What is privilege?

If one views something to be desirable and has the opportunity to achieve it – whether by “birthright,” chance, or dedication – that person is privileged to be in that situation. The reverse holds truth too, substituting undesirable for desirable and unfortunate for privileged.

To put privilege into the context of gender, the average member of Western society follows the cisgender normative – often unconsciously – and would find that to be the desirable identity. Juila Serano notes how she is frustrated by “cissexuals who are most bothered when trans women say [they] feel like women” (226). These women may find being cisgender a privilege while seeing anyone who is gender-nonconforming as unfortunate. However, people outside the gender binary may not see their identity as a misfortune. From a viewpoint outside the normative, they can see how cisgender-identifying people “take for granted the identity of woman or man” (Serano 216). These members of society may find it a privilege to see gender beyond the averagely accepted binary. Of course, everyone is different. David Reimer would not have shared this view, for he wished someone could have “black[ed] out [his] whole past” (Colapinto xii). Privilege is a matter of perspective.

Colapinto, John. As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl. New York:     HarperCollins Publishers, 2000.

Serano, Julia. Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity. Seal Press: New York, 2007.


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