At Punk Out, we talk about how important it is for people to be out and represented. Over a year ago, my friend Jess Weber wrote one of our very first blog posts, in which she described coming out as straight to her parents. I was inspired to look at coming out differently and to write this piece. So here goes:
I am a white cisgender male. I am Caucasian, and I identify with the male gender I was assigned at birth. These are facets of who I am and I was born that way. These characteristics have allowed me certain opportunities and acceptance in a world that deprives many others of such things. When I talk about equal rights regarding gender, orientation, race, and basically anything, I am asking for others to have the rights that I already have. I am coming out and expressing my white male privilege.
When people talk about inherent privilege, I don’t think they’re asking for constant apologies for how you were born. I can’t help how I was born, just like anyone else. But I think when you have privilege, it is your job to own up to it – to come out and admit it to those around you, especially if you expect to be an ally for anyone else’s struggle. You have to admit that these struggles are not yours, and that you will never understand what they go through.
I will never know the inherent struggles of being a woman. I will never know the inherent struggles of a person of color. My own personal struggles are still valid and they are mine, but no matter how much I empathize, there is a constant truth that my perspective and experience is very different than theirs.
This past Fourth of July has caused me to reflect on another type of privilege I live – I am an American. I was born as a citizen of a country where I don’t fear persecution in the streets, where freedoms are available to me, and where my government isn’t controlled by a fascist dictatorship or religious law. I live in a country that was founded on the ideals of freedom, even if it feels like we’re always still fighting for those freedoms to be completely realized and applicable to all -- Marriage Equality is something we’ve achieved in the United States, but we still live in a time where 40% of homeless youth are LGBT identified, LGB youth are 4 times more likely than their straight peers to attempt suicide, and people who are transgender are nearly four times as likely to have a yearly household income of less than $10,000 a year.
I’ve got white privilege, American privilege, and heteronormative privilege – there are so many ways to feel like I’m the problem.
Often times, when you are someone with privilege but you are also empathetic and passionate about the rights of others, you are an ally. Being an ally often means acknowledging your own privilege, and that’s what I’m hoping to do. I’m hoping others can do it too. When advocating for rights and equality, remember to consider your privilege. Admit to the person you’re talking to that you don’t know their struggles, and you probably never will – I believe this is a good way to validate the feelings of those struggling. Admit to yourself that your opinion is still valid and important, but it is skewed and shaped by the way you’ve experienced the world. You can feel oppressed and fight back against oppressors, but remember that you most likely haven’t been oppressed – not like others have.
I have privilege and life hasn’t been all that oppressive to me, and that’s something I can’t change. That’s my experience. But I hope to still be able to stand with those struggling and fight for an equality I believe we all deserve.
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