Privilege is a dangerous concept. Dangerous in the lack of understanding about it, and dangerous in the fact that a person doesn’t need to exert that privilege.
There are certain aspects of personality and identity that creates possession of a certain privilege. Based on the color of our skin, we may possess white/caucasian privilege. Based on our gender, some people possess male privilege. Based on our sexual orientation, there is heterosexual privilege. Dependent on our age, there is youth privilege. Privilege is based solely on our membership in a certain grouping or having a certain aspect of our identity.
Talking about privilege is always elicits a certain emotional response. Sometimes, it is a positive response, of realization and awareness. Sometimes, a negative response of defensiveness and hostility, due to feeling accused of exerting influence or privilege. But, I will say once again, that whether we possess privilege and exert it or not, we possess it, which is the potential problem.
Privilege is a problem in that there is an a perception when a person is a member of a privileged group, that that entitles said person to have a status that is higher or defined as more important than others. More valued than others. Privilege is divisive rather than inclusive.
There is such a thing, as mentioned above, as heterosexual privilege. Many members view others through the lens of heterosexuality being the norm, the way to be, the way that things should be. So, portrayals of couples, families and individuals on television, in movies, or in magazines and stories are predominantly heterosexual in nature. There are depictions that are homosexual in nature, but they are far less common, and seen therefore as the exception rather than the rule. As a result, it becomes more presumed that it is more normal for heterosexuality to exist.
The privilege comes through the issuing of rights of being a heterosexual person in this society. As a couple, you can marry one another. As an individual person, you can speak about your personal relationships, falling in love, and dating, in an open manner and it is encouraged and accepted. As a married couple, you can file taxes together, be each other’s beneficiary in case of death; have all of the rights of a married couple.
It is a joy to meet those with privilege, who are willing to acknowledge the fact that they possess such privilege, without defensiveness and hostility. They open up their own minds to awareness, and therefore, can look at the world through a bit of a different lens; one that keeps that privilege in mind, and is more cognizant of their role in exerting that privilege, and to more actively advocate for those not in the privileged group.
All is not lost, however. Awareness is the key. Communication is the key. Love is the key. Looking at others through the eyes of love, compassion and understanding. A willingness to make the changes where they can be made, for equality and compassion and mending the relationships that have been damaged between groups. Equalizing things a bit.
I was so hopeful earlier this year, when Vermont overwhelming stated that civil unions have worked so well there, without the sky falling in, that full and equal marriage was the next logical step. The legislature overwhelming approved it, it went through the judiciary committee very successfully, and was sure to be voted in.
Today, the governor of Vermont has vowed to veto it.
Why? Who knows the real reason. But, the bottom line is, we as LGBT persons, want the equal rights, want the opportunity to formally acknowledge our relationships so that we can ensure our participation in the equal privilege.
Hope, hold onto the hope, always the hope.