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The Rise of Transracialism
Teenage girls are being drawn into yet another trans social contagion.
The Asian American literary canon is filled with stories about self-loathing. The Joy Luck Club author Amy Tan, perhaps the most famous Asian American novelist, once wrote a story titled “Fish Cheeks”, in which she describes her hatred toward her physical features (and channels her inner Dusty Springfield):
I fell in love with the minister's son the winter I turned fourteen. He was not Chinese, but as white as Mary in the manger. For Christmas I prayed for this blond-haired boy, Robert, and a slim new American nose.
When I found out that my parents had invited the minister's family over for Christmas Eve dinner, I cried. What would Robert think of our shabby Chinese Christmas? What would he think of our noisy Chinese relatives who lacked proper American manners? What terrible disappointment would he feel upon seeing not a roasted turkey and sweet potatoes but Chinese food?
Note her desire for a “slim new American nose”. She was born and raised in America, so when she says American, she actually means White American, and thus implies that she saw herself as “less American” for being Asian. She felt deeply insecure over her Asian appearance and wished that she could look White, just like Robert and his family. She is definitely not the only Asian person to ever feel this way. You can find thinkpieces by Asian authors with titles like I went to bed every night wishing I could just wake up white, all filled with teenage angst.
This desire to change one’s body to fit a different beauty standard, and one’s nose in particular, isn’t new. Decades ago, it was not uncommon for teenage Jewish girls in America to receive rhinoplasties in an attempt to appear more in line with WASP beauty standards.
So when I saw a story titled Inside the online world of people who think they can change their race, I knew I was about to step into a world of deep self-loathing. However, these cases did not involve wanting to be White, but wanting to be Asian:
Since before she hit double digits, Alisa, 15, said she has felt a special connection with Japan. The high school student, who asked to be anonymous for fear of being doxxed online, was born in Ukraine and lives in Maryland, but she now goes by the Japanese name Miyuki and listens to “subliminals” that promise she will wake up and be Japanese. So far, she believes that by listening to YouTube videos with lo-fi music and photos of East Asian facial features while she sleeps, her vision has cleared, her eyelids have become smaller and her hair is just a bit darker.
Practitioners of what they call “race change to another,” or RCTA, purport to be able to manifest physical changes in their appearance and even their genetics to become a different race. They tune in to subliminal videos that claim can give them an “East Asian appearance” or “Korean DNA.”
Alia, 14, who asked to be anonymous for fear of being doxxed online, was born Egyptian but wants to be Japanese and Korean. She said that after she let YouTube videos featuring images of monolid eyes and ambient music play on repeat while she sleeps, she thought her eyes had developed monolids and she lost roughly 2 pounds overnight.
Some people said they were initially drawn to RCTA because of a special connection with a race or an ethnicity different from their own. Alia, who goes by the Japanese name Sayaka Hashimoto online, said that she has always felt connected to Japanese culture and that she was elated to discover RCTA last year.
Alia said that growing up, she was mocked for being Egyptian: “I’ve had many people call me ‘fiery’ or that I get angry quickly just ’cause I’m Middle Eastern. It might also have been a reason why I transitioned.”
Although a person can in theory be motivated to try to change into any race or ethnicity, the overwhelming majority of the RCTA community wants to be East Asian, and similarly, most race-related subliminals aim to transform listeners into East Asians.
So the reason these teenage girls want to be Asian is because of a strong affinity to various East Asian cultures, primarily after prolonged exposure to social media. And in order to become Asian, they change their names to something Asian-sounding, as well as try techniques to make their eyes look more stereotypically Asian.
The defining features are:
A strong sense of feeling inadequate in their own bodies, especially as a result of not fitting stereotypes on how they are supposed to act
Prolonged exposure to social media, where videos are made offering tips on how to “transition”
Shedding their birth name for a name in line with their newfound identity
Actively trying to alter their physical features to look like a stereotype of their newly chosen identity
Mostly teenage girls being affected
I remember reading Abigail Shrier’s book Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters and being struck by the way she described being a teenage girl in America. After all, I’d never been one, so I have no idea what it’s like. But from her book, I gleaned that body image issues impact girls far more than boys:
To understand how some of the brightest, most capable young women of this era could fall victim to a transgender craze, we should begin by noting that adolescent girls today are in a lot of pain. In America, Britain, and Canada, teenagers are in the midst of what academic psychologist Jonathan Haidt has called a “mental health crisis”—evincing record levels of anxiety and depression. Between 2009 and 2017, the number of high schoolers who contemplated suicide increased 25 percent. The number of teens diagnosed with clinical depression grew 37 percent between 2005 and 2014. And the worst hit—experiencing depression at a rate three times that of boys—were teenage girls.
