Privilege.. Something I didn’t realize I had in my twenties. But, turns out I had a whole lot of it! Now it is something I am acutely aware of as a (mostly) white, cisgender, heteronormative, able-bodied, educuated Canadian. All of these “labels” work together to allow me a high level of privilege. This is a privilege I can use to help people who currently have less of it.
What is social privilege you might ask?
“Privilege is professed to be an advantage that only one person or group of people has. These groups can be advantaged based on age, education level, disability, ethnic or racial category, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, and social class. Social privilege must be understood as the INVERSE of social inequality, in that it focuses on how power structures in society aid societally privileged people, as opposed to how those structures oppress others (Wikipedia, 2019).”
Why is this an important conversation for parents of transgender kiddos, and allies of the transgender community?
Back in January Lucy and I attended a conversation at SFU titled, “Trangender Kids are Not New” hosted by Julian Gill-Peterson. There was a ton of valuable information shared that night, but my biggest takeaway from that conversation was that if my kid was not white.. They likely would not be living their true life as a transgender kiddo. I learned that trans children are most often located near large urban centres like Vancouver, and that they are often white children of cisgender, educated, middle-class, parents. As sad as it is, this was a consideration I did not have before this night.
In more rural communities where increased racism, decreased socioeconomic status, and lower levels of education might be present, many families would have increased challenges in learning their child’s true identity, helping them live as this identity, and finding competent support. If you are a family who is struggling to put food on the table, working two full-time jobs in a week, and fighting to keep your children safe; their gender identity is unlikely to be a main focus of conversation.
My privilege means that I live my life with less fear. It means that I can access competent care to support my family. I go through my everyday life with very few barriers standing in the way of what I am hoping to accomplish. Not all transgender people will experience fear and stigma as a result of their transgender identity; but many will, and most do.
Our trans friends make up 1 - 2% of our population. They spend a great deal of time sharing their stories, educating others, and trying to create safer social spaces. They can’t do this alone, and this advocacy work can be tiresome and exhausting. Often minority voices are excluded from the conversation, are discriminated against, and are left out of formation of policy. Our trans friends need us to use our cisgender privilege to help them and give them a hand-up!
So that is what Lucy and I are calling on you folks for. Join us in examining the privileges you have, and how these relate to the biases you hold as a member of our society. This conversation is not meant to blame or shame anyone, but to get people asking the questions; what has my privilege afforded me, and how can I use my privilege to help others?