Ja Du was born a white male named Adam, but he’s adopted a new nationality and is considering a change in gender, as well. Ja Du now identifies as Filipino and rides around Tampa, Florida, in a vehicle called a Tuk Tuk, which he says is used for public transit in the Philippines.
Ja Du is part of a small but growing community of people who consider themselves transracial: They were born one race, but they identify as something else.
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 explained to reporters. “I’d watch the History Channel sometimes for hours, you know, and whenever it came to that, nothing else intrigued me more than things about Filipino culture.”
Rachel Dolezal was one of the first transracial people to make headlines when the white woman portrayed herself as black and even got herself elected as the president of the Spokane, Washington, chapter of the NAACP.
Dolezal’s appearance on an episode of Dr. Phil made the term transracial more widely known. Now, the phenomenon is spreading and includes a community of people who “identify” as a different race than what they are.
Psychologist Stacey Scheckner has worked with many clients wanting to change their bodies in some way, but she has no experience with “transracials.”
“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. The more knowledge you have of yourself, the happier you can be,” she said, noting that she’s okay with the practice. “And, as long as it’s not hurting yourself or anyone else, I don’t see a problem with that. I think before we get offended, we need to take a step back and think about what is the harm.”
Ja Du hasn’t told his family yet, believing that it’s already enough of a shock that he’s considering a gender change. He also thinks that he may be treated like Dolezal was — like a joke.
Scheckner advised anyone planning to make a drastic change in their appearance to speak to a professional.
“I work with a lot in my 15 years, a lot of transgender people. 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,” she said.
According to a report in WTSP News pointed out: “Your race can make you more marketable and in some cases eligible for certain benefits, jobs and scholarships. After quick Google search for ethnic scholarships, we found that a Filipino scholarship was the second option that popped up.”
Ja Du acknowledged the issue, but he says it’s not his intention to take advantage of anything.
“I believe people will [take advantage], just like other people have taken advantage of their identity to get their way, but the difference between me and them … is that I don’t want that. I think that we all have the freedoms to pursue happiness in our own ways,” he said.