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So many privileges

Published 2014-06-03

Some while ago I enumerated my privileges elsewhere.

There are all the usual obvious ones:

  • White
  • Heterosexual
  • Cisgender
  • Male
  • Able-bodied
  • Neuronormative
  • Within the range of medically-healthy body weight and height
  • Of comfortable material means

I realize I have other privileges that are not often enumerated.

For example, my childhood was:

  • … in a physically safe place, without war, pollution or (much) violent crime
  • … at a time and in a place where educational opportunities were widely available
  • … in a powerful, rich nation that dominates global culture
  • … in a home with two married parents, who were:
    • … stably employed
    • … without substance addictions
    • … careful with money
    • … fair in their discipline habits
    • … generous with praise, love, and basic material attention
    • … parsimonious with toys and gegaws that would spoil me

In addition:

  • I speak English, natively
    • … with an accent and idiom that “sounds like TV”
    • … which is the predominant language in my community
    • … and the accepted mode of speech among my international peers
  • I had a largish extended family in near geographic proximity.
  • I come from a time and place where destructive behaviors were socially unacceptable.
  • I’m married, uncontroversially (i.e. to a woman). This is important, for men. Married men get mulligans that single men, particularly single young men don’t. We are assumed to be “safe,” where young men are not.

I (like most people) often forget these non-demographic privileges. The “normal” of my life maps closely to normative behavior as we receive it in the culture, popular or otherwise. It isn’t just that I’m white/straight/male/cis/able … it’s that I grew up with a wide net of material and emotional support. I occasionally need to remind myself of this, for example in a conversation with another white/straight/male/cis/able dude who’s working out his father issues. I don’t have father issues because my dad was there and he never beat me and he took me on nature walks and is a great dad all around.

These privileges color a lot of my emotional temperment. I can afford to be the Zen Guy With Perspective when a work confrontation won’t trigger unresolved childhood abandonment issues.

I am not a believer in luck or providence. I believe the universe is random and uncaring, and that good things flow solely from our efforts, collectively, to create them. I am the happy and largely unacknowledged recipient of many good things.