Hello Testosterone, Hello Heteronormative Privilege

Ed. Note: The title of this piece refers to “Hello Estrogen, Farewell Heteronormative Privilege,” an essay recently posted here by Annika, a trans woman.

I’m a feminist and I’ve always been a feminist and I’ve been a queer advocate since I understood what “queer advocate” meant. I remember feeling the fire of resistance when I read the Berenstain Bears book No Girls Allowed. Brother Bear and his boy friends built a secret clubhouse and posted a sign out front that said “NO GIRLS ALLOWED.” There was even a drawbridge and mote to ensure the clubhouse remained for boys only. I was outraged.

So imagine my discomfort when the secret clubhouse that exists in real life (and has even more exclusionary policies) let down the drawbridge for me and extended an offer of membership. Actually, I wasn’t even offered membership – I didn’t have the chance to decline. It’s like I woke up one day and was a card-carrying member of the straight white men’s club.

I’m not going to lie. In addition to the discomfort of unearned privilege, being a straight white upper-middle class higher-educated guy in a world that loves dudes like that has also felt pretty nice. First of all, it’s been extremely stress-relieving to be seen as I am, and the male and hetero privilege being thrown at me does indicate the outside world’s perception and affirmation of my true gender and sexual identity. Second, being seen as “normal” is refreshing.

Annika wrote a really great and accurate piece on how interacting with the world is different for her now that she is part of a visibly lesbian couple. I experienced everything she describes in reverse. Since I was 17, I’ve dated women. As a visible lesbian, I experienced everything from uncomfortable public displays of “support” for my “lifestyle” to strangers’ awkward attempts-to-not-stare to obvious pornographic stares from straight men to hurtful homophobic verbal and even physical accosting.

When you’re visibly queer you have what women’s studies professor Daphne Patai first labeled “surplus visibility.” Essentially, when a space has long been dominated by one group of people (heterosexuals in this example), any minority presence (the queers!) appears excessive, gathers a great deal of attention, and is often deemed offensive by members of the majority. For example, while a man and a woman holding hands often go completely unnoticed by passers-by, two women holding hands are always seen.

For the first time since I was in high school, I could blend in. I didn’t have to be seen.

Once I started living as a man and transitioned to be seen as one by the rest of the world, I lost all visible queerness in my relationships and dating. And I lost this surplus visibility. For the first time since I was in high school, I could blend in. I didn’t have to be seen. Me holding hands with the girl I was dating didn’t mean something bigger than an acknowledgement between the two of us that we liked each other; it wasn’t a political statement; no one found it offensive.

When we called to book our North Carolina ocean-front hotel room for spring break, my girlfriend at the time said she’d be there with her boyfriend and the stranger on the other line said “aw.” For the first time, my relationship with a girl was celebrated by society at large as typical, cute young love. In the heteronormative world we live in, as I’m sure most of you reading this know, the love within visibly queer couples doesn’t receive that simple appreciation. That love is most often met with confusion, judgment, or voyeuristic curiosity.

So I’m getting a taste of the privilege awarded to straight couples – the privilege I knew existed in that secret clubhouse but really had no full awareness of until now. And while it’s as nice as you might imagine to suddenly not have to deal with all that surplus visibility, seeing and feeling the discrepancy between living as a gay woman and living as a straight man makes me want to work even harder to dismantle this heteronormative world. So my lesbian housemate can bring her girlfriend to Thanksgiving dinner without someone dropping a plate; so my queer friend in Arkansas can buy his date’s dinner without the waiter getting confused; so Annika can cuddle with her girlfriend in the backseat and tell her she loves her without fearing the cab driver’s reaction. So everyone’s love, sexual desires, and relationships are finally treated as normal as anyone else’s.

And sometimes I miss my queer visibility. Not only do I routinely feel guilty for my heterosexual privilege, but I also miss being a constant upset to the assumptions and rules of heteronormative society. Being queer was a large part of my identity for a very long time, and it was important to me that I was acknowledged as such. I wanted everyone to know that I was bringing this heteronormative system down! Now I just look like a cog in the machine.

And I miss the camaraderie among all of us visibly engaging in the queer battle. Two years ago, I was one-half of what the world saw as a college-aged lesbian couple. We loved holding hands as we walked through her Manhattan neighborhood. We lived for the approving smiles of other queers who seemed to be saying “yes! good for you! be you! be happy! fight the good fight! we’re with you!” One year later, I was being read as male and we no longer appeared to be fighting the good fight. When we smiled at queer couples, they usually didn’t smile back.

