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  1. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Is it possible to feel as if you were born the wrong ethnicity?

    Discussion in 'Debate Room' started by Link the Writer, Feb 25, 2016.

    You know how when people are:

    #1- Born in the wrong country, they move if they're able?

    #2- Born in the wrong religion, they convert if they're able?

    #3- Born in the wrong gender, they have an operation if they're able?

    But what if they were born the wrong ethnicity? Like suppose you were born white, but think you should've been born Asian, or black? Or you were born Hispanic, but feel you should've been born white for whatever reason?

    My question is: is it wrong to feel if you were born the wrong ethnicity?

    I've had some thought and while I'm nowhere closer to an answer, here's what I've surmised:

    - It'd be an insult. It'd be treating race like a coat. "Hmmm, I think I'll be Asian today..." In short, it'd undermine all the struggles they went through.

    - It'd be giving the racist people the excuse they need to be even more racist. They'll just say: "Well, you just chose to be this color..."

    That's all I have for now, but my question is: is it possible for someone to feel they were born the wrong ethnicity? Why or why not? Your thoughts?
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2016
  2. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm white, and I tell my husband pretty regularly that I think I was Native American in my past life. But it's not the skin color I connect with, it's the culture. Their spirituality, their way of living, and their connection to their families and ancestors all really resonate with me.

    Of course, I would never go to a reservation and tell them that. I absolutely understand how it can be seen as offensive. But given the chance, I would definitely want to be part of their culture.

    I think a lot of it probably depends on the intent behind it. But I also don't feel like I have a place to speculate or judge since I'm not a person of color.
     
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  3. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    That's how I feel about it. I can connect with the culture, not the skin color. I'd definitely want to be part of the culture even if some would only think I was observing it from an outsider's POV.

    It's interesting how you say you sometimes think were Native American in a past life, as sometimes I wonder if, in a past life, I was a black woman because in almost every video game that allows character customization, I almost always play as a black woman. Even most of my fictional main characters are either colored and/or women. Whether it's because I personally find colored women hot (Please, ladies colored and white! I hope I don't offend! :p) or what, but still...

    Still, I get what you're saying.
     
  4. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    For a while I really admired a nationality that I don't have heritage to. I thought that ideally I would be one of them. Maybe it was romanticized, but I think a lot of it had to do with associating strong values of that culture that too much lacked in my family's case. To an extent, and at some point in one's life, I think it's normal to wish to be where the grass appears greener. At this point, the allure of cultural swag has lost its lustre in general for me, but if those passions are ever rekindled, I think I'll have the perspective to know I can just incorporate some of their memes or get a cookbook of their cuisine, I don't know....
     
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  5. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    For a time, I wish I were born and raised in the UK. :D Blame the James Herriot novels for that one, and I still have the dream of at least visiting the UK once in my life. Not sure if I'll be able to live there, but I will plan on going there before I keel over.

    Still, I blame them for their words getting into my bloody vocabulary, those bollocks! >:[ :p Now how the hell am I going to go around not sounding like a wanker trying to sound like a Brit?! :p :D

    At any rate, from what I've gathered, it's perfectly OK to be absorbed into a culture not your own. I know white people online who like anime and video games, who study the crap out of Asian cultures. I myself like Biz Markie and other black musicians.

    It's cool liking cultures that are different than yours. I guess what I'm trying to get at is: ‘what if you feel like you should've been born in that culture?’ As in, you feel as if you were born the wrong culture and can only view it from an outsider perspective, but you like it enough that you wish you were born into that culture...how do you reconcile that?

    EDIT: Let's just say that, hypothetically, I feel I should've been born a black man. Literally. A black man.

    Here's what's going through my mind right now:

    (a) Is this all just a product of White Guilt? As in I'm so ashamed of my own ethnicity that I feel should've been born another race?

    (b) What is the difference between “I'm interested in their culture” vs. “I wish I were born into it”?
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2016
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  6. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    Australia is neither a cat country nor dog one. It's both.

