Transgracial Identity: What it Is (And What it Isn't)
I often speak of my own “transgracial” identity — which is the embodiment of transgender and transracial social constructions. — However, a Delaware County Councilman recently showcased transphobia and xenophobia in an attempt to belittle marginalized identities.
Ryan Webb is a cisgender, white politician who recently released a lengthy Facebook post “coming out” as a lesbian woman who identifies as Native American. Since the stunt, he has routinely doubled down on his claims after questions and critiques, restricting news services from definitively stating he was using identity as a weapon.
In a deadpan interview with controversial talk show host, Matt Walsh, Webb answered questions about his decision with dog whistles of conservative talking points. In response to Walsh asking if gender fluidity “was a topic of conversation” when he was growing up, Webb responded:
I don’t even know if those words were spoken with the familiarity they are today. The things we talked about were going to have for dinner, what things we were going to do together as a family, what family program we were going to sit down together and watch for the evening — those were the things we talked about
Webb’s intention is obviously trying to point back to the idea of radical identities separating families, infiltrating media, and ruining life as we know it. Walsh — who made a whole documentary denouncing transgender identity — was seemingly in on the joke, using Webb’s new pronouns and reacting respectfully to all of Webb’s claims and answers.
When referring to his identity as a Native American, Webb claims to have distant ties in his bloodline on both sides. He states, after finding this out, he went “This is awesome. That allows me to classify myself as the woman of color that I am.”
Transgracial identity is not a performance. It is an obscure but honest understanding of one's authentic identity beyond what’s in the mirror or on an ancestry.com DNA test.
What Separates Authenticity from Weaponization?
Webb is feigning enough sincerity to limit the media from definitive claims about what he’s doing. His motivations and actions alone show this is a misguided mockery of an identity struggle that some of his constituents may face.
As recently as May 25th, Webb’s official Twitter account tweeted that transgender identities are the result of a “mental disorder.”
Shortly after his remarks on Facebook, Webb “sat silently as a parade of people addressed the elected officials, showing various degrees of disappointment and anger.” Overwhelmingly the message was clear: what you said would be fantastic if you were serious.
People wrestling with radical or non-normative identities have had to bear the weight of hate flung at them by people like Webb. Now, he’s taking the very thing he actively works to marginalize in his community and is putting it on like a coat he can take off whenever he wants and using the sensitivity of the topic to prevent the media from confidently denouncing him.
If you’re ready to take the next step in fighting vicious rhetoric like this, reach out, and let’s start a dialogue on combatting ignorance with knowledge.