Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Privilege: We All Have Some

A common tactic to explain why trans women should be discriminated against by some feminists is because trans women have "experienced Male Privilege".  Now, I'm not denying that Male Privilege exists or that trans women don't experience some benefits during their pre-transitional years, but I'm calling out this claim that being born with a penis permanently excludes you from the Female Club.  It's prejudiced bullshit used to justify a pre-conceived conclusion of bigots and goes against the core concept of feminism: judging someone based on their biology rather than their character.

There are plenty of privileges extended to me by our society.  I have White Privilege, despite being one-eighth Native American, because I'm perceived as white.  Because of this, American society caters to my culture almost exclusively, I have no difficulty finding representation in the media of my skin color, and my actions are not considered a reflection on all white people.  I have Female Privilege, which is not as generous as male privilege but does have it's own unique benefits.  Because of this, I can interact with and work with children without suspicion of child-molestation, I can wear any clothing I want, be it "men's" clothes or "women's" clothes, and not be questioned or harrassed about it, and I am free to express my emotions without being harrassed or ostracized by others.  I have Heterosexual Privilege, despite being bisexual, because I am in a straight relationship and therefore considered heterosexual.  Because of this, I can show affection to my partner in any social setting and not worry about assault or retaliation from strangers, government and society respect my relationship and if we were married it would not be called into question, and regardless of where I work, I will have a much easier time securing benefits for my partner than others would.  I even have Cissexual Privilege, despite being transsexual, because I am perceived as cissexual.  Because of this, my gender is never called into question regardless of what I wear or how I act, I can enter "women-only" spaces, such as a restroom, without being harrassed, and I can assume my gender will be respected above paperwork, such as a driver's license, even if it misrepresents my gender.  These are just some of the privileges I benefit from.  I'm not thrilled about it, and if it were up to me everyone would be equal, but wishing doesn't change the fact that I do have privileges.

Now, let's talk about Male Privilege.  No doubt, some people have already taken issue with me listing Female Privilege and will probably claim this is evidence that I still have "residual" Male Privilege.  That's ridiculous.  In order to benefit from a privilege you have to be perceived and/or identify as a member.  There is no way I would ever be perceived as a man now, nor have I ever identified as one, so Male Privilege will never be extended to me.  This is also why, even before transition, I was never extended "full member" privilege, if you will.  My feminine appearance and mannerisms singled me out as a "not-male" at a young age, and so I was punished by bullies, teachers, coaches and other men for my "not-maleness".  As a result, I only partially benefited from Male Privilege as a child but it was all at the cost of being misgendered for over 20 years and being systematically targetted for any "not-male" behavior.  Trust me, it wasn't a decent trade-off, which should be obvious, considering I made the choice to throw away male privilege by transitioning and being perceived as female.  One of the most unique experiences I've had as a transsexual was getting a first-person perspective on what privileges both genders receive.  Women don't receive nearly as much as men, but to deny that we have any is just abusing our privilege.  It's as obnoxious as a white male claiming he doesn't experience privilege. 

Privilege is fucked up, because nearly all of it is extended due to things completely outside of personal control.  Nobody chooses to be male or female (even trans folk), your gender identity is set from birth.  Nobody chooses to be cissexual or transsexual.  We don't choose our race, class, sexuality, ancestry, or nationality.  So why the hell should we judge anyone on the least interesting parts about them?  Why should any privilege be extended purely because of what genetic lottery numbers you were born with?  People should be judged on their actions.  Your choices are what make you who you are and are the most interesting thing about you.  They set you apart as an individual rather than lazily lumping you together with others, making the completely inaccurate assumptions that "All Xs are Y".  There's no such thing as an X.  You can't generalize someone based on things outside their control.

Women certainly wouldn't choose to be born with a penis, so it's unfair to judge a woman because she has a particular birth defect you don't.  If the Michigan Womyn's Festival decided they were going to ban all black women, or straight women, or immigrant women, or lower-class women there would be hell to pay.  These are all based on birth circumstances, but so is trans-status.  Why the fuck is the discrimination against trans women at MWF and other events like it tolerated?  Because not enough people stand up and say, "I will not condone the oppression of another person."  I'm sure most patrons are ambivalent at best about "womyn born womyn" policies, but because they don't stand against it they are enabling privilege.  If we want to live in a world without inequality and privilege, we need to stand up and speak out when we see it.  Especially if it's a privilege we benefit from.  Let's make this a fair world for everyone and judge people on their character, not birth.

1 comment:

  1. Nothing but full agreement here.