I used to avoid the word “privilege” when discussing social advantages; not because I didn’t see that certain groups were treated better, but because that word bothers people. When you go through life without that social inconvenience, people imploring you take time out of your day to help fix the injustice they experience, can feel unnecessary. You get annoyed. You perceive them as demanding “extra privilege,” because things seem fine from your perspective.
I am a man who was born transsexual. What’s more, I’m a trans man who “passes,” which means that if you met me on the street, you wouldn’t know I’m trans. Only a few months into my testosterone therapy, I began growing facial hair and my voice dropped. I was addressed with the right pronouns by strangers quickly. I get to experience that cis male privilege most of the time, and I realized this very early in my transition. The next school semester, I was only seen as a man, and I felt amazing.
Prior to, and during the beginning of, my transition, I was a very physical conversationalist; my hand or elbow would end up on someone’s shoulder. One day, in one of my college classes, we were put into groups. As I was talking to my classmates, I had my hand on a woman’s shoulder. After a few moments, I caught everyone trading glances, and when I looked at the girl, she was staring at me in a weird way. That’s when it hit me; “Oh shit, I’m a guy with my hand on the shoulder of a girl I don’t even know.” The social implications were startling.
At that point, I had officially, without trying to, been accepted into a group of people who have made such an impression on another group of people that a simple touch is seen as a threat due to experience.
Trans people call those who fetishize us “chasers.” Basically, a chaser is someone who uses our gender identities as a third wheel in order to get into the pants of their fetish. I mention this because this is so often what women experience. Women are heavily fetishized. “Fetishize” means you reduce something in real life to your fantasies of it for the sake of personal arousal. While sexual arousal is a facet of the whole issue, it bleeds into most other categories as well.
Everyone needs to be mature enough to accept that we don’t get to have whatever we want; we don’t get to warp reality to the whims of our fantasies. Everyone has jobs, goals, struggles, hobbies, preferences, families; everyone is human. When it comes to sex, the reality is that if you cannot handle someone’s humanity, you should never have sex with them. For this reason, I chose to analyze that moment where I non-consensually put my hand on that woman’s shoulder rather than label her human reaction, that was executed for human reasons, as cruel, unfair, or stupid.
I can’t say the changes in my social roles are all bad, though; I’ve never had so many people see my words as reasonable and substantial as I do now. I’m seen as a cisgender man, and I’m treated well because of it. The worst I get is some complaints leveled at my identity on social media. Why it’s worse off for anyone else is a reality worth challenging.
Women are pleading and shouting and protesting and demanding to change our laws in a way that will better represent and protect them. They are working hard to gain the respect that my gender automatically gives me. I’m breaking the silence by acknowledging that, because I’m a man, I have the privilege to choose whether I’m part of this fight or not; unlike every woman who automatically is born into this fight, where their only choice is in whether they get back up when being kicked down over and over. When I put my hand on a woman’s shoulder, I have the option to ignore or see the fear in her eyes. When I put my hand on a woman’s shoulder, she has the option to ignore or react to a potential threat.
When you rape a woman, you are raping someone who is working three jobs to feed her kids. You are raping someone who just finished a game of D&D with her friends. You are raping someone who just performed at a rock concert. You are raping someone who is graduating college and was about to move out of state to pursue grad school. You are assaulting a person because you decided you didn’t want to control yourself, and because you felt you had the right to force another human being to play out your fantasy. You have a right to enjoy your sexuality. You will never have a right to someone’s consent. Your rights end where another’s begins. Consent is not optional.
I’m choosing to use my privilege to fight for humanity. Our laws, politicians, and judicial representatives lack too much due diligence in representing an entire half of the population. If half of your population is not protected, and you do nothing to help ameliorate the issue, you have resigned to go down on a sinking ship. United, we stand, divided, we fall. Before you decide to sit back and wait for somebody to fix the issue, take a moment and realize you are somebody. Democracy is not a spectator sport.