Unpacking Privilege: Some Things I’ve Learned as a Trans Man

You’ve probably heard the term ‘privilege’ used to describe an advantage some people have over others.  I actually prefer the word ‘advantage’ because I think it accurately describes the impact of privilege, which is generally what we are looking at as social activists and allies.

I’ve posted about privilege before, but like an infinitely big onion, there always seems to be a new layer to peel back and more insights to examine.

There are advantages I have always had as a white person, as a person with a particular kind of education, and as a person who grew up in a stable home, with healthy and abundant food.  More recently, I have become the recipient of advantages due to masculinity, and then to being perceived as male.  And with my male passing privilege, and a lack of obvious stereotypical signs of queerness, people often assume I am straight.

Straight, white men are at the top of the privilege pile in this country. By virtue of how I am perceived by the outside world, I am one of those guys.  I didn’t ask for it, additional advantage was not the goal of my transition, but I have it regardless.  Trying to deny it on the basis of who I know myself to be would be disingenuous and hurtful to those who do not receive those advantages for equally unearned reasons.

I bring this up because in a recent thread on Facebook, someone I perceive to be a white male was trying to argue a point about not writing people off because of their choice of who to vote for.  Specifically, someone had posted that they weren’t going to respect people choices if they chose to vote in a way that endangered them, their families and loved ones.  The specific subject was Trump, but this applies to many candidates and measures. The poster further said that those who crossed the line would be written off, excommunicated.

A counter point brought by the man was that if your response to oppressive comments and actions was always to build walls and shut people out, there was no way to open a dialogue and possibly change minds. He argued against self-segregation and further asserted that if he wanted to be part of a better future, his duty as a citizen was to engage people he disagreed with.

On the one hand, this makes sense and other the other hand this assertion chock full of privilege.

I agree that someone needs to listen to and engage in people with opposing viewpoints.  Much can be learned and sometimes that learning is mutual and potentially this discourse helps to change minds for the better.  It is also true that not everyone can engage in that discourse without doing harm to themselves. So I nominate the guy who is white and straight and full of privilege to be the one who steps forward to engage in dialogue.

Here’s an analogy to illustrate my point:  let’s say you and some other people are in a firefight.  The other side is heavily armed and your group is hunkered down behind cover while bullets spray the area.  Within your group, you’re having a discussion about what to do about your situation.  You advocate advancing toward the other side to listen to their viewpoint and share yours.  The rest of your group looks at you in horror and flatly refuses to move from behind the cover.  You don’t understand why, after all, how will the fight ever stop if you can’t engage them in a conversation.  Meanwhile the bullets are punching holes all around you.  Finally, someone in the group points out what has been obvious to them but that you’ve overlooked:  you’re dressed in head-to-toe Kevlar and are virtually bullet-proof.  You can afford to stand up and walk toward the opposition without concern about your bodily safety.  The others in your group don’t have that advantage, they’re all in regular clothing and some have been hit by bullets in previous fights and are struggling with PTSD.

Privilege is having bullet-proof clothing in a firefight.  Privilege is having a shield that others don’t have.  Privilege comes in the form of advantages you have that you take for granted and don’t even realize other people don’t have.  Allyship is about leveraging your privilege in a way that helps those who have less advantages without further oppressing them. If your allyship includes making assumptions about what others can do based on your own capabilities, you are not being an ally, you are part of the problem.

The Kevlar analogy is just one way to communicate this concept.  Some people respond to sports metaphors.  If you are in a position of trying to bridge the gap of understanding about privilege, I think it’s useful to find out what that person’s interests are and design your metaphor accordingly.

I have come to this place where I am someone who does attempt to bridge the gap, though there are times when I will close ranks and refuse contact with opposing views for my own emotional safety.  I may look like a straight white guy, but inside I still bear the scars of being shit on by society. Sometimes you just have to pull back into your shell for safety.

Regardless of my past, my transition has resulted in me gaining a layer of protection and advantage.  It has also moved some of my social activism from that of a member of an oppressed group to that of an ally.  This element of social transition has been a difficult one.  I’ve spent most of my life dealing with shit because I was a recognizably queer woman, and later as a butch queer woman.  I added my stories about experiencing oppression through homophobia and misogyny to the chorus of others.  I was part of the group, I was recognized and welcomed into those circles and my opinion and ideas mattered.

