And if you were too, why it is important for us to own it.
As I begin writing this article, I ask – Do we need another article from a straight, cis-gendered individual on gender? Even if it is to accept my privilege?
I had to. As an ally of the LGBTQ+ movement, if I refuse to accept that my participation doesn’t include the same battle fought to validate my personal identity, I’m not being entirely true to myself, nor to the movement. Before we go any ahead, what is the privilegendered narrative? It is a narrative that enabled me a privilege by virtue of being born into the ‘right’ gender of the ‘right’ body. In societal (mathematical?) lingo, it’s called being born ‘straight’.
Why is being ‘straight’ a privilege? Because I grew up in a world where everyone celebrated the identity and gender that I made my peace with. A girl in a girl’s body. Score. Growing up, my choice to be effeminate was not questioned, it was enforced, applauded, supported, reinforced. Imagine that you love chocolates, and everyone supports you loving chocolates. Not only that, everyone insists upon your behaviour of loving chocolates at every living moment possible. Dainty, isn’t it? Yes, the opportunity to celebrate my identity was (is) a privilege, because, for a lot of individuals outside the ‘straight’ spectrum, it still isn’t. At this point, I know my fellow ‘straight’ internet crusaders. I can hear hurt sentiments rising- How dare you call our privilege a ‘privilege’? We didn’t choose our sexuality, nor did we have a say in our gender. Why then do you say that we choose our privilege?
Hey, I get it. To be so entitled and comfortable within your safe space that simply questioning the privilege that you grew up with is threatening to you. You haven’t been isolated from the expression of your identity. You and I- we, haven’t ever felt alienated from the way our family, friends identified us. We saw the world in binaries, and the world only saw binaries. It was a perfect fit. Hey, I get it. In fact, I have a word for it. Privilege. Again. (Be patient, the idea of entitlement also has to be spoon-fed to a few fellow cis-gendered individuals, because…you guessed that right, privilege.)
So, why is it so important for me and fellow ‘cis-gendered’ people to own their privilege? And preferably get over it? Because in lieu of queer-positive revolutions, the role for straight, cis-gendered individuals cannot be as reductionist as simply pledging allegiance to the community.
Here’s @arzoodles, a brown artist profiling queer narratives and experiences in her latest post-
….and this makes me vary of another serious entitlement. Keeping aside the generations of marginalisation that was enabled by a majority of cis-gendered individuals, if the bar for pledging allyship to Queer narratives is simply accepting that queer narratives matter, somewhere, some of us are simply caving in to the realisation that there is no longer space for a singly heteronormative society that once favoured you. Hence, our support is once again emerging from a need to conform. If you’re simply saying- ‘Yes, I support the LGBTQ+ community’ without following it with ‘Yes, I had a privilege that they didn’t.’, somewhere, your allegiance might be self-serving.
That’s what queer narratives don’t need. Token acceptance. Token support. Token accountability. Without accepting accountability for years of marginalisation that was enabled by the society that favoured our sexuality and gender, our allyship means nothing to queer experiences.
We need to do more. Like accepting our privilege. Accepting that our privilege was selfish. Accepting that our privilege was reinforced by way of rejection, that it was celebrated by way of gatekeeping, bullying, ostracization. Accepting that our privilege amounted to painful experiences of isolation. Accepting, and holding ourselves accountable. Accountability helps, because it pledges true allyship in a way that says- Yes, I’m willing to undo years of queerphobic mandates that I once profited from. Yes, I’m willing to unlearn my privilege. Yes, I’m willing to give up my entitlement. Yes, I’m willing to swear allyship.
Accepting our privilege impacts us in more ways than we think. It enables us to disregard years and years of gender stereotypes that we were compelled to conform to, it enables us to unlearn homophobic values that led to marginalisation, it helps us to define our own personality not by way of gender and sexuality, but identity.
Another thing that our privilege enables us to do is help diversify the ‘straight’ society. As heterosexual individuals, there is a massive onus to branch out to fellow ‘straight’ individuals and urge acceptance. Our privilege entitles us to a voice that is often heard. Let’s use it for the right reasons. We need to be allies to Queer narratives. Only this time, we need to do it right.
So I urge you, if we are to call ourselves allies, let’s check our privilege, and undo it.
P.S. No brownie points for counting how many times I used the word ‘privilege’ in this article.