I’m still navigating what this privilege means. I don’t want a membership to any clubhouse with a sign that says “NO QUEERS ALLOWED.” But as long as they’ve let the drawbridge down, maybe I can rile things up from the inside?

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120 Comments

  1. Thumb up 1

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    You have heteronormative guy privilege yet you still have, to some degree or other, a queered body (although I certainly acknowledge many trans people have greatly varying views of their bodies) and a trans history. As someone in a similar situation, I suggest we get a strong taste of what cis-people get in their respective genders (including the resultant oppression and privilege), but it’s never exactly the same. There is always that lingering difference (the ‘Scarlet T?’), which, unfortunately, can pull the rug out from under one’s feet when you least expect it. The Nikki Arraguz case in Texas is an excellent example of that: honored widow one day… transsexual “imposter” the next.

    But anyway, I am really glad to hear a trans guy own up so thoughtfully to this “gift” you’re getting because, far too often, there’s a lot of denial about from those quarters that trans women, on average, have it a whole lot harder—which, btw, I’m convinced, we do. :(

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      “yet you still have, to some degree or other, a queered body ”

      I really don’t think that is an OK statement to make. You don’t know if Sebastian views his body as “queered”. Yes, he clearly has stated he still identifies as queer, but maybe he views his body as male, you just don’t know, so you shouldn’t be making assumptions like that.

      There are trans men who do not ID as queer and do not view their bodies as “queered” and it’s really not right to make assumptions like that about others bodies’ and how they view them – trans history or not.

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        Which is why I said people have widely varying views of their bodies. He has a queered body according to the people who are more than willing to strip him of his “heteronormativity” at the spur of the moment. As in my reference to Nikki Arraguz, who was a straight, white woman and an honored widow of a fallen firefighter until she was “exposed” as being a trans woman and it all fell apart. How you view your body and history are quite different than how mainstream society might view you (including the media, if you’re ever unfortunate to get in its spotlight). I don’t experience or ID myself as queer either, but I know that’s not how society might experience me.

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          ah ok got it, sorry i completely misinterpreted what you were saying, thanks for clearing it up for me. i agree 100% with what you said

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        @transguy

        “Yes, he clearly has stated he still identifies as queer, but maybe he views his body as male, you just don’t know, so you shouldn’t be making assumptions like that.”

        I’m not sure of the exact words, but I do remember Sebastian writing something like ‘I identify with parts of my past that aren’t only male’ in his first post on autostraddle. It’s hard to talk about this stuff without using terminology that won’t hurt anyone or miss the point somehow, but I do think this was a fair account of what Sebastian’s been (quite eloquently I must say) describing.

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    Sebastian, you’re still part of the queer family, and we’ll always love you. Gotta say though, it must be nice to have bonuses in settling into your real gender identity (and I say that sincerely without snark).

    Keep on fightin’ the good fight, bro. We need more men on our side!

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    Yes. Yes to all of this.

    I’m not on T yet, but I do manage to get read as male fairly consistently in public and everything you wrote is just, I have no words, you put it perfectly. It’s weird because it’s not privilege I want, but I have to accept it and try to dismantle it, because just acknowledging it is privilege is not enough. I don’t identify as straight, but still getting afforded that privilege (even with my super queer girlfriend) is a supremely bizarre experience that I don’t know I’ll ever get over. And I for that day if I ever do get over it.

    In summation, this is spot on, and I like to ramble a lot.

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    When I was Eje bisexual I had experiences with both clubhouses too. I got to notice the discrepancies pretty well. Going to IHOP with my boyfriend meant I was getting breakfast. Going to IHOP with my girlfriend is a political statement we make being all queer next to people just eating pancakes across from each other.

    Also, when I’m with a girl (romantically or not) out and we see a queer couple we do get the smiles, the Fight the Good Fight attitude. When I had a boyfriend, and even now with my guy friends, the acknowledgment is lost. Suddenly my same smile looks patronizing at the worst and just nice at best, but not so queer anymore.

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    honestly reading that berenstien bears book was like a serious moment in my childhood. i never forgot it. in my house, there was no gender, my brother and i were just people, but it was a book about what might happen to me when i left the little bubble of my hippie-land for the world and omg, i was traumatized. seriously.

    that’s all

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    I wanted to say that I didn’t even get to start to address the MALE privilege that I’m starting to see and the “dude” culture I’ve also suddenly been accepted into. Another post for another day.

