We had part of this story in the headlines a couple days ago. It involves a British influencer named Oli London who uses they/them pronouns. This week London released a video on Twitter which was shot in the hospital. The caption reads “TRANSRACIAL”
“Hey guys, I’m finally Korean, I’ve transition,” London said. “I’m so, so happy I’ve completed my look. I’m finally Korean guys, I have the eyes so I’m so happy finally.” London added, “I’ve been trapped in the wrong body for eight years and that’s the worst feeling in the world when you’re trapped and you don’t feel like you can be yourself but finally I’m Korean. I can be myself and I’m so, so happy.”
— Oli London (@OliLondonTV) June 28, 2021
Apparently, London is obsessed with the Korean pop-group BTS, especially one member named Park Jimin. London has apparently changed their name to Jimin though the social media accounts still say Oli London.
In a subsequent video London hoped that Jimin would be proud of the transition and the Korean people would be more accepting because of the altered facial features. However in a subsequent interview with TMZ, London said, “BTS is Korean but that’s not the reason I’ve become Korean. As much as I love Jimin it’s also all the other aspects of the culture…I just feel 100 percent Korean.”
London went on to say that he was encouraged by Rachel Dolezal. Dolezal, you may remember, is a white woman who was living as a black woman and was president of the Spokane NAACP. This led to some obvious questions at the time about what the difference was between a man deciding to be a woman (trans) and a white woman deciding to be a black woman (trans-racial). In any case London said of her, “Rachel gave me a lot of courage so I do thank her for that because it’s not easy becoming transracial and transitioning, undergoing the surgery. The hardest thing actually is sharing that with people.”
London really brings that question back around again both by citing Dolezal as an influence and by using some of the same language trans people use. The talk about surgery as transition and also the stuff about feeling trapped in the wrong body for years is precisely the same sort of thing that trans men and women talk about. And yet, London told an interviewer that the “woke mob” on Twitter has not been kind:
“The woke mob on Twitter have been attacking me online non-stop, preaching about ‘don’t bully people online, look after mental health’, yet here they are, the same people attacking me online.”
London transitioned to Korean after falling in love with the culture, having lived in the country for eight years.
“I’ve never been happy with who I am. My looks, my self-appearance. It wasn’t until I went to Korea where I became happy,” London said.
“I know people don’t accept me, I’m not asking people to accept me, but I’m just asking the woke mob to stop attacking me.”
One person who has been supportive is Rachel Dolezal herself. In an interview with TMZ she said she didn’t know London/Jimin but added, “The broader issue here is compassion and kindness and that personal identity is not the big fish to fry when it comes to somebody’s personal choices or how they feel.” She continued, “I think that we need to focus on fighting the public outrage issues of police brutality of deinstitutionalizing racism. Those are the issues that I think we need to come together on to fight publicly and to be kinder to people and fight a little bit less on social media against somebody’s personal choices.”
“Cultural appropriation is very different from just being authentically yourself. So being true to yourself is a very different journey and experience than stealing somebody’s culture in order to profit or gain from it,” she said. Her bottom line was “You know who you are and don’t afford anyone else the right to tell you who you are.”
I certainly don’t think this one influencer is going to change the overall dynamic very much though London does say people have been a lot more understanding of their transracial transition than they ever were of Dolezal’s similar story. Logically the argument about personal identity really is similar if not identical. Part of me hopes the ultra woke will start adopting this view about transracialism just because I’d love to see the people holding the currently accepted view (you can be transsexual but not transracial) face an army of outraged scolds on Twitter. Seriously, all of the people currently scolding people about trans issues online may be one step away from being suddenly excommunicated and being told they are total fascists on the wrong side of history. Wouldn’t that be worth seeing?
Update: I meant to include a link to this. Back in March I wrote about what some have called “identity hoaxers,” i.e. people like Dolezal who claim to be another race. It’s not common but there are several notable examples over the years. Author Helen Lewis dubbed it “social Munchausen syndrome” on the grounds that many people seem to be faking social injuries in the same way Munchausen sufferers fake physical injuries.