminist philosophers are having to figure out what to do with one of their members, Rebecca Tuvel, a philosophy professor at Rhodes College, who in a peer reviewed journal argued that the arguments for transgenderism should extend to transracialism.

 

In 1992 justice Anthony Kennedy wrote on behalf of abortion rights that the sort of decision a woman faced was too personal and poignant for the state ever to interfere:

These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.

Current discussions and debates over transgender rights would appear to be an extension of this logic. Gender is a social construction, and someone’s sexual or gender identity is so personal that any one should have the freedom (protected right) to choose a different classification.

When it comes to race, however, the same freedoms to do not apply. That was clearly the outcome of the reaction that Rachel Dolezal received a few years ago. At the very same time that Caitlyn Jenner was receiving positive reviews for changing gender identities, Dolezal experienced widespread condemnation (and still does) for trying, as a white woman, to present as black.

 

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