    Also, can I just give a shout out to the editors who make my blob of text look so wonderful each time?

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    But darling, being Queer isn’t necessarily about sexuality. One of my bio-boi friends, who currently is only sleeping with women, is one of the Queerest people I know. I would say Queerness is something that you can always keep and identify with, regardless of what others might think or see. You can’t do anything about the privileges you do have, but it is good that you are recognizing them and wanting to address those.

    Also, on a side note, you are fucking adorable.

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      not trying to call you out but using the term “bio” to refer to cis men is not really accurate and might offend some trans folk. biology is much more than genitalia. i do believe sebastian has written in his blog about how you can be trans and biologically male. so cis is the way to go!

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        I actually prefer the term cissy, but that has yet to catch on. I’m trans and all of my trans friends are fine with bio-boi, so that’s what I use. I live in a climate where just surviving drains almost all my energy daily. Keeping up on politically correct terms isn’t something I have much time, or energy to do, honestally.

        I need a nap just drop typing that out!

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          i understand, but just letting you know that there are a lot of trans people who find the term bio to refer to cis folks as very hurtful, as it implies trans people are not biological and somehow inauthentic

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          Yes, I understand that. Yes, I am Trans and I understand what you are saying. Yes, yes, yes.

          But what I am saying is that having the ability to be ‘politically correct’ constantly is a privilege that I don’t have. I’m an anarchist living in a small town in the south, I don’t have a single person around me who shares the same values as I do, do you know how draining that is? I know nothing about you, so maybe you do know what that is like. But you also might be someone who has never lived in a small town, or the South, or in a town with almost no support network.

          I’m not using that as a get out of jail free card, sure, you should call me out on the things that you see as shit. I applaud you for that. On those rare days that I have the energy to do so, I do the same. But you should also realize that I don’t have the ability to please anyone. Should I also stop openly identifying as a slack-jawed Faggot? Yes! I am sure (and know) the gays (you know, the card carrying, the-last-inequality-in-america-is-gay-marriage gays) would say yes, yes, yes!

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          Being aware of hurtfulness and trying to avoid it is not the same thing as “pleasing” people. I feel like the assumption is that because you are trans*, you can use whatever terms you desire, so long as you personally are not hurt by them.

          It’s never a good idea to assume a group is monolithic, even if it is one you belong to; I, personally, am a woman, and loathe the word “cunt”. Plenty of women do not loathe that word, but I do. Sometimes, other women say it around me, and it hurts me, so I tell them, and I appreciate it when they respect me enough to avoid hurting me.

          That’s it. It’s not wanting to hurt anyone, especially in a space you like. What you identify as is purely up to you, and more power to you, but when someone very politely points out a way in which you may have been hurtful, I think you owe them and anyone you may have hurt the respect of just apologizing and refraining from the word in this particular space.

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    What a fantastic, well-written article from a perspective I have never been privilege to before. Thank you for writing it, and thank you for taking the time to reflect on what so many may take for granted.

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    Hey, Sebastion. This is another great article, and espescially timely considering the impending release of the Chaz Bono documentary. I mention that documentary because I read a review in the New York Times that was a little troubling for me.

    In the film, [Chaz's Girlfriend] Jennifer is hilariously outspoken about her ordeal, coming to terms with her lover’s gender transition.

    “Jenny and I had to relearn how to be together,” Chaz said. “I never really understood women before, to be honest, but I had a tolerance for women that I don’t have now.”

    I laughed. Chaz blushed.

    “No, really. There is something in testosterone that makes talking and gossiping really grating. I’ve stopped talking as much. I’ve noticed that Jen can talk endlessly.” He shrugged. “I just kind of zone out.”

    “You just don’t care!”

    “I just don’t care!” He laughed. “I’ve learned that the differences between men and women are so biological. I think if people realized that, it would be easier. I would be a great relationship counselor. I know the difference that hormones really make.”

    You can read the whole review here.

    Anyway, I had a lot of feelings about that piece vs. this one. First off, I feel like some (but obviously not all!) trans guys feel the need to embrace new found manliness with some casual chauvinism. I’m afraid that Chaz falls into that category, which is unfortunate. I hate speculating too much on this kind of stuff though, because I am not a trans* guy and it’s impossible for me to totally understand the experience.

