Lets talk about Intersections of Privilege

As a white writer, I don’t spend a lot of time writing about race which is a major flaw. I have the privilege of living in a world where my experience are considered to be the default for whatever other identities I have so I get to choose whether or not to think about my race. But a lot of people don’t have that privilege.

So let’s take a few minutes and talk about race. I think one of the first steps is examining and acknowledging which privileges and blind spots I have. This is literally the bare minimum I can do and I want to be clear I don’t deserve accolades for basic steps that all of humanity should be doing on a daily basis.

My privileges

  • I am white and I have the option to not think about race whenever I want. I’m also not discriminated against or at risk of police violence based on my race.
  • I am a citizen and I was born in a country with global power so I rarely have to worry about a war at home.
  • I grew up solidly middle class and never lived in poverty. I never had to worry about where my basic necessities would come from or whether my housing was secure. And I had ample luxuries in life to make me comfortable.
  • I am big and tall and rarely have to worry about my physical safety or invasions of my personal space.
  • I am relatively able bodied and don’t need accessibility devices for my disabilities most of the time.
  • I live in a state where cannabis is legal and easily accessible to self medicate my disabilities without barriers.
  • I grew up without disabilities and experienced most of my early life without physical barriers.
  • I am neurotypical for the most part and even with my ADD I grew up in a schooling environment where my difference was never pathologized with ADD relatives who normalized that experience.
  • I have a job where my ADD is an asset and have never been discriminated against due to my disabilities.
  • I had a good primary education and a private college degree that prepared me well for the economy and society we live in.
  • I have a full time job and have never been under-employed or laid off. I make enough money to be able to afford to live in an expensive city where I can find community.
  • I have a supportive spouse (even if it took a divorce to achieve that) and have never had a lack of dating partners.
  • I can easily find communities of people who look like me.
  • Even though I am fat, I still have size privilege by being able to shop off the rack.
  • I come from a religion that has always been the majority in my country and culture and never experienced discrimination because of my beliefs.

My intersections of marginalization

  • I am transgender in a country that is actively hostile towards me.
  • I will never “pass” as cisgender and will always be visibly trans.
  • I have large feet and cannot find feminine shoes my size in stores.
  • I am queer and have to be wary of people who want to date me because they either view me as a feminine straight man or a gay man in a biphobic, transphobic culture.
  • I am disabled and cannot do a lot of activities that I would like due to my asthma and the condition of my back.

Notice how short that list of marginalization is compared to my privileges? I may spend a lot of time writing about those intersections but what I don’t do is acknowledge my privilege and blind spots enough. There are dozens of reasons that my life could be harder due to things completely out of my control. And my life has never been made harder because of the color of my skin.

That is why we say Black Lives Matter. That is why we need to be conscious of what areas we don’t struggle with. Because otherwise those things are blind spots to us and can lead us to subconsciously discriminate against people who do have those issues. Because in our culture we are always taught to view life as a zero sum game which requires haves and have nots to function. So if I am not fighting for people of color, disabled people, immigrants, religious minorities, and people without class privilege, my work is for naught.

What are you doing to become more aware of your privileges and unconscious biases?

What if I had come out as a child?

I just woke up from a nightmare about coming out as trans as a child. In my dream I was going to a private Christian school and having to fight for basic human decency among classmates and school administrators who didn’t believe me. Who didn’t believe that trans people were real.

But as scary as that dream was, it is probably nothing compared to what would have happened if I had come out as trans in my actual childhood.

Let me be clear. My parents have grown a lot in the intervening years since I left home and they genuinely seem to be trying to understanding my experience right now. But I shudder to think what would have happened if I had come out as trans or even queer as a child while they were still in the grasp of the cult. I am fairly confident that I would have been sent to life-threatening conversion therapy that would have made my depression a lot worse and possibly led to suicide.

It was bad enough growing up as a child, confused and afraid because I didn’t know why I was different. Knowing that I had a girl’s brain but not knowing what that meant. Feeling like I was alone in my experience because I didn’t know that transgender people even existed until college.

But it would have been so much worse if I had voiced those feelings as a child and not been believed. If I had been placed into “therapy” to “cure” me from this sin. If I had been told on a daily basis that my lived experience wasn’t real and spiritually beaten over the head because I felt that way.

My heart goes out to all the kids who are still in that situation. Who live among parents, educators, and peers who don’t believe them. Who have to hide who they are because of the explicitly transphobic messages they hear on a daily basis.

When we say “protect trans kids,” we say that because even in a day and age where awareness of transgender people is at an all time high, trans kids have a one in three chance of attempting suicide.

We live in a country where hard won trans rights that we fought for decades to achieve are being taken away from us on a daily basis. Just this week, the protections that we gained in the Affordable Care Act were stripped away. And that wears on trans people mentally and kills us daily through denials of care and service. That permeates our culture and compounds with racism to make trans women of color the most marginalized and murdered group in America. Already this year, 14 trans people have been brutally murdered; the majority of them women of color.

As a white trans adult, my nightmare was largely just that. My life is rarely at risk of anything other than my own depression and suicidal thoughts. But I am one of the lucky ones. I have a supportive spouse and partners, I have a large community of trans people and advocates who stand with me, and I have a low risk of murder because of the color of my skin and where I live.

So when you fight for Black Lives, when you fight for queer lives, when you fight for trans youth, please make sure that your fight is intersectional and intentionally includes the lives of those who bear the burden of all of our collective societal sins. Fight for Black Trans Lives because they matter. And until we stop these murders, we can’t truly mean that Black Lives Matter.