A post from my friends' page provides food for thought, this post
, to be precise.
A few weeks ago I happened across another post mentioning trans-ethnicity (and fighting the notion in very strong, angry and almost abusive terms) it made me very uneasy and I just didn't dwell on it or the matter itself, the post ysabetwordsmith
writes helped me to think about it in a more detached way and here are a few thoughts, for myself first but also for anyone that might be interested in an 'outsider' perspective.
Why outsider? Because everything I've read on the matter has been written by US citizens, and I know perfectly well that anything dealing with race in the US, due to matters of history, law, tradition and culture, is extremely complex and sometimes utterly baffling to someone who doesn't share the background, when writing about it I've always the feeling that I'm walking a minefield in fog, but, at the same time I don't seem to be able to keep my mouth shut or my keyboard off, so ignore me, or read, or read, comment and discuss, whatever you see fit, so long as discussions and eventual disagreements are kept civil (a note I know is not necessary for anyone on my friends list, I love how you all manage debate).
Back on topic, both the anti- trans-ethnicity posts seem to view it as a cover for cultural appropriation by clueless caucasians, of course the potential for abuse is there, but I'd say that the potential for abuse is there in everything
, does it deny the validity of the thing per se?
says, what about people of dual or multiple heritage who, for whatever reason, identify mostly or only with the side of their heritage different from their phenotype? What about immigrants or refugees who consciously decide to identify with the country they move to? What about adopted children who remove
their life before adoption?
This is close home for me, my sister was Korean born and came to Italy at about three, there was the possibility for her to keep in touch with her roots, had she wished it, but she was always very uncomfortable when anyone mentioned her origins, to the point that, when referring to the beginning of her life with us, she never said 'When I arrived in Italy', what she used to say was: 'When I came back to Italy
Many years ago in my town, a group of parents, in cooperation with the junior high school and the Goethe Institut
organized a course of German for students held by native-speaker certified teachers, my own was a family friend, mrs. S., she looked Southern Italian, had an Italian first name and a Southern Italian family name (her husband's, by the way), at one point she was confronted by a very aggressive student who more or less told her: "Stop telling lies, mrs. S. how can you be a native speaker with that look and that name?". She stared him down and answered: " You don't know anything about my life".
She happens to be the daughter of an army general from South Tirol, because of her father's posting she grew up in Germany and always went to German schools, has always considered herself culturally German and the official German cultural institute agrees with her, what is it to anybody else?
What about Iron Eyes Cody
, the son of Sicilian immigrants who always claimed Native American ancestry, and lived his life accordingly, always striving to support Native American representations in the media and Native American causes and for that was recognized an honored by Natives themselves?
What about the different existing traditions who accept that some souls belonging to their peoples may be incarnated in bodies of different ethnicities? Has anybody the right to tell them: "Hey, you're wrong, that guy doesn't belong to you, just look at him!"
From what I read, though, most of what I found labeled as 'trans-ethnicity' seems to be more 'trans-culturalism' to me, not so much as identifying with a human phenotypic variety as with a cultural spectrum usually associated with a given ethnicity. Identity between the two is not
a given. No Caucasian I know claims to be a trans-ethnic Han or trans-ethnic Japanese, for instance, but a few claim to be more at ease in mainstream Chinese or Japanese culture than they are in their birth one, in my opinion that's their call, and their call alone (neither of these cultures is made by a single monolithic ethnic group, by the way).
Even more than the so called 'races', cultures grow and change, interact, borrow and yes, steal, from each other (and none of these goes in one direction only), cultural cross pollination is a fact, originated also, in part, by people who felt (or feel) out of place where they happened to be born and went out looking either literally or metaphorically.