    Anyway, I’m not quite sure what I’m trying to say with this comment, but I just wanted to reiterate that I love this article. It’s a great perspective that I knew was out there, but hadn’t read before. Obviously the patriarchy hurts more than women; it hurts everyone.

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      Aw fuck. The quote was supposed to be italicized. The part that I quoted was:

      In the film, [Chaz's Girlfriend] Jennifer is hilariously outspoken about her ordeal, coming to terms with her lover’s gender transition.

      “Jenny and I had to relearn how to be together,” Chaz said. “I never really understood women before, to be honest, but I had a tolerance for women that I don’t have now.”

      I laughed. Chaz blushed.

      “No, really. There is something in testosterone that makes talking and gossiping really grating. I’ve stopped talking as much. I’ve noticed that Jen can talk endlessly.” He shrugged. “I just kind of zone out.”

      “You just don’t care!”

      “I just don’t care!” He laughed. “I’ve learned that the differences between men and women are so biological. I think if people realized that, it would be easier. I would be a great relationship counselor. I know the difference that hormones really make.”

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        ^ Seconded.

        As a pre-T genderqueer transboi, I have zero desire to “man it up” so to speak. I love gossiping and talking to my friends. Hell, I even went to Kylie Minogue the other week and I was squealing jumping up and down during the entire show! (Okay, maybe not squealing, but I was obvs super excited and not caring that I was acting like a 13 year old girl) The only thing that has really changed about me since I came out is how I dress (slightly more masculine than how I’d like to once I get the fat redistribution effects from T) and slightly more conscious about how I walk, both to help me better pass as a guy.

        Couple that along with knowing several trans* guys who also did not adopt a set of stereotypical masculine/male traits, I would say that it’s really up to the individual. They do mostly identify outside of the binary though, which is a rising trend amongst transgender folks.

        Within the past 5 years, more and more trans* people identify with some sort of gender fluidity or somewhere along the gender spectrum rather. From my understanding, previously such identities were scarce and I think there was a much larger pressure from both the medical community and the trans community to conform to hyper-gendered roles for those who wanted access to HRT or SRS.

        Personally I think it’s a bit unfortunate too. I don’t think anyone should be pigeonholed into being more masculine or feminine than they actually are because of heteronormativity. Then again, Chaz (and other guys) might have always been that way and wasn’t heavily influenced by norms during his coming out/transition/living as male. I have no idea.

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          I definitely hear you on not conforming to assumed gender standards and practices. I’m m2f and I’ve found an infinite reserve of peace and fulfillment as I’ve discovered my true gender, but never once have I felt the need to be “girly”. I’m pre HRT so I don’t know if my perspective on existence will change with hormones, but I’m for now I’m just so proud of who I’ve been able to become since coming out. I know that I’ve changed how I carry myself, but I’ve never forced anything, I just go with what feels comfortable and natural.

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          Word! That’s the way it should be. I’m happy you’re much more comfortable with yourself, I totally feel the same way. :)

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          On one hand I’m glad that there just IS a poster boy for the trans male community, espescially one that is relatable to my mom, or for that matter my grandmother. As stated in the article, he didn’t choose to be a huge role model, it’s just something that happened and in that sense I think he needs a little slack, but at the same time I can totally understand feeling marginalized by his image.

          I feel like the representation of trans* community right now is still the equivalent of how gays and lesbians were represented in 1996. Ellen was just saying “yep, I’m gay”, and it was a big fucking deal. I’m not saying that Chaz is enough and everyone should just be satisfied, but I think this he is an important first step towards real representation.

          How many people still watch those horrible episodes of Jerry Springer about people who had “sex changes”? The way I see it, that’s where a good portion of out country STILL is, which is obviously upsetting.

          What I’m saying is Chaz is not perfect, but I still think he’s a step in the right direction… even if some of his comments are making the queer third wave feminist in me scream.

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          My feelings exactly, we may not always have the best representatives standing for us, but we’re all human and we need all the help we can get. One of the biggest challenges for the trans community is finding consistent role models because far to often the ones who “complete” their transition fade into the woodwork of heteronormative society. I’m not saying that everyone does, and every trans person has the right to live their life as they see fit. But I would hope that those who are further along in the process recognize that they needed people who came before to help them find the path, and they should help those just starting off.

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        I heard he had a change of heart though, and he’s decided to walk around for a week with a sign that says, “I’m a transsexual” slung around his shoulders. His reasoning was, “Why not just come right out with it and let the shit fall where it may?”