Lest one assume that these girls are merely reporting their depression in greater numbers (and not necessarily experiencing more of it), Haidt points out that the average rates of self-harm reflect the same spike: an increase of 62 percent since 2009—all among teenage girls.
What happened? podcast host Joe Rogan asked Haidt. Why the sudden spike in anxiety, depression, self-harm? “Social media,” was Haidt’s immediate reply.
Teenage girlhood in America is practically synonymous with the worry that one’s body does not measure up. In eras prior, ideal beauty may have taken the form of a few girls in your class: the ones who could not help being beautiful, leaning into their lockers, tossing their hair, and—most inexplicable to me—knowing when to smile and keep their mouths shut.
Social media personas—that is to say, the “friends” most relevant to today’s teens and with whom they spend the most time—admit no such imperfection. Carefully curated and “facetuned,” their photographs set a beauty standard no real girl can meet. And they sit constantly in a girl’s pocket, feeding fears of inadequacy, fueling obsession over her perceived flaws—all the while vastly exaggerating them. Even under the best of circumstances, teenage girls have been cruelly unforgiving critics of their own bodies—and each others’. But today, social media supplies the microscope and performs the math.
So when I read about Alisa and Alia wanting to be Asian, I can imagine the inner turmoil the two are likely going through. Alisa is from an Ukrainian immigrant family, and I know firsthand that growing up in an immigrant family can be rough. A lot of kids (like Amy Tan in the beginning of this piece) struggle to reconcile their ethnic identity with their American identity. There is often a nebulous feeling of being “stuck between two sides”: too American for the home country, but also too foreign for America. This can cause an identity crisis, a feeling of discomfort in one’s skin that may manifest in a desire to discover a new identity on the internet. A few decades ago, this may have involved wearing a lot of black, cutting their wrists, or throwing up in the bathroom.
And as for Alia, she “transitioned” to East Asian because she did not live up to stereotypes about Middle Easterners. She internalized the stereotypes about her identity, and instead of accepting that she did not have to live up to being “fiery”, she simply chose a racial identity that did not have such stereotypes.
Lisa Selin Davis has written about how teenage girls that acted in stereotypically masculine ways—tomboys—were once common, but are vanishing now as they increasingly identify as trans. Instead of breaking gender stereotypes, transgender ideology reinforces them, and transracial ideology does the same.
It makes sense that most “transracials” are identifying as East Asian. When I think about how many non-Asians in America perceive East Asian people like myself, certain stereotypes come up: quiet, shy, introverted, bookish. In short, the same traits an introverted teenage girl that spends all her time on the internet would have. Those that want to be Asian are those that have picked up on Asian stereotypes in Western society, and are thus reinforcing such stereotypes by trying to identify as Asian.
This is exactly the kind of racism I've been trying to address all my life. I am Asian. I was born this way. I cannot be a different race. I know that there exists stereotypes about Asian people. And I know that there are Asians that internalize these stereotypes and think that being Asian means being nerdy and obsessed with anime and bubble tea. I don’t care about these stereotypes. Just because I don’t watch anime doesn’t make me any more or less Asian. “Asian” is not a feeling. “Asian” is not a set of stereotypes. Those out there trying to force their eyes to look monolidded will never be Asian. A common racist gesture against Asians is squinting one’s eyes or pulling them back, now apparently that’s what “transracials” do to be Asian.
I will not “affirm” these “transracials”, and neither should anyone else. These kids are deeply depressed and think that their problems will all go away if they identify as Asian. It’s not happening. They need someone to tell them that it’s normal to be insecure about their identity and appearance at that age, and that there is no magic transformation that will make their mental anguish go away. Thankfully, there isn’t any “race-affirming surgery” or “melanin replacement therapy” yet. But in times like these, who knows what will magically become the next civil rights crusade?
The article also claims that “it is impossible to change your race because of the systemic inequalities inherent to being born into a certain race”, while also saying that “it is a disservice to transgender people to compare the two”. I will discuss the ridiculousness of this claim in part two. Like, share, and subscribe.