    [​IMG]
     
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  7. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm wondering if you're equating things that aren't really that similar, except maybe as far as your wording goes.

    If you are transgendered, chances are you already feel like you're in the wrong body from birth, before you've been heavily socialized, but can a person feel like they should be of different ethnicity even as a little kid? I find that somewhat unlikely. Say, a Finnish child, living in a very white society with little connection to other ethnicities (before they've learned to use a cell phone, tablet or laptop), could s/he feel like she was born to wrong ethnicity? Would he, as an adult, look at a video of himself at 4 and go "Look at that swagger! Look how much spicy food I'm eating! Already back then I knew I was half African-American, half-Mexican!"

    Same goes for religion and your country of religion. You find your preference later, after you've learned about other religions or countries and find your "true" home elsewhere. Like a Norwegian friend of mine feels more like home in Finland. Or how someone doesn't get their spiritual fulfillment from Christianity so they convert to Islam.

    So perhaps ethnicity, religion, and country are on the same level, distinctly tied to socialization and experience, while I'd group transsexuality/transgenderism separately as I find that kind of "gender disconnect" can be observed with scientific methods (the research is still young, but some exist already). In fact, I find it somewhat flippant to equate it with a preference for religion X or country Y.

    Furthermore, I really can't just go around saying I'm black, can I? Wouldn't that be flippant of me? People would think I'm nuts. Can I know what "blackness" is? Can I decide freely what it is? Can it be defined? Does it come purely down to the amount of melanin in your skin? And I'm now talking about real, actual identification, not some role play where I'm like "I'm a horse!" because I think it's funny, but I'm certainly not buying hay and oats in bulk or galloping to work... In fact, I probably shouldn't even work any other jobs except maybe as a mount in some riding school if I actually identified as a horse.

    If I lived in Kenya for 20 years, I could identify as Kenyan, but to me it'd seem illogical to identify as black because the definition of a black person, the way I understand it, doesn't fit me due to my skin color.

    At times I feel like people are putting an incredibly amount of weight and importance on their identities. White people in particular, although I have no hard data about this, it's just a hunch/personal observation. Maybe in the world of interwebz we feel so cultureless we need to come up with labels and identities, maybe we feel like we don't fully exist without a label, without something we can define and describe, talk about, flaunt, use to gain or lose privileges or to find a tribe or movement of our own, or even just to feel a little bit special? (and I don't mean this in a mean way, either).
     
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  8. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    This ties in, for me, with the confusion I have about transgendered people. (And, again, I stress that this is my confusion, my lack of understanding. I don't want to challenge anyone's intrinsic, emotional responses just because I can't form an intellectual theory that allows me to understand it. That said...)

    With the understanding that most gender roles are social constructs, I can't understand the reality of being transgender as anything but a lack of conformity to social constructs, which I think is fairly cool and which can be achieved without feeling the need for surgery or whatever. So there's something more there that I'm just not getting.

    And the parallel to the Rachel Doleanaz (spelling approximate) situation, where she apparently felt she was a different race than she was born - again, with my understanding of race as a social construct, I don't really understand this sensation. I can understand identifying strongly with a certain group, but I don't really understand the "I was born in the wrong body" idea for her.

    I think in order for me to understand transgenderism in its more extreme forms (like, the people who want surgery, want to live as the other sex, etc.) it has to really go beyond the surface characteristics. If someone born in a female body tells me she likes direct communication, likes wearing pants instead of dresses, and likes keeping her hair short? Sing it, sister, I feel the same way. It's totally possible for people to ignore a lot of social gender norms without being transgender. I think I only understand transgenderism when there's something directly related to their bodies. Looking down at your genitals and feeling in a deep, meaningful way that you should have a penis instead of a vagina? I can understand that as something separate from discomfort with social norms. I understand it when we use the term "transgender" as an umbrella term for anyone who's rejecting some aspects of social gender norms, but for me, it makes more sense to use the term "transsexual" for people who actually want to change their sex. (Of course, I also support the right of people to self-identify as they choose, so it doesn't really matter what terms make sense to me!)