        :D

        That priviledge card can be revoked at any minute baby, and conditional acceptance isn’t acceptance at all :).

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          The straight romance world is very good at convincing straight girls that if I they don’t tolerate just about everything short of abuse* in a guy they find attractive, they will be single and lonely forever.

          *or even that some times. Exhibit A: Twilight books.

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      “trans guys feel the need to embrace new found manliness with some casual chauvinism”

      I’d be careful with this. There are plenty of trans guys who were always chauvinistic and it has nothing to do with transition whatsoever. I would be careful about chalking it all up to some need to be super macho due to being trans

      Some guys are misogynist assholes. Period. And it has nothing to do with cis vs. trans. There are some cis guys who were raised by radical queer feminist lesbian moms and turn out to be republican misogynist dicks (I swear I know 2..) Similarly, there are some trans men who are misogynist dicks despite having a trans experience that one would hope would prevent that sort of attitude.

      Also, not all trans men have “new found manliness”. I’m a stereotypically masculine/manly trans man who has ALWAYS been this way. it’s not “new found” however, I’m also a huge feminist and my being masculine does not = chauvinist

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        Yep. Heck, there are plenty of *women* around, sadly, who say similar things (the “I just don’t get along with other women” type). And I can imagine that the kinds of pressures that make some women say misogynistic things — the need to “side with” the dudes because that’s where the power is — could easily affect trans* guys as well.

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          Some of the worst misogynists I’ve met in my life are other women, including my stepmom – who assume that because they are happy dedicating their lives to their husbands and kids, that must be what makes all women happy.

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          I’m not ok with the implication of this comment; the wording makes it sound like you are saying that a woman who doesn’t tend to have a lot of women friends is necessarily a misogynist “siding with the dudes”; as though the two things are mutually inclusive. Perhaps that is not what you meant, but this is hurtful to me.

          I am a woman. Who doesn’t have many women friends. Who is also a feminist. Who is not intentionally seeking out dude friends, or ragging on women for “all that stuff ‘they’ do”. I just have mostly male friends. I don’t care to analyze why that is; it’s simply a fact. Should I seek out female friends simply because they’re female? That sounds exactly as ridiculous as refusing to be friends with women simply because they’re women.

          Anyway, yes. Thanks for listening.

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          No — maybe reread? Cause I said: ‘the “I just don’t get along with other women” type,’ definitely not: ‘the “I don’t happen to have a lot of female friends” type’ (which, is that even a type? I wouldn’t think so; I think it’s just a circumstance). There have definitely been times in my life when most of my closest friends were guys, and some of my social circles are almost entirely male. I was talking about the sort of thing you touch on — the “ragging on women for “all that stuff ‘they’ do”.” Cause, you know, I *do* think it’s problematic for anyone to say they categorically don’t get along with half the human race, any way you slice it.

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          Saying “I don’t normally get along with other women” is not the same thing as being a misogynist. That’s all I was saying, which I still believe you are implying.

          It’s kind of silly to assume saying “I don’t tend to get along with other women” means “I categorically don’t get along with women”, isn’t it? Has anyone ever met all the women in the world?

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          Are we reading the same words here on the screen, that I typed?? At all? Your ideas about what you “believe I am implying” are really weirding me out. Like, I don’t know you, at all — I am for sure not trying to secretly attack yr character, and I am not sure why you would try so super hard to read things into my comments that are just not in the words that I wrote.

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          It won’t let me reply to your latest comment, but…

          I believe I said that I may have misinterpreted your comment, which I may very well have. However, all I said was that it was hurtful to me, and telling me I’m trying to read things into your comment doesn’t negate my hurt feelings. You can’t just say “oh, when I said x thing that accidentally hurt you, I didn’t mean to hurt you, so you’re just being a supersensitive person and I’m going to dismiss you now.”

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        Yea, I’m sorry I should have worded that differently because you’re completely right. Some people are just sort of assholes at heart, queer or otherwise. I didn’t mean it to sound like transitioning, or being trans, or even being male was causing people to become more chauvinistic, more that it was something internalized that could possibly come through. That’s not to say that only men can be chauvinists either, because I know plenty of women who do it too.

        And yea, I realize not all trans guys wanna be super manly. I just got the impression that that’s what Chaz wanted from the article. That’s what that statement was referring to.

