I mean, look at what’s happening with the Golden Globes.
A fun story I love to tell: years ago, when I was still working part-time as a grocer, I was speaking to a customer in Spanish. (More like, más espangles qué español, “more Spanglish than Spanish””, as I explain when people find out I’m bilingual. I’m not completely fluent, but most linguists will say that any kind of comprehension to get by can constitute fluency in that language.) The guy behind this customer–white, older, male—interrupted me to hand in my “white card” because I was conversing with this customer in Spanish.
I guess I wasn’t “white” if I spoke Spanish?!
I find it funny, how everyone wants to learn a second language, but when they find out I comprehend Spanish all of a sudden I get stared down on. Apparently, to learn a second language means something “classy” like German, French, Italian—”classy” languages. Spanish is seen as being “beneath” my dignity, or as “dirty’.
While my ancestors on side of the family weren’t technically “Nazi” as by that point they lived in the States, my grandparent still participated in the Hitler Youth, and financially contributed to the Nazi cause. I grew up as a Holocaust denier (a “soft” kind, Jews were killed but that wasn’t the focus of Hitler and his government). I grew up hearing all kinds of things before Trump’s presidency made white-powered conspiracies commonplace.
Despite the “privilege” I disagree “cis-passing” trans people like me have, I will admit I do benefit from “white privilege”: when cops pull me over, it’s for a “legit” reason. My career trajectory won’t be hampered because of a superior’s conscious or unconscious biases. If I’m lethargic for whatever reason, they may think something’s wrong and make sure I’m reassured and everything’s okay. People know I’ve earned my merits, not because of affirmative action. If I was on welfare, I would be “entitled to my ‘earned benefits'”, instead of being seen as a “welfare bum”. I’m almost never talked down to, I can get away with my edgy humor, and my suggestions are taken with consideration.
I don’t know the daily shit people of color have to suffer from, especially those whose racial category intersects with gender, sexual orientation, socio-economics, etc. Any insight I do have is as when people hear me speak Spanish, and they assume I’m Hispanic (Latino), and all of a sudden I get treated differently.
Like I lost “privilege” to my “white card”. As if I no longer “deserved” it.
A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with someone over the fact I’m “white”, with another white, straight, conservative man. (He knows I’m trans, but he treats me like he does any other man, with the same cultural expectations of any man; I live in a conservative area, so there’s no apologies if I don’t always argue for progression in order to save my ass.) The fact that other groups have “protections” if they fuck up on the job they’re protected classes, while we don’t (He’s not fully aware that where we live, if I experience transphobia I can claim discrimination, as “gender identity” is protected under our state laws where we work). Affirmative action. Feminism/intersectionalism. Immigration status. All these groups (among others), if someone complains about them, they can claim discrimination on whatever their demographic is, but as “straight, white men” we have nothing to “protect” us.
I walk this world with a foot in two worlds. Where the right sees me as “just another guy“, with all the traditional expectations and “privileges” now that I’ve transitioned and live my life as a man, because I did all the medical and legal work. The left often sees me as “trans”, rather than as a man, and think I should use my voice to lift up others; they still see me as a member of a “minority” community and use my “privilege” to help advance the rights, agendas, and whatnot of other groups. Sometimes both are exclusive, sometimes these intersect.
I’d rather see myself in terms of the ethnicities that make up my heritage. Scottish (both Scots on one side, and Highlander on another). German (Prussian, Bavarian, Austrian depending on the exact lineage). A smidge of English, enough to bear my surname and linguistic heritage. (Despite the idea I was told I’m also “native American”, my DNA disputes this.) Recently, finding out I’m hella Irish, and bit Middle Eastern. Not as “white”, but these. White groups make this hard, not to mention having Nazi-supporting ancestors as well. I am one of only a small part of my family, either side of my family, who was born “pure” white’; it breaks my heart knowing one grandparent saw me as a “favorite” only because I am white and not multiracial, like the majority of my cousins.
I am well aware of the limbo I live in. When people don’t realize I’m trans, they see me as another white boy”, with both its privileges and setbacks. When people know my “status”, it can be quite the interplay. People wonder why I transitioned, and that can lead to a lot of differing conclusions.
As I have stated before, I transitioned not to “live authentically”, but to live my life as a man. Since I was a kid, I always wanted to be a boy. In church, I always felt ashamed that—as a first-born—I wasn’t born as my father’s son to carry on his lineage. Since the age of 16 I had an inkling I was “trans”, or at the very least thinking I should’ve been born as “the opposite sex”, even if it took another 5+ years to start that journey to transition. I’m lucky enough to not have race or sexual orientation complicate that journey; I feel grateful that with supportive friends and family (and insurance!) my journey was even easier than for many.
Living in a conservative area complicates my journey now as a man, than it did as a someone trans who was transitioning. Frequently I wish I could live in a “liberal bubble”, and just live among people with similar viewpoints to my own, and not worry about all these differing opinions. I just want the divergence in opinion that I have to live with on the daily to end!
Sometimes I wonder that I’m not really human, but just a traveler gathering stories to bring with me back to wherever I originated from.