TAMPA, Fla. — Ja Du, born a white male named Adam, now considers himself a Filipino.
He even drives what he calls a Tuk Tuk, an Asian-derived vehicle used for public transit in the Philippines.
Ja Du is part of a small but growing number of people who call themselves transracial. The term once referred only to someone (or a couple) of a one race adopting a child of another, but now it’s becoming associated with someone born of one race who identifies with another.
Ja Du says he grew up enjoying Filipino food, events and the overall culture.
“Whenever I’m around the music, around the food, I feel like I’m in my own skin,” he said.
“I’d watch the History Channel, sometimes for hours ... nothing else intrigued me more but things about Filipino culture.”
the term transracial started to become more widely known after the much-publicized story of Rachel Dolezal. Dolezal, born white, identified as black and portrayed herself as such. She was even the president of the Spokane, Wash., chapter of the NAACP.
More: Rachel Dolezal: I was ‘too black’ for my husband
Now, Facebook groups dubbed transracial are popping up with dozens of members.
Tampa-based psychologist Stacey Schreckner said she had not encountered a client wanting to change their race. She has, however, worked with clients who otherwise desired different physical features.
“If someone feels that they feel at home with a certain religion, a certain race, a certain culture, I think that, if that’s who they really feel inside, life is about finding out who you are," she said. "The more knowledge you have of yourself, the happier you can be"
She continued: “And, as long as it’s not hurting yourself or anyone else, I don’t see a problem with that.”
Ja Du hasn’t told his family yet because he believes they will laugh at the notion of changing your ethnicity. And while Dolezal received much criticism, Scheckner believes everyone should be more understanding.
“If that’s who they are and they want to celebrate it and enjoy it, then you have to think: What harm is it doing? All they want to do is throw themselves into that culture and celebrate it," she said.
“I think before we get offended, we need to take a step back and think about what is the harm.”
But, with someone making such drastic changes, Scheckner does think they should speak to a professional.
“I work with a lot, in my 15 years, a lot of transgender people" she said. "Before the doctors that I send them to do any type of physical changes to their body, they go through a long process with me and actually most the people, they are not upset about it because they want to make sure that they’re doing the right thing.”
That brings up another major change with Ja Du. He is also transsexual and is considering changing his gender as well. He has spoken to his mom and family about that.
Ja Du knows some may question intentions or accuse him of cultural appropriation. This can be a problem, he said, but says he’s not trying to take advantage of anything.
"I don’t want that," he said. "I think that we all have the freedoms to pursue happiness in our own ways."
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