Crossing Lines: A Transman’s Privilege

nightclub

 Anthony Doubek knew things would change once he became a man. But there were some things about suddenly being seen has a straight, white male that he just couldn’t foresee. 

My friend tells me we are going to a club down the street. I am drunk and follow along, not entirely aware of where we are going, but my friend likes this place, so I figure it will be fine.

We walk in and the club is like any other. The music is loud, the people are drunk, the temperature is 1,000 degrees, and the alcohol is marked at a price that makes me very happy I drank before going out.

As we walk onto the dance floor, I begin to notice that there is something different about this club, or maybe the something different isn’t the club, but my friends and me because I have just stepped into my first non-queer club. I am instantly more nervous and begin to sober up very quickly, because two lesbians and a transman stepping into a white straight bar sounds like the beginning to a bad news HuffPost story to me. What I have forgotten is that I pass as a straight, white, male now and that nobody notices that I am different from everyone else. In fact, I’m pretty sure none of the guys notice me at all.

♦◊♦

Earlier that week I was checking in with my supervisor at the Task Force to talk about how I was liking my summer internship with them so far. He asked me how it felt to be the only white man on the team. It shocked me because I never identified with that amount of privilege and hadn’t even realized that I was the only white man on the policy team. I told him that and then asked him if I was acting like a “typical white, cisgender, guy”, basically asking if I was flaunting my privilege. He said I wasn’t and we proceeded to have a conversation about how some cisgender (and transgender), white, young men don’t realize the privilege they have and have a tendency to take up a lot of space, both physically and metaphorically.

What I noticed that night was just that. Most of the men in the club were white and some of them seemed to be about 7 feet tall and take up a five-foot radius of space. Of course, they were no larger than myself or the other guys that I usually hang out with, but they seemed so much bigger for some reason. What I started to notice was that they were physically taking up a lot of space by pushing their way through crowds in rather aggressive, though not intentionally so, ways, and the attitudes they were displaying took up a lot of space in a whole different way. I also noticed a few of the guys acting in very offensive and nonconsensual ways towards some of the women in the club. They seemed not to notice how uncomfortable they were making other people, completely oblivious to what was going on around them.

This was a really strange experience because I was very aware of two things at that point: that I was a minority and that I was perceived as another one of these guys. I left that night with a lot of confused feelings and I am still trying to sort everything out a few weeks later.

♦◊♦

Around the same time I went to a talent show open mic event that I planned on participating in. The last event like this I had been at had been a predominantly queer space with a slightly racially diverse crowd. I was surprised to walk into this event to find that most of the people there were black. I was instantly more nervous because I would be reading a very queer poem. Every person who performed before me was a person of color. I was the first white boy to go up and the first queer person to speak. I almost considered not going up. But I started to analyze the situation I was in and realized that I had been taught to be nervous in non-white spaces and attempted to calm myself down. I decided that I would perform not only to do my usual LGBT education and awareness stuff, but also to prove to myself that I had nothing to fear from people who looked differently from me.

You know what? I got a huge round of applause, hugs and handshakes from those very people who I was nervous about performing for. I left that night feeling proud of myself for facing a fear, but still feeling kind of ashamed that I had been nervous at all.

About a week later I woke up to a Facebook full of outrage. I knew instantly that I had missed something important and I clicked on every link on my page to desperately try to understand what had happened.

Of course I knew instantly what had happened, Zimmerman had been let go and Trayvon Martin’s murder would go unpunished. The thing was, I didn’t believe it. Neither did anyone else. I was so angry and continued to get angrier as I watched people defend Zimmerman. I could not understand why this was happening. Since I was a little kid I could never understand discrimination, prejudice, or hate crimes, no matter who was on the receiving end of it.  At that moment I realized that I had grown up in a world that had set me in my privilege and prejudice at a very young age and that the only thing I could do to combat that was to use the skills I had been given and lucky enough to cultivate to change this world.

from boxers and bindersI got dressed, strapped on my most comfortable sandals and made my way to the protest. I marched in solidarity with scores of people around the world demanding justice, peace, equality and civil rights for all people. I had no idea how hot it was outside or how many buckets of sweat had poured off my body, how many miles I walked or how hoarse my voice would be tomorrow, all I knew was that I had a responsibility as a white transmale activist to my fellows in the broad movement for equality.