    Anyway, in terms of ethnicity, I think it would be important to distinguish between the social constructs and the physical markers. I know a lot of the examples above were tongue-in-cheek, but identifying with certain social stereotypes doesn't mean much, to me. And since the physical markers for race/ethnicity are generally much less fixed than those for gender, I'm not really sure how there could be a deeper form of "trans"-ism related to ethnicity.
     
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  9. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    @KaTrian , @BayView

    Excellent points. Now that I think about it, I've confused myself by equating "I'm drawn to a particular culture mostly celebrated by people of another ethnicity" with "I want to be that ethnicity." For instance, I can be drawn to the various Asian cultures, like their music and food, but I'm still white. It doesn't make me "Asian", and quite frankly, it's either a bit odd/absurd to downright insulting. If a black guy came to me and said he was white because he did things commonly associated with white folks, I'd find it kind of odd. Switch the ethnicity around, and I'd be telling the white guy to mind his words or else someone might give him an ass-beating.

    Ethnicity is what you just are. Whether you like to do things stereotypical to your own ethnicity (kicks a Clive Cussler book under his bed and switches off Mozart) or not, or whether you get into the culture and music of another ethnicity (for instance, listening to music made by black people or eating Asian cuisine, or said black guy), ethnicity is a whole different level of identity. It's not the same as religion, it's not the same as "I know I was meant to be born the other gender" or "I need to convert to xyz religion to feel spiritually complete."

    Let's throw in an example: let's pretend I was an orphaned white kid who was adopted by a Taiwanese couple and spent the majority of my life in Taiwan. Even when I'd consider myself Taiwanese by nationality, be immersed in their culture as that's where I would've grown up in, it wouldn't change the fact that I'd still be a white person. It'd be painfully clear to anyone that I was adopted. The same is true in reverse, if I adopted an orphaned Taiwanese child and he/she grew up here in Alabama. Even if he/she were immersed in American culture, even if he/she considered America his/her new homeland, it wouldn't change that he/she was Asian.
     
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  10. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, I don't think one can "escape" their ethnicity looks-wise even if they were adopted or born to e.g. Chinese immigrant parents in California yet maintained nothing of the original culture in their daily lives. They could be burger-munching Americans as much as some white guy from Louisiana with French ancestors, just that they'd look like they've come from a different part of the world. They might be described as "ethnic looking", for example, but they could be completely disconnected from the culture, traditions, etc. of their parents.

    Now, if I looked at some black child adopted from Uganda, raised by Finnish parents, his name as Finnish as it can get, to say his ethnicity is Ugandan or African actually would start to feel odd because the kid could be crazy about ice hockey, love bathing in the sauna, and eat rye bread just like the white kid in his class and unlike a black child from Uganda. I feel like that's when ethnicity tied to skin color is somewhat vague. If he was asked to celebrate his ethnicity at school, wouldn't he celebrate ice hockey, saunas, and rye bread? And it wouldn't make him "trans-white" in my mind. But at the same time, he'd be described "ethnically x" while his white friend would be described differently.
    Maybe the definition of ethnicity is somewhat fluid anyway?
     
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  11. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's just a stage of adolescence (which for many has extended into early to mid twenties). Once these people start having careers, families, and other such responsibilities, they'll no longer need to cling to labels.
     
  12. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    But just look at the age range of people in Buzzfeed videos. Some of them are young, sure, but e.g. the Struggle of Being Mixed Race video which I mentioned in another thread interviewed people who looked like they were in their 30s. And to them the right label seemed really important. They wanted to be recognized as, I don't know, part-Dutch and to not be recognized as such meant they were struggling, as the title suggests.
     
  13. Acanthophis
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    In my opinion, ethnicity is just something you choose. If you want to identify with Turkish culture and traditions, you simply can. Ethnicity isn't tied purely to ancestry, but to religion, social, and cultural practices as well. So I don't think it's like being born with the wrong gender.
     
  14. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd have to see the videos. I'm sure some instances are very understandable.
     