Now, I’m the guy with the Kevlar suit.  Even though I can still remember how it feels to be disrespected because of my sex and taking abuse because of my sexual orientation, my reality has changed. It has changed not because my past has been erased or my experiences have less validity, but because of external perception.  That’s all it takes. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t ask for it.  No one asks for oppression, and the privileged don’t need to ask for their advantages.  The reality of privilege and oppression is that each is determined by other people based on what they see and perceive.

I have the Kevlar now, but I didn’t always.  That perspective allows me to speak from my lived experience about oppression and disadvantage. As I continue to unpack my privilege, I recognize more and more the assumptions I make from my position of advantage and recognize those assumptions in others.  I can enter men’s spaces and areas of privilege and that means I have a platform from which to educate.  Increasingly, that’s the form that my social activism is taking.

 

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Thank You for the Comments

Several people have taken the time to leave comments for me lately and I super-appreciate each of you.  For those of you who are loving my Daddy/girl stories, I wanted to give you a little taste of what I’m working on, and ask you a question.

“Daddy?” she asked.

We’d been watching TV together in a very non-kinky way after eating dinner.  Speaking that single word brought my whole body to attention.

“Yes, sweet girl?” I answered.

“I have an idea for a scene.” She continued when I nodded.  “I want to seduce Daddy. You’ll be reluctant and I’ll bring you over to the dark side.”

I chuckled, even that short description created a preview in my mind that was very compelling.  “Oh you will, will you? Should I resist very much?  How hard should I make it for you?”

 

Now, the question… for those of you who have done Daddy/girl play, have you ever flipped things like this and seduced Daddy?  If you have and you don’t mind sharing, I’d love to hear about the experience.

And now, back to writing.

 

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Pic

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Working on a New Story

I’m working on a new Daddy/girl story… are you excited?

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Smart, Vulnerable Posts on my Partner’s Blog

Red has been doing some deep thinking lately about gender and sex. You should check it out:

Never Say Never: More Gender Stuff

#realtalk #IPEEWHENISQUIRT

This latter one is particularly vulnerable… and this is what I think:  If you temporarily lose control of your bodily functions when having sex, YOU’RE DOING IT RIGHT!  No one has a right to shame you for what your body produces.  Along with unpacking privilege and disabling racism and misogyny  and fat shaming, I think dismantling the norm of shaming sexual practices is important work.  Shame is the root cause of a lot of problems in our culture.  Are you with me in committing to that work?

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Reading is Sexy

10288756_823035587730388_3287626445466034200_n Read something. A book, a magazine, the back of the cereal box, the newspaper, that post your friends are all reposting, the blog  you’re so behind on, the erotic stories that turn you on, the childhood favorite you’ve already read a million times, the book you borrowed from a friend and should get back to them, the instructions on how to do something crafty or arty, the voter’s pamphlet, the HR policies of the new company or agency you’re getting at a job at to make sure they do right by LGBTQ people, the posters on the walls of your favorite social gathering place, the stories people of color write about living under racism, the stories indigenous people write about living on a continent they had rights to before invaders came and made them second or third class citizens, read about history, read about the rise of fascism in Europe and the rise of communism and the rise of democracy and how any political system can be perverted by greedy people who already have the most privilege but want more, read about people in different countries, from different states, from different classes, with different histories and contexts and expectations and biases and assumptions, read.  FUCKING READ IT ALL.

Reading is smart.  Read to children, your own or others. Read to show them it’s fun, to show them reading is meaningful, to animate stories for them, to create worlds and characters for them, read to show them the world as it exists and the worlds that could exist.

And after you read, think.  Think about how there are no new stories and yet people keep writing, think about how history repeats itself, think about your privilege, think about the assumptions you make and the ways your thinking is biased by privilege you have the most trouble seeing, think about how to unpack it, think about how to acknowledge that your perspective and assumptions do not apply universally across the world or the universe. Think about the fact that we are more alike than we are different, we all are born and breathe and consume and shit and fowl our nests one way or another.

