In answering the question what is privilege my first thought was my immediate assignation of “whiteness”. The second, my assignation of “male” to privilege. The third, my assignation of heterosexuality to privilege. After, I had to question why, even now, my mind insisted that the white heterosexual male was the definition of privilege.
In relation to myself and the identities I align myself with, he is the baseline. I am a woman, as opposed to a man. I am societies’ submissive to the dominant “male”. I am black, as opposed to white. I am the historically oppressed to the oppressor of the Anglo-American race. I self-identify as bi, as opposed to hetero-sexual. I am the deviation from the norm.
When everything that my self-identity consists of is tied to an “otherness” that marks me and effects how I am expected to contribute to society, my potential economic success, and my rights as an American citizen (like marriage) I realize that the privileged are the baseline. They are the people, the bodies, that aren’t systematically disenfranchised and categorized and made inferior. The privileged can only be defined in relation to the non-privileged.
In examining the way the interviewees spoke in the documentary Diagnosing Difference, it is easy to see this concept being applied. In “tranny world” the privileged is the Cis-gendered person. The cis-gendered person is not made to go through gatekeeper tactics in order to be treated for a physical discomfort, or forced to prove that he/she the gender he/she says he/she is. They have access to things that members of the trans community do not. They are understood to be the “norm”, the dominant, the baseline and therefore, they are privileged.
I’ve come to understand that “privilege” cannot be attached to only one type of body, but changes as social spaces differ.
Citation: Diagnosing Difference (2011)