I later found out that many transmen don’t realize the privilege they are given the moment they become passable, especially if they are white. I used to be a visibly queer, butch woman, someone who was obviously different from the rest of the crowd. Now I have crossed over to being a very normal looking white man. Yes, I am a technically a minority, but I am an invisible minority. I almost feel like a secret agent in some exclusive society I never wanted to be a part of. But now that I am here, I figure I might as well do something good with the situation.

I know that this blog post will strike a negative tone with many people who feel that they do not have the privilege I am claiming they have. I know that some will say that an LGBT activist has no business writing about race. But honestly, our movement is a part of every movement. LGBTQ individuals are a part of every race, creed, and class, play a part in many organizations and exist at the intersections of many different identities. LGBTQ people are the strings that connect every movement and if our movement isn’t the one to bring us all together for a common cause, then who is?

Our fights are all the same tunes with slightly different lyrics. It is time we realized that and stood in solidarity with each other.

I am a white, straight, educated, transgender man who grew up in an upper middle class family and I am standing in solidarity with the fight for justice for Trayvon Martin.

Originally published at boxersandbinders.com

Photo: main kalooz / flickr, inset photo courtesy of author

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About Anthony Doubek

Anthony Doubek is a trans-gentleman looking to make a difference in this world. He writes, "I was born female but that does not make me any less of a man. I believe that everyone has the right to self-determination and that no one has the right to tell another person what they are or aren’t. I believe in Universal Human Rights and in a higher power that is not full of wrath and rules but just pure creative and loving energy." Tony blogs at boxersandbinders.com. Follow him on Twitter @boxersnbinders.

Comments

  1. You write about your new-found privilege, but don’t give any examples.

    The guys in the club were other guys; it sounds like your boss knew that you were trans-gender; and the poem is a race issue.

    The hugging isn’t really a privilege. Black men have simply learned not to go and hug white women that they don’t know very well, whereas if a white man is friendly to a black man then hugging is appropriate.

    • I should change appropriate to “likely to be well received.” It is appropriate for black men to hug anyone who wants to be hugged.

    • Hi Mike,
      I was trying to keep the post brief, but I will list a few examples of privilege that I had before being visibly male. As a visibly queer female I would often be harassed verbally when alone and with a girl. I would be given strange looks when I went to non-queer establishments and dealt with a lot of homophobic language and comments (also something I faced in bathrooms). As a man I do not face anything like this. I am allowed to walk around with a girl unnoticed and am not discriminated against in public spaces.

      I am interning at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, so my boss does know I am transgender and we just had a conversation about racism that afternoon and about white privilege and how some men (not all) are not always aware of it.

      With regards to the poem and the hugs, I was not afraid of being hugged, I am a big hugger and always welcome a friendly embrace. I was actually nervous because I had grown up with the stereotype that people of color are more homophobic (something that was proven wrong by Injustice at Every Turn: The National Transgender Discrimination Survey). The poem was about being transgender and I was nervous reading it in a crowd that was not predominantly queer where most of the people there were people of color. My perceived gender and the hugging and handshaking afterwards had very little to do with each other. The reason I included that in there was to show the moment where the institutionalized racism I was struggling against and the stereotypes that were stuck in my head were debunked.

      I hope I addressed your concerns. Next time I write something like this I will try to include more details to avoid confusion.

      Stay excellent
      Tony

      • That makes sense. When I read the article I was expecting a comparison of your experiences presenting male vs presenting female. Rather than presenting trans vs presenting male.

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