Privilege

By , April 4, 2009 6:17 pm

I’ve been thinking about privilege lately. As someone who grew up white, middle class, and (presenting to the world as) male, I’ve been near the top of the ‘privilege’ heap. I’m (culturally) Jewish, which certainly wouldn’t win me fans in all circles but hasn’t (to my knowledge) made me the subject of discrimination so far in my life. Moving through the world as said WMCM, I’ve learned to expect all of the privileges afforded to me as such. (WMCM = white, middle-class, male…doesn’t have quit the same ring as JAP or WASP, but what are you gonna do…I’m open to more witty suggestions if anyone has some.) I don’t think I’ve ever tried to claim undo privilege, ad I certainly hope that I haven’t, but I’ve read enough feminist, queer, and race theory to know that I’ve received the benefits of my WMCM privilege whether I’ve intended to or not.

Ceder over at Taking Up Too Much Space has come up with a Cis Privilege Checklist, having been inspired by Peggy McIntosh’s White Privilege Checklist. Both lists are woth taking a look at, because no matter who you are you either are the recipient of such privilege, or denied such privilege by virtue of not bing cis or white. But the lists are particularly interesting to go through from the perspective of figuring out how many privileges have been denied because of your non-cis or non-white status. (Interesting and depressing, but interesting nontheless.)

I bring up Cedar’s list because I’ve only really started making an effort to present myself as feminine while going out in the last few months, which means my legal documentation (with a male name and a big ‘M’) matches my presentation less and less. Last night, as I was going into a bar, the bouncer took a look at my ID, did a double take at me, looked back at the ID, mumbled, “But this is a men’s…oh,” handed the ID back, and let me in. I was able to take this as a compliment (unlike the last time I mentioned a similar situation) but it’s fed my thoughts on privilege, and how little thought I gave to my ID being accepted at face value before transitioning.

Likewise, I’m currently out of the allergy medication I usually use, and have been avoiding going to the doctor for a refill because he hasn’t seen me since I started going as female full-time. I know I can call the doctor’s office and (without identifying myself as a patient) ask point-blank if they’re OK with transgender patients. That’s what’s friends have recommended I do, and it makes sense, but it still feels super-awkward. From what I’ve heard from my therapist, if my insurance company gets word I’m trans it could affect my current coverage, or make future coverage more difficult. My allergist wouldn’t specifically have a reason to report anything, but it’s not like I can hide my boobs from someone who is checking me with a stethoscope. Right now, as far as I know from my therapist and from my hormone doctor, the insurance company just knows I go to therapy and have some sort of hormonal issue. Illinois has ‘gender identity’ as a protected class along with race, gender, religion, and so on, which is awesome, but I’d obviously like to avoid going to court to have my medication and doctors visits covered…

I don’t have any deeper thoughts than just to say I’ve been thinking about privilege. I haven’t come to any conclusions, so I’m not entirely sure how to wrap up this post. But take a look at both of the lists, and think about how you’ve either gained some privilege based on being cis or white (or male), or what privileges you should have and don’t due to your non-cis, non-white (or non-male) status.

-R

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