If you’ve heard someone say “Why isn’t there a straight pride parade?,” or claim that there should be a white alternative to the United Negro College Fund, you’ve met someone with privilege. It comes in many forms, and most people have some form of it. And it’s usually something people can’t choose. Having privilege isn’t a bad thing by itself, but denying it exists or abusing it is. In every dichotomy, there is a group with privilege. Racially, white people have it. Financially, upper class people have it. Bodily, able-bodied and mentally stable people have it. Sexually, straight people have it. And gender-wise, men have it. And if you don’t have it, you’re the class that gets looked down on, talked over, ignored, excluded from laws and have laws levied against you, and have to worry about discrimination in employment and in life.
People who say privilege doesn’t exist are either ignorant of it, or are trying to keep it. It’s no coincidence that rich, white, straight men have predominantly run this country for so long. As I said before, straight people don’t need a parade because they have the freedom to be themselves “by default.” They don’t have to do anything at all, and aren’t judged for being straight. It’s “normal.” White people have never been treated the way black people, Mexican people, Native American people have been treated, and they never will be. Cis people have never had to live as trans. Able-bodied people have no idea what handicapped people have to deal with on a daily basis. And men don’t realize how much they oppress women, either. And the ones who do realize it…well…we all know what they are. And so a lot of people take for granted what they have, and continue the treatment they don’t think about. They make racist, transphobic, homophobic jokes, and then when someone gets offended, “they’re just jokes, lighten up.” Men catcall women, speak over women, and “joke” that they should, “get back in the kitchen and make me a sandwich.” But watch out if a woman ever tells a man, “oh, sweetie, why don’t you just go back into that garage over there and fix that little lawnmower of yours for me,” in that very same tone. It’s the reason feminism is branded as women trying to take over, when really, we just want to be treated like everyone else.
But the fact is, nothing will change about privilege as long as the underpriviledged classes are treated like they are lesser in this society. As long as the privileged keep putting them down, making jokes, telling workers at McDonald’s that they don’t deserve $15 an hour (because they do. Because everyone deserves to have a job that they can live on, whether they’re educated or not.) And the first step to change is always awareness. Be aware of the privilege you have, and use it to convince others to do the same. Be careful how you treat people, and what you teach your kids to think about people you know nothing about. Throw out that old trope, “Do you want to end up working fast food? Then you better get good grades.” Because I got good grades, and went to college, and got good grades there, and I’m not far up from fast food. Does that mean I’m a lesser person? Does being a woman with a penis make me a lesser person? One that can’t be taken seriously because of it? Then why are we treated like that?
As a trans woman, I have three counts against me. Woman, gay, and trans. Three “lesser” classes. I’m also not well-off. But I’m white, and I’m able-bodied, and I know that those two things are forms of privilege. And I have to be aware of that. And I can’t let what I have blind me to those who don’t have it just because I’m not a straight white male like I used to try to be.
Fight like a grrrl to reveal and break the privilege in your daily lives. Use your privilege to help people who don’t have their own. Don’t spread oppression when you can spread acceptance and help instead.
Update: Speaking of privilege, I finally got my answer regarding the restrooms in the building my company subcontracts for last week before I went on a well-needed vacation. …No. I was told at this time, that I will not be allowed to use the women’s restroom in their building. Now tell me you don’t have privilege because you’re cis. Having to ask to use the right bathroom is bad enough. Being told no…well…just think about that one for a minute.