“Privilege, or how I’m learning to start thinking and hate white men”

The title’s not entirely true. I don’t hate white men indiscriminately. Only the ones who fuel the massively oppressive world we live in. I’m genderfluid and I male-bodied. I quite like both these things about myself, although I’d love to have a clitoris too. My gender expression is almost always male as I’m quite simply not confident enough to wear clothing aimed at cisgendered women as often as I’d like to. (Of course, whilst dresses are aimed at women, they’re designed for men, being as they’re so often straight, narrow and without any room to accommodate the various features of a female body. So not only do I want to wear dresses, but they nearly always look pretty good on me! But this is off topic…)

I used to merrily spew out the opinion that my pronoun didn’t matter that much to me, while all the time stating a slight preference for the gender neutral ‘they,’ on the basis that as long as I’m seen as a person by the person addressing me I could be happy. Now I understand that only a person with a male body and gender expression can say this and get away with it, as people other than cisgendered men who are addressed using pronouns they don’t identify by, particularly those who don’t identify with ‘he’ at all, will never receive the privilege that comes along with being perceived as male. I simultaneously accepted my male privilege in some respect and denied it in others, whilst trying to disentangle myself from it all at the same time. I know that as long as my gender expression stays male I’ll benefit from male privilege, but I was almost in the position where my lack of cis privilege was totally nullified.

It seems to me that we need more discourse from a trans* perspective on the different degrees and types of oppression experienced by different trans-identifying people and the inequalities thereof. I do not believe that trans men are automatically a part of the misogyny, given the frequency with which they face comments along the lines of, ‘don’t be ridiculous, girl, you can’t be a man.’ Then we have the reverse, as we see aspirations to masculinity revered and aspirations to femininity reviled: the trans woman experiences a very different kind of transphobia in this respect. I’m still speaking very much within the binary so I feel I should branch out and briefly mention that people like me, who don’t identify as a man or a woman, and consequently experience the situation in which they’re constantly told that they’re not ‘a proper trans’ by people both inside and outside the queer community, and that ‘gender = biological sex, of which there are only two, so STFU and get over yourself’ by those outside it.

It’s so difficult for me to write anything about this sober so I’ve got myself pissed for this portion of the article onwards. This is mainly so I don’t think myself out of writing things and so I try and be honest. I have this massive amount of male privilege, which is particularly emphasised when I’m out with my girlfriend as people apply heterosexual privilege to us as well as so many other things. But I really don’t want it. I know it’s almost certainly totally offensive to say that I would prefer to live a life without the privilege I have but it’s true, because I so despise the system we live in, that privileges me over other people. I love so many people and so few of those I love get to experience the privilege I do. It makes me ridiculously sad. I do experience transphobia, and, if I make it obvious enough, queerphobia. It’s fucking shit, but ideally what I want is for no one to suffer x-phobia and for everyone, regardless of race, gender, orientation, sex, body shape and everything else besides, to be privileged. For the moment, I’d rather stand with those I’d like to ally with than experience any privilege they can’t have. This is an idealist viewpoint. In reality I cannot fail to be privileged by my whiteness, my male body, my gender expression, and so on.

I want to stand with those I want to ally without being patronising. It’s hard because the very language I speak is littered in terms that disenfranchise those who have been denied rights by my people. In learning an entire new vocabulary I start on the path towards being some tiny amount of a better person. I want to learn how to get around this problem without appropriating language or a culture that doesn’t belong to me.

I should talk about my gender and my privilege, because those are the two things I have a very immediate, personal and unique relationship with. When I am the recipient of male privilege, I feel immediately awkward and experience dysphoria. I wish I wasn’t male when I experience this, but I don’t wish for any body other than the one I have because I am totally unable to think of a body with the parts about mine that I like that is also in some way female – I simply cannot relate to such a body, as much as I want to have one. It would be simply amazing to have a penis as well as a clitoris, and never to have a period. Seriously, that’d be the fucking height of privilege right there, wouldn’t it? Organ traditionally associated with power, organ that experiences more pleasure than any other, and all without the inconvenience of bleeding profusely and expensively once a month. Just imagine if cisgendered white heterosexual men had clitorises. Everything everywhere would be a thousand more times more fucked than it is now. It would be the final, incontrovertible piece of evidence that God intended man to have dominion over woman. As it is, it’s a female thing, and so we pay very little heed to it, sometimes pretending it doesn’t exist, sometimes removing it entirely. I’d give up my Gamecube for a clitoris, and that’s not something I say lightly.

How do I respond to the gifts of male privilege? When I’m with my girlfriend, we have an unspoken agreement that she’ll respond to any questions a stranger addresses to me instead of the pair of us. When I’m with cisgendered male friends, I call them out on their bullshit. I’ve lost friends, but I’ve gained so many better ones, so it’s a selfish act really. I make an effort to understand privilege so that I can try and come to terms with my own, and I don’t try and defend my right to have privilege at someone else’s expense. I realise that having privilege whilst other groups don’t is totally indefensible and massively fortunate, and therein lies my problem; I want to rid myself of something I cannot.

I am not the victim here: I am the victor, and that is my place in society, no matter how conscious I am of the inequality and unfairness through which I’ve found myself in that position. I suppose there are others more privileged than me. But that’s irrelevant. We must all fight to understand the fights of those less privileged than ourselves, and we must do it on their terms. My typing this entire article is a contradiction. I accept that, but it’s still what I think.

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