Transracial Rachel and Pillow Humping

Roe McDermott

Roe McDermott is a journalist, arts critic, Fulbright awardee and sex columnist from Dublin. She lives in San Francisco, where she's completing an MA in Sexuality Studies.


Hi Roe, more of an I-don’t-understand-this question than a personal question – I’ve seen a lot of people objecting to Rachel Dolezal being described as “transracial”. But if she feels she is Black, how is it different than people who are transgender? People are getting aggressive about it, so I get that it’s important, but I still don’t understand the reasoning. Thanks.

There’s both a simple and a complex answer to this, depending on whether we want to focus on Rachel Dolezal as an individual and the way in which she pretended to be Black in order to use it to her advantage (and the labyrinth of racial issues which lies within), or whether we want to stop giving her more attention and focus on the attempts to legitimize “transracial” as a parallel to “transgender”.

I’ll try find a middle ground, as I don’t think Dolezal warrants much more attention, but it’s impossible to completely avoid mentioning her, as she’s literally the only person for whom the “transracial” label is being used, which speak volumes about the label’s absurdity.

First of all, there is the basic linguistic issue that the term “transracial” already has a meaning – and it’s nothing to do with changing race. Transracial is actually a term in relation to adoption, where children are adopted by parents of another race.

Second, very basically: transgender people can identify as a certain gender because they are that gender, regardless of the gender they were assigned at birth. So a trans woman, for example, is a woman psychologically, socially, and (in some cases, after medical treatment) physically and hormonally. This isn’t voluntary, or a choice, or a decision; it’s simply who they are.

On the other hand, Dolezal made an active decision to identify as Black because she felt an affinity with Black culture – not because she is Black psychologically. There is no way to feel naturally, psychologically Black, though one can feel close to Black culture – a feeling that Dolezal chose to express via a physical and cultural form of appropriation, adopting identifiers of Blackness like a costume she could take on and off at will.

For transgender people, transitioning means they no longer pretend to be the gender they were assigned at birth; it takes honesty and a bravery to embrace who they really are, rather than what society has tried to force them to be. Dolezal, on the other hand, went through layers and layers of pretence and deception.

She lied about her race on application forms, neglected to correct people who described her as African-American, pretended that a Black man was her father when her parents are Caucasian, and deliberately altered her appearance. She also feigned racial oppression in a myriad of different ways – referring to having “natural” Afro hair when she in fact had a curly weave, and possibly staging hate crimes against herself in order to cement a perception of her as an oppressed Black woman.

Hell, she even said she lived in a tepee and hunted wild animals with a bow and arrow, because you know – in for a penny worth of primitive racial stereotypes, in for a pound.

Being transgender means respecting the truth of who you are – the Rachel Dolezal school of becoming “transracial” is based on lies.

And where there are lies, lies, there are also damn statistics – it’s estimated that 3-5 percent of the population is transgender, and that there are approximately 700,000 transgender people in the United States alone. (Although, given the amount of people who aren’t open about their trans identity, the true number is probably far higher.)

On the other hand, the amount of people claiming to be “transracial” is . . . oh yeah, just the one.

And the reasons for Rachel Dolezal claiming to be Black are also pretty clear; by so doing, she was granted scholarships, prestigious jobs and – as a light-skinned woman who was openly Caucasian until she was 20 – was able to benefit from pretending to be Black while not experiencing the oppression that people of colour experience.

On the other hand, by transitioning, trans people suffer the stigma of being trans, which can have huge impacts on them socially, professionally and economically. It’s for these reasons that trans people are among the most vulnerable people in society, with research showing that suicidality, regular harassment, physical and sexual violence, and systemic discrimination are commonplace for trans people.

It’s also important to note that unlike being trans, “identifying” as another race is a luxury available only to very privileged people. People of colour do not get to state that they “feel” White and therefore are afforded the privilege and benefits of Whiteness. While there have historically been light-skinned people of colour “passing” as White, this has been done historically to literally survive or escape racism. The act of “passing” from a position of minority to a more privileged position highlights the racism inherent in culture – that we assume White is the default, and anyone who is identified as “other” will be treated differently.

