When I was younger, I had pre pubescent disruptions in my gender identity that tapered off after a few years (likely with puberty). I’m now cisgendered, I guess, in at least as much as I don’t feel like I’m living with a secret and a lie in my day to day where I present as female. I sometimes think there is such a thing as not even gender fluid, but a-gendered or genderless, where you’d kind of feel ok in any body or presentation, and that’s why you get these mostly second wave feminists who are going on and on about how gender is performative and other stuff that comes off cissexist; I think it is true for them and they don’t realize that’s not global, but I digress.
Similarly, I was only interested in being with women for a long time. I didn’t feel like the connections I had with men could really sustain that kind of intimacy that I had with women, for a variety of reasons with which I won’t bore you, but then one of my exes transitioned to trans male. Needless to say, if I could date a man for like 2 years and not even really notice he was a man, then it turns out that I’m not one of those people who can’t date men. Fast forward five years and I’m in a monogamous marriage (poly life has never been something that felt right for me).
I have an invisible disability. My condition and challenges are misunderstood and misconstrued by ignorant onlookers, but they don’t show up to job interviews, really, nor do they physically limit my mobility.
Finally, I have a multiracial background, but do not present as anything but white unless you count the one time a scholar looked a while at the shape of my nose and perceptively asked me whether I have shovel shaped incisors after an explanation of what that is, exactly.
So basically, I am a member of many groups of which I am also, somehow, not a member. It’s weird and it’s confusing and it’s lonely. I don’t really belong anywhere and most of the people I meet don’t get me. You may have been referred here because that’s how you feel too. I’m going to try to help you. Here are a few ideas on how to deal with the intersection of privilege and “secret disenfranchisement.”
The choice whether to claim these groups and speak from these perspectives are yours. They are deeply personal choices. If you are going to do it, here’s the right way:
1) Clan loyalty is paramount; use your voice to support your own, not criticize.
The only fair way to participate in these communities without using our privilege against them is to not go against them, most especially in their attempts to advance their status. If we do, it will be in a way that is privileged. Calling for change from within or the invalidation of the actions of another community member is something another member of the community can do. It’s not for us. Maybe that seems unfair to you. I don’t think it is. I think it’s a trade. In trade for our acceptance into a home, we pledge not to chop at the pillars which support the roof. Seems fair to me. Now I’m not saying anyone is free to heap abuse on you, more that I don’t want to see “As a queer (of the specific variety who benefits substantially from the privileges dictated by heterosupremacy), I think pursuing marriage rights is problematic” or “actually, as a (not visibly identifiable) biracial person, I think blackface can be funny” or something like that. That’s disruptive and privileged. Those arguments can be made by someone who has to deal with the consequences of those notions.
2) Make yourself deeply aware of the condition of your community, its unique history and the problems it faces.
Listen to the well loved speakers in your community. Follow their twitter feeds and facebook pages and watch them on TV. This ties into #1. You should know who you’re claiming and who you’re supporting. You should be active and make sure that you’re not contributing to the downfall of your community with your lifestyle and habits in some way.
3) Admit when you make a mistake and apologize, and don’t get mad that you have to apologize.
The process of re-integration is painful and confusing and not just for you, but your community also. Be cool with that. If you are, other people will follow your lead. They may be looking to you to see whether this is a hostile invasion or a homecoming.
4) Live in your identity or don’t.
Other people don’t have the choice to step in and out of privilege, so if you really want to join them, declare your situation at the beginning of the discussion, as context, not at the end of an argument, to win. If you really want to join them, speak back to the comments you hear when people think they’re in privileged company. If they ridicule you with claims of inauthenticity, chock it up to one type of experience of the privilege of others that you must endure in order to be true to your people.
5) Make the attempt to show up for your people; to reach out to your people.
This is what neighbors do, what families do and what communities do. If your community faces a crisis, be there!
6) Forgive them for what they don’t understand about you and forgive yourself for being “other”
Because there is simply enough bullshit already wrong.