Think, read, think, read, think, repeat.  Sit still and think.  Watch the clouds and think.  Watch people and think.  Feel the blood in your veins and the breath in your chest and think. Think about the fact that all feelings are valid.  Think about meeting people where they are.  Think about what you’ve read and how it has opened your mind and your heart and see if it doesn’t enable you to meet people where they are.  Look people in the eyes when you speak to them.  Connect as one living solidity of stardust to another.

Think, read, breathe, connect.  Repeat.

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Almost Butchtastic’s Blogaversary – Time to Pay the Hosting Bills and Celebrate

On October 6th, I will celebrate the finish of my 8th year of blogging here and the start of my ninth.  Not surprisingly, during the first of October, my bill for hosting this blog will also be due.  I’m hoping some of you can help me with that.

My Patreon account has one subscriber so far, and I will be using that money to go toward my hosting expense.  I’ve also got money from the two anthologies I was published in, and those three contributions together will get me almost there, but I’m still short.   For those of you who are new to my blog and have recently discovered my Daddy/girl stories, this is a great way to help me keep those stories available and add more.

There are two ways you can contribute – through Patreon and through PayPal.

(If you contribute through PayPal, make sure to enter a note saying that the contribution is for Butchtastic).

Whether or not you can contribute to the cause, I appreciate you reading and I LOVE COMMENTS FROM FANS!  Thank you for being a part of my 8 year journey.

And, since you are reading this and interested in keeping this blog around, what should I do for my blogaversary?  I’m going to be thinking about special Patreon-only content for the event and also something for all readers.  What should I do?  Do you have ideas?

 

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Hey Fan of Butchtastic, Want to be a Patron?

Not too long ago, I launched my Patreon page.  Patreon is a platform for artists looking for supportive patrons.  The idea is that supporters pledge a monthly amount or by post and the artist does cool things for them in return, along with pursuing their art.

I got the idea from Sinclair Sexsmith at Sugarbutch Chronicles.  My friend Micah at NeutroisNonsense also has a Patreon account, as does trans actor and educator, Scott Turner Shofield.  And so on with many other artists, performers and writers.

I’m on Patreon to find ongoing funding to keep my work available and to havd additional resources for making it more accessible in different forms. For example, audio readings of my work and an e-book anthology and maybe some fun videos.  My baseline is to have enough funds to keep the blog hosted.  Beyond that, I’d like to revamp it, modernize it and re-catalog my stories so they’re easier to find.  And read.  And reread.

People who subscribe through Patreon get cool additional stuff other people don’t get.  Have a favorite story on Butchtastic?  Want a recording of me reading it?  Subscribe and make that suggestion.  Have other ideas for stories?  Patrons have greater access and more input.

My Patreon cherry has already been popped at the $5/month level, but other cherries remain. Want to be my first $50/month patron?  In addition to the posted rewards for that level, I’ll give you something extra.  Have a favorite story on Butchtastic?  Want me to read it to read it to you in a Skype call?  Make that pledge and let’s make it happen.

Want to be the one to pop my $100/month cherry?  You get a Skype chat each quarter.  I could read stories to you, or we could talk about the stories behind the stories.  If you live close enough, maybe we could plan an in person visit to celebrate your cherry-poppin’ visit.

You can also make a one time contribution via PayPal and I’ll reward you as well… especially if you give me some ideas about what you’d like.

Most of all, I want your input.  If making monetary contributions doesn’t work for whatever reason, please consider sending me feedback, ideas for stories or other content, or whatever comes to mind.  Creating can be a very lonely activity and I find myself craving community. You could be a part of that.  I hope you will.

 

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Steamy Shower Pic

I don’t know when I’ll be able to get top surgery, but transition has given me a lot that I am able to enjoy every day, like body hair, which grows with black castor oil for hair growth.  I had no idea I’d love being furry the way I do…

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Wringing Out the Sponge

I told Red I felt like a sponge that has absorbed too much and can’t hold anything more.  I used this analogy to describe my feeling of being incapable of taking on anything more.

feeling generally raw
 some days I feel like a sponge
 like all of the hard stuff is just soaking in
the way men treat women
the way white people treat people of color
the way it’s all stacked against change
the othering, the shaming, the disregard

 

I know that this sponge-like way I am is part of who I am as a writer so I can’t wish it away, but sometimes it feels like I can’t hold it all.

