Thursday, May 28, 2009

Fear of a Diverse Planet

Warning: some of the links below may be triggery, as I went to the originals.

The Sotomayor nomination has once again driven the white male protestant establishment--who after all suffer from the greatest discrimination--in an uproar. And as usual a new coded language emerges--Sotomayor is a "bully" for dressing down (male) lawyers, that she got her nomination thanks to affirmative action, and, of course, she's not qualified.

The idea that the white guys might be biased against everybody but white guys is of course ignored.

That is, of course, the gift of privilege--the ability to ignore it or pretend it doesn't exist. White men are "normal" in this country--anybody not a white guy is a "minority" even though white men--and men in general--are the real minority in this country.

One of the things about being trans is that it has the potential to help you visualize your privilege, especially if you were, like me, a white male crossdresser--outside I looked no different than any other guy (well, except for the groomed eyebrows and long fingernails), but I knew that if anyone knew about my inner life, I'd immediately lose my "normal" status.

Not everybody makes use of this opportunity. I've met incredibly chauvanistic crossdressers--and even transsexuals aren't immune; I've encountered many who were so busy sandcastling their privilege that they try to deny the womanhood of other transpeople. (Warning: super-triggery.)

(I'd be on their list for fessing to having identified as a crossdresser.)

Those who do, however, learn an important truth: that "normal" can't live in the abscence of "abnormal"--that there always has to be some shadowy Other who opposes all your basic values. The shock of those people of privilege--like myself--who realize that their transness has made them that Other can often lead them to feel solidarity with all the other Others. (Perhaps this is why trans people still support lesbian and gay rights even after one of the largest gay rights groups threw us cruelly under the bus during the ENDA fiasco last year.)

Privilege is afraid of diversity, because it forces it to confront the Other; privilege hides in the language that underprivileged people use in order to subject them to ridicule; privilege, in short, is nothing else than fear of the Other, of losing that which didn't belong to it in the first place, of having, in other words, "normal" become normal--a world where our various diversities of race, gender, religion, sexuality are no more important than our diversities in favorite sports team or ice cream flavors.

They live in fear, unfounded fear because diversity has never hurt anybody. Except in their minds.

1 comment:

  1. Discovered your blog very recently and really enjoying the clarity of your analyses re privilege. I follow a few radical feminist blogs and rarely comment- just wanted to give you some encouragement. I used to be active in the bisexual movement for a while, and we experienced many throwings-under-the-bus, plus a good alliance with local trans groups.

    Another source of privilege that seems to produce a really impenetrable imperviousness is class privilege. Am spending my 40s unpicking that one, thanks to my relationship with a working class Scot, while living in Scotland as a middleclass white person from abroad. It's a real roller-coaster when forced to confront these things and realise what a jerk one has been in the past and may still be unwittingly being.

    Keep up the good work!