The particular issue with Rachel Dolezal and the language she used is that by saying, “I identify as Black,” she deliberately used the language of trans identity – equating her falsified identity with the gender identity of transgender people. In so doing, she’s not only minimising the experience of trans people, but by associating trans people with her decade-long act of deception, she’s perpetuating a transphobic belief that trans people are deceptive.

Trans people are being themselves. Rachel Dolezal was pretending to be someone else.

Transgender exists. Transracial – in the Dolezal definition – doesn’t. In that sense, it’s quite simple really.


Hey Roe, I’m a 24-year-old woman, and since forever I have found that masturbating by humping or grinding pillows is the most effective way of bringing me to orgasm. I’ve tried loads of vibrators and sex toys, but ones that focus just on clit stimulation don’t really get me there – I find them both a bit too intense and boring, if that makes sense? I can orgasm with sex but to make it even better it seems a lot easier for women who get off with toys to include a vibrator than including a pillow . . . First of all, is this a bit weird, and are there any sex toys that give the same effect?

A pillow? UGH, you WEIRDO.

No, I’m kidding – you’re actually terribly normal, sorry to disrupt any non-conformist fantasies you may have been clinging on to. Humping or grinding pillows is an enormously common way that many young girls discover masturbation – and hey, if a technique ain’t broken, no need to fix it later.

Physically, it makes all the sense in the world – while much of formal and informal sex education regarding female masturbation or pleasure focuses on the clitoris, it fails to note that the clitoris is much, much more than that little visible clitoral glans that we know as the clit. Inside, the external clitoral head is connected to the clitoral stalk, which itself splits into two clitoral roots that extend around and behind your labia majora (the outer lips.) All of this measures approximately 11 centimetres (#sizeisnteverything) of pleasurable nerve endings extending in and around your pelvic area.

So of course grinding and humping pillows (or your humpee object of choice, no judgement) feels fantastic – you’re not just limiting your stimulation to the head of your clitoris, but though the pressure and movement of grinding, are stimulating a much larger area. So no, this isn’t weird at all – it’s science, and it’s awesome.

You’re also not alone in feeling that sex toys that specifically target just your clitoral glans can be overwhelming, and thus underwhelming – the concentrated pressure and vibrating on your clit can indeed feel far too intense, or even painful, which is never the aim. Even if you do respond to clit vibrators, you can also become slightly numbed to the sensation – which is why you should actually use those multiple settings on your vibrator and mix up your routine a bit, instead of just using the highest setting all the time. Think of clit stimulation like the chocolate cake that Bruce has to eat in Matilda – too much of a good thing can take a lot of the pleasure of the experience.

In terms of what you can do, you can both change your sex toys and change how you use your existing ones – waste not, want not and all that.

When it comes to looking for new toys, vibrators with a larger, wider surface area than the usual dildo-shaped ones are fantastic for stimulating more of your clitoral nerve endings in and around your vulva. If you can’t exactly justify getting a Sybian (a sit-on vibrator beloved by porn stars and grateful women everywhere), try the Europe Magic Wand (an impressive copy of the famous Hitachi “personal massager” that was featured inSex and the City), which is hugely powerful – and you can easily grind it for extra pressure.

As for your current sex toys, try using clit vibrators through your underwear so it’s not as intense, or lay the length of vibrating toys against your vulva and pelvic area rather than keeping the tip of the toy on your clit, so that you’re getting stimulation across a wider area.

If you want to incorporate your masturbation techniques into sex with a partner, it’s very simple: you just do. If you’re being penetrated doggy-style, you can easily place a toy or pillow underneath you so you’re grinding it during sex; and you can easily do the same while performing oral so you’re both getting off.

Get your partner involved by explaining what sort of stimulation makes you feel good – if they’re worth their salt, they’ll enthusiastically work with you to ensure you’re getting the sensation you need. And may I point out that thighs and forearms are the perfect shape for grinding on, so play around with your positions so that while you’re fooling around, you can be pressed against them in a way that feels fantastic.

Et voila – it’s Hump Day every day for you.

Got a question? You can contact Roe through our online form, here. 

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Author:

Roe McDermott: Roe McDermott is a journalist, arts critic, Fulbright awardee and sex columnist from Dublin. She lives in San Francisco, where she's completing an MA in Sexuality Studies.

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