  15. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'll take a crack at explaining the difference between being transgendered and just preferring the gendered markers of the opposite sex (like a woman preferring having short hair, wearing pants, boxing, whatever).

    The way it looks to me, based on your post (I have to assume a bit here) it's possible the confusion stems from the notion that gender is a social construct. If it was purely a social construct, we could just ship all transgendered people into camps where their wrong gender would just be re-socialized until they're cis.

    Many if not most transgendered people spend their childhood and youth if not their whole lives trying desperately to re-socialize themselves into being cis. That's one of the main reasons for the ridiculously high suicide rates among transgendered people. From what I've seen after listening to and talking with other transgendered people, that's what causes the most distress, depression, self-hatred, suicidal thoughts etc. among trans people. Generally speaking, it doesn't seem to be as much the bullying, shaming, violence etc. It's that disconnect between your body and your identity as a human being.

    I wish gender was only a social construct, but it really does seem to be partly biological. Sure, a lot of gender is socially constructed, a lot of it is an act, but a part of it is innate. A part of it is something that makes a person's earliest memory the horrifying realization that someone made a terrible mistake, that someone fucked up somewhere along the assembly line, and placed you into the wrong body. It's scary, distressing, depressing, and sad.

    Like @KaTrian said, the science studying this is young, unfortunately, but at least already we have some evidence that there are differences between male and female brains, and that there are differences between the brains of transgendered and cis people with the brains of trans individuals sharing similarities with the opposite sex.
    This article summarizes pretty well what I've read about the biological basis for being trans:
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-there-something-unique-about-the-transgender-brain/

    That being said, everyone is an individual, so there's bound to be a lot of variety among transgendered individuals, but in my experience, based on what I've heard and been told by other transgendered individuals (both ftm and mtf) about their experiences, and what I've read about it, gender is a combination of socialization as well as biology. If it wasn't, the desire to be the opposite sex wouldn't be so strong, so compelling, and so nightmarishly fundamental and inescapable.

    It's not unlike being trapped down a bottomless well where you float neck-deep in everything you hate and despise, this murky, vile thing you can't escape no matter how hard you try, how long and loudly you scream or call for help. For many transgendered people there is no escaping the well; they'll remain stuck in the filth until their last breath.

    In that light, I doubt the choice to end one's life prematurely seems quite so unthinkable. To many, death is the only escape from what is essentially a prison to them (and not the nice kind either).

    But of course there are some who can find happiness and joy in their lives, there are some whose disconnect between their self and body is fixed via transitioning; it's not a nightmare to everyone, but I just don't buy it for a second that this level of suffering would be purely something learned, i.e. a social construct especially when it has been observed in children so young that one of the first things they say as soon as they're able is that they are in the wrong body, that they should be the opposite sex. It runs too deep.

    I hope that cleared it up a bit, for what it's worth.

    That being said, I think people can be born into cultures where they don't feel quite at home. E.g. I wanted to visit the USA as soon as I understood the concept of different countries and cultures. The country in all the movies, TV shows, and cartoons just seemed so awesome compared to the crummy, small, Finnish town we lived in at the time. Our poverty probably made the "American dream" resonate in me even more. As I grew older and started to form my own opinions and views, I found myself carefully comparing and contrasting the positives and negatives of both countries until I found that while I disagree with a lot of things currently going on in the States, I still prefer the stronger focus on individual freedoms over the somewhat nanny state--ish Finland.

    However, I still would never compare that to being transgendered. One is such a fundamental, life-ruining disconnect between your body and your self while the other is more like a strong preference. The fact that I like the USA because of some of the pervasive values, practices, and laws vs. those of my country already tells me it's a purely social thing while being transgendered is inescapable, it doesn't change, it doesn't evolve along with what I learn, witness, and experience in life, it's just always there under the surface.
     
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  16. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    OK, so it's now considered PC to argue that men and women have differences in brain?
     
  17. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That's what the current data seems to indicate. I'm not sure just how strong the consensus is, though.
     
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