Verda Byrd is, by her own description, a "beautiful black woman" who lived the full "black experience" while growing up in Kansas, per ABC News: She was raised by adoptive black parents, dated black men, and went to black churches and clubs. But in 2013, long after her parents' deaths, Byrd came across her unsealed adoption documents and made a life-altering find at the age of 70. "On every single paper it said that I was white," she tells People—as were her biological parents, Earl and Daisy Beagle, and the other children they had. Byrd went into foster care at age 2 after Earl left the family and Daisy suffered a bad injury, and she was subsequently adopted, per People. Byrd says no one ever batted an eye at her skin color because her adoptive mom was a light-skinned black woman. Naturally, the realization she's not black was a shocker for Byrd, now 72—and for her husband of 36 years, Trancle, she tells People.
"[He] went to bed one night with a black woman and woke up the next morning with a white one," she says, but "I still feel black and that's not going to change. … When you're dead and gone in the cemetery, the tombstone doesn't say what race you were." Three surviving white biological sisters with whom she's since reunited also don't care about her skin color, with one telling the magazine, "She could have been purple as far as I care. It's just so fun to have her now in my life." And for those who may be tempted to draw comparisons between herself and Rachel Dolezal, Byrd has one thing to say. "She upsets me so much because I don't understand why she or anyone needs to lie about their race or their ethnic group," she notes. "I did not know I was born white. She knew it." (A New York Times columnist backs up Byrd's criticism about Dolezal.)