Do you have days when you want to renounce your species?  When it feels like no matter what we do, we can’t turn the ship enough to avoid dashing it on the iceberg we can see but so many others cannot?

I have this feeling in my center, above my gut and below my chest, it’s a tightness, like something waiting to burst. Like the way it feels when the tears won’t come.  I don’t know why it’s so bad today.  Probably related to my general stress load and this anxiety about change, but also lack of change.  I know there are changes coming that are for the best, in terms of meeting some of my goals.  I also know that change means some amount of internal chaos.  I’m a person who feels better when I have routines.  I’m good at them and they comfort me.  My routines are my security blanket.  Losing my job pulled my daily routine out from under me. I floundered for a bit before I created a new set of routines, which I have enjoyed very much (shout out to Red for offering up a space for my new routine).  It looks like I’ll have a job situation starting tomorrow and going into next year.  This is good, no doubt about it.  Having a job will relieve a big load of anxiety.  It’s also another change and means my newly created and cherished routine of spending my mornings at Red’s place with George the Mayhem Kitty will have to be dropped.  Mixed feelings for sure.

Autumn is coming.  I know many of you don’t want to let go of summer yet.  I like fall, actually, and also it is a time of changing routines.  My kids go back to school.  There are soccer practices to get the little one to and games on Saturdays.  We’ll all begin to come back in from the outdoors.  None of these things are bad in and of themselves.  I’m just too full to deal with so much change.

Too full.  Over capacity.  Overwhelmed. Needing to be wrung out.

There’s a football player who won’t stand for the national anthem because the flag stands for a country ruled by racism. A country where men who look like  him are killed by law enforcement officers even when they don’t break the law.  And he’s right and yet some people are falling over themselves to burn his jersey and belittle his moral stand.  In the same week we hear that a rapist who received a laughable 6 month term will be released after only 3 months.  Where are the people burning his likeness?  In the course of driving today, I went past a woman of color taking a walk.  My thoughts turned to wondering if she was a mother and if she was, if she had any sons.  It was not the first time I pondered the pain of knowing that your precious child would grow up to be the country’s number one target for hate and fear and murderous ignorance.  When my children were born, I held them and looked at them with absolute love and wonder.  These precious little lives that we help bring into the world, they look to us to teach them so much.  And much of what we teach is truly awful.  They learn to fear people different from themselves; girls learn to fear boys and men while boys and men learn to fear any shred of vulnerability in themselves. Our children learn all of our biases and fears and assumptions.  They learn that boys will be boys and get away with everything, including murder, sometimes, depending on their skin color.  Our girls grow up in a world where they are still treated as if they are the property of men.  We live in a society that still judges people by their skin color, by their lineage, by their gender and sexuality, by their capabilities.  What if we only judged people on their capacity to love?

I can see the problems but I can’t figure out how to fix them.  I don’t know which wires to cut, which code to patch, which wrench to throw into which machine.

Every day there is another atrocity displayed in full color on my computer screen. Another source of grief, another catastrophe caused by some mother’s child.  When we look at them in our arms, freshly minted and without hate, they are so full of love and life and the simple emotions of being alive. And from then on, this world begins to do its work, its vile insidious work.  Turning our sweet fresh humans into … OK, it’s not all bad, right?  Some of those fresh humans turn out to be pretty awesome children, kids, teens and adults.  That’s true.  I guess I’m just thinking about the ones who are weaned on hate and bias and raised to take that bigotry out into the world like spores. Spores that begin the cycle anew.

Interrupting that cycle is a huge job and though there are magnificent warriors of love and truth fighting against it every day, it doesn’t feel like enough.  All over the world, children are dying because the men in charge believe in solving problems through war.  Everyday we take more fatal blows.  Corporations are citizens and don’t give a fuck about us.  Capitalism doesn’t care if we don’t have water to drink, it just cares about its pipelines or corporate water rights.  We aren’t individuals, we’re just statistics that can be arranged in such a way that we don’t matter.

It was Red’s idea to word-vomit here as a part of my wringing-out process. A good idea, thank you. Getting my chaotic-brain voices into words does help. I’m still over-capacity. Being open-hearted and taking everything in does fuel my art, and it also causes my heart to ache. I don’t know any cure but to just keep going.

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…

 

 

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