This is a re-write of a post from just over a year ago. My life has changed immensely in so many ways in since that time. In some respects, this post was an epitome of my self-repression of myself. Whilst the message of the post was and is relevant, I believe, it is full of myself making false empty claims about who I am.
It’s New Year’s Day and what better time to update a post that resonates with claims of myself that resonate with emptiness.
Privilege is as privilege does
Privilege, it’s a somewhat small word, and yet its very meaning is so deep. Those
of us who are of the privileged groups often dismiss its depth of meaning without much second thought. It’s a time in history, I believe, where we have an opportunity to really assess just how deep into everything the roots of privilege go.
The dictionary tells us that privilege is:
And that certainly is true. Groups that lack privilege call on us to check our privilege before we wade into things. Before we try to be an ally. Before we try to present discourse on a debate. Before we pontificate our opinion on issues that are of real importance and justice to them. They do this because it needs to be done. And generally,
if we a neglect to check privilege we are means being very darn good at tripping over it.
I for one have tripped on my privilege plenty of times.
I have quite a bit of privilege. Whether it feels that way to me or not it is true.
I still have quite a bit of privilege, even if it is less so.
Yes, I am a member of a marginalised group being an autistic
man, and proudly I claim membership of this group. I encounter disadvantage as a member of this marginalised group. Being a part of this group means I encounter marginalisation, silencing, gas lighting, rejection and discrimination amongst other things. But….
I am also a member of a western social democracy
I am also a white (Caucasian)
I am also male
I am actually a trans* woman
I am also married
I am now separated.
I also have children.
These don’t counteract the fact that I am a member of a marginalised group but they are separate to it. They are things that assign privilege to me. Privilege that is difficult to understand. It is privilege that you can’t negate. There are special rights and entries that these things provide me that can’t be ignored or made redundant.
At this point I can sense the groans of
fellow white males who may be thinking, here we go again with the anti-white anti-male sentiments. I confess, I have been one of those groaners, in the past, even if wrongly. But that’s not the point here. The point is that privilege is there no matter how I think or feel about it.
I will never be profiled as a potential criminal based on the pigment of my skin.
I will never have my intentions around children questioned based on my sexual orientation.
This is no longer true as a trans* woman sexually attracted to other women this will be regularly questioned.
I will never be in a situation of being unable to enter a public amenity due to a non-binary gender.
Each time I use a public restroom I have a fear of being outed as trans* and made to use the mens restroom and place myself in an unsafe situation.
I do not have to fight a legal battle to ensure the inheritance rights of my partner because of my sexual orientation.
I lost my partner in large part due to my sexual orientation. It’s complex but it’s true.
My fitness to parent will not be questioned.
My fitness to parent will be regularly questioned.
I will never ever have to face any of those issues. The reason is privilege. I need to check it.
I still need to check my privilege. I am still white, I still have a level of economic privilege.
Yes, I really do. Like it or not we all do. Because I will never know what it is like to walk the streets as a person of colour and worry about how I may be treated on that basis. I will never have to be concerned that I have no chance of justice because I will be prejudged on the basis of the colour of my skin. So yes. I need to check my privilege.
I need to do this intentionally. When I write about autism issues I write as a member of that marginalised group. When mothers of autistic children write about autism they do not. They are then in a position of needing to check their privilege.
If I were to choose to write about issues of mobility and access for those who rely on a wheelchair, I would need to check my privilege. I am not a member of that marginalised group. I have no concept what it is like to negotiate a shopping centre, or anything for that matter reliant on wheelchair transportation.
An important takeaway here and one that I have learned the hard way is that membership in one marginalised or disadvantaged group does not excuse one from checking their privilege in relation to other marginalised groups.
Does this mean we should not or can not speak into situations and issues that we have privilege in? No, not at all, but it does mean we defer to those that are without privilege. This applies in many areas. For instance, on the issue of marriage equality and equal rights to parenting for LGBTIQ people, I am entitled to speak what my opinion is on this issue, I am entitled to speak in support of justice around these issues.
But, I must do so, with a clear understanding that I will never be on the issue, I will never have true empathy and understanding of the issues of justice and equality that the members of this group have. Turns out, in fact, that I do have, or am beginning to have empathy and understanding on this issue.
Yes. I must check my privilege and I must continue to do so.
As I have said I have learned this the hard way. I have hurt people I cared about by failing to check my privilege and being arrogant enough to believe that I was not operating from a position of privilege.
This above paragraph is interesting to read over and reflect on. As I was in a state or repressing my true identity, and presenting as a male I did for all intents and purposes have that privilege, and yet, I never truly felt a part of the male gender, I never felt truly a man, or truly able to be a part of that. That doesn’t deny that the privilege was there and that it wasn’t felt doesn’t change that it applied. And yet…
To move this post back to my world of experience, I would like to finish with the comment that I am convinced that this is the very issue that causes such angst and animosity between the so-called autism allies and autism parent community with the actually autistic community. When websites like The Mighty publish horrendous pieces like MeltDown Bingo as they recently did it is primarily because they failed to check their privilege. The Mighty claim to be a disability ally and yet they published such a horrendous piece.
It is a similar situation when we see autism parent bloggers and so-called warrior parents write about the difficulties of their autistic kids or post compromising photos or videos of their kids in their underwear and so forth. It is that they have failed to check their privilege. And when checked by actually autistic adults about some of those things, the failure to check that privilege is clear as often the response to this is something along the lines of it is my life and my right to publish what I like. Yes got it in one, it is your privilege that enables that, and it is your child’s lack thereof that leaves them incapable of stopping it from being published.
Yes, I must check my privilege and yes I must continue to do so.