I have been thinking about the ask that I received this morning and I just want to clarify something.
The concepts of being transethnic and transracial were first used by adoptees (sometimes they refer to themselves as “abductees”, which I fully support and want to apologize if I offend anyone by my use of the term “adoptee”). Many times, these adoptees are PoC who were adopted by white parents and they grew up navigating a very complex world. I do not want to speak for them, as they deserve to have their own voices heard, so I will just say this: I completely support their use of the terms “transracial” and “transethnic”.
And I think it is disgustingly, horribly racist and erasing that it has been co-opted by bored white kids who ~feel~ like their ~souls~ are a different race. Way to go, white kids. You just marginalized and erased a group that, hey, wouldn’t you know it, is already marginalized and erased. Way to be.
Just throwing that out there.
I can get behind this, if I’m reading it right. The idea that there are no legitimate examples of problematic racial/ethnic identifications is pretty preposterous. In my own experience, as someone born of Turkish immigrants to the US, the extent to which I have identified as (and, more importantly, felt like it was appropriate for me to identify as) Turkish has been just as fraught as my struggles with gender identity. If that fluidity and self-determination can be described as transethnic, so be it; I’m kind of glad there might be a term for it. Likewise for children of mixed-race parents, or any number of other situations.
That being said, I feel like this kind problematic relationship, fluid identification, or act of self-determination is categorically different from an ad hoc decision that one “feels” as part of a different ethnic community. The salient distinction, I think, is the work that one must do when navigating cultural communities. In my mind, it’s not enough that I grew up with Turkish parents or learned the Turkish language to really consider myself Turkish when so much of my upbringing, prevailing cultural milieus, and the ways I bear myself as a racially marked social being cause me to identify as “white American”, even if in a highly qualified way. But — und this is a very big but — insofar as I can and do identify as Turkish (vs. being a person of Turkish descent) it is again because I have at times in my life performed acts of cultural labor — learning the language, communing with Turkish people, learning the history and folklore, etc. For immigrants to new countries, the hope for integration — as much as it can exist — is completely premised on similar acts of cultural labor.
And, while this is quite contradictory to many transgender people’s personal narratives (which I would never want to erase or deny), this sense of cultural labor is also a major way that I interpret my own transgender experience. I cannot merely call myself a woman any more than a young girl can. Cis and trans alike, we only become our gendered selves through intense labor (whether self-engaged or forced), and to believe that we can be those identities simply applying a name to ourselves — that I am a woman only because I say I am a woman — sells short the intense tooth-and-nail struggles I and all other transgender people engage in on a daily basis regardless of hormones or surgeries or other artifactual trappings. I am a woman because I’m becoming a woman, just as much as any cis female is.
So, yeah, there are comparisons to be made between transgender and “transethnic” identities. If you want to be “transTurkish”, be my guest, but show me the fucking labor. Live in Turkey for a decade, listen to Turkish people, become a person whom Turks accept into their fold, then I’ll gladly call you transethnic ‘til the cows come home. And, as we’ve seen in Israel recently, and all over the world throughout history, a lot of times there is no amount of cultural labor that will make you accepted in a given racial community, so stop assuming that just reading a few books and hanging out with a few people (mostly while simply fetishizing them and not actually listening to them) makes you any damn thing.