        Anyway, sorry if I offended! I specifically posted that comment (and a link to the article) to get a perspective on it from actual trans* guys, which you have supplied! Thanks!

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    This is so so good, thank you so much for sharing it!

    I’ll admit that there have been times where I’ve seen a hetero couple at a gay bar and rolled my eyes internally a little, but I’m trying to stop that because of things like this. You never know. And why should I judge others, when that’s what’s done to me?

    I also relate to it because I get a lot of hetero priviledge myself. I’m always read as straight. So, I am the “obnoxious” gay that people complain about; I always out myself. I just don’t want any priviledge or kindness that I wouldn’t recieve if they knew I was gay.

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      Thanks for trying to stop, my bi cisgender boyfriend and my bi cisgender female self appreciate it =D

      Especially because it drives me a little nuts when people assume I’m straight when I’m with him. I totally get that Obnoxiously Out thing because I am SO right there with you.

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          Amen. I seriously wish I could just wear a sign on my forehead that says “Nope, Not Straight.” Or like a special glowing aura above my head like a Sims character? Just ANYthing to let other queer folk know I’m one of them lol

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          This is where I liberally employ buttons on my purse. 2QT2BSTR8, BiGirl, I’m straight but it could be a phase (Used that one before I transitioned ^_^), and FCKH8’s ‘Some girls marry girls, get over it.’

          Can’t really have too many buttons.

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          Oh god this. I’m a femme lesbian so apparently I don’t “look gay”. Whatever gay looks like.

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          Right there with you on this one. I’m a bi cisgender woman dating a straight cisgender man, and all that stuff you said about assuming straightness etc.

          Also, I get that straight people have a history of riling things up in queer spaces, but at what point will we “allow” hetero couples around without automatically assuming bad faith? If an actually hetero couple, as opposed to an assumed hetero couple, shows up at a gay bar with no ulterior motive, for whatever reason, can’t we warily give them the benefit of the doubt? I mean, do you have to be queer in order to happily coexist with queers? Isn’t wholehearted mutual acceptance and sunshine and rainbows and lollipops and all of that what we’re going for? Rolling one’s eyes at a straight couple in a gay bar strikes me as rather similar to assuming all dudes at a feminist space are there to get laid–which is of course true sometimes, but not all of the time.

          Sorry to ramble, but this hits close to home for me because of my particular situation, and also because of what happened to my queer little sister at her women’s college when she started dating a cisgendered man. I just don’t think it’s right for anyone to police anyone else’s gender, sexuality, or choices, especially not other queers.

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          All of this.

          As a bi cisgendered woman, I pass constantly. When I dress queer, I’m seen as edgy. I’ve never once yet had anyone assume/infer/conclude/suspect that I was anything but straight. And it’s infuriating. I feel like I’m constantly outing myself. My area actually has a whole bunch of gay bars, but I don’t ever go because I’m always somewhat treated as a zoo goer, rather than a member.

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          Eh, they don’t accept the gender-weird people either. Trust, it’s not like all the gays are in some cool club you aren’t admitted to.

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      Well, maybe you do that due to prior experiences of straight couples coming by to gawk at the gays, or other stupid reasons, and just generally acting like asses. Not far from me, a straight guy came into a gay bar and started shooting people and hacking them with a hatchet. So yeah.

      But it’s true, you can’t presume to know other people. I just go with the if you’re nice to me, then I’m nice to you thing.

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      I’ve been being the obnoxiously out person lately as well. I’m pansexual, but primarily interested in women at this point and look really, really straight, so I’ll frequently make references to being queer in front of friends who don’t know, or people I hang out with frequently who may not know.
      Partly so they don’t think I’m straight, partly so it’s more likely that other queer women will know I’m queer and not dismiss me as being straight.

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    “I’m not going to lie. In addition to the discomfort of unearned privilege, being a straight white upper-middle class higher-educated guy in a world that loves dudes like that has also felt pretty nice.”

    I don’t get it. How can you feel nice about something that you know comes at the expense of other people? I’ll be honest, that shit goes up my ass sideways. I’m often read as male, and I feel disgusted every time people give me the benefit of the doubt, or each time men treat me like another man.

    I’m not a man though, so idea of what will happen if it’s discovered that I’m female is always looming. This tends to put a damper on things, heh, and keep me right down to earth.

    “And sometimes I miss my queer visibility. Not only do I routinely feel guilty for my heterosexual privilege, but I also miss being a constant upset to the assumptions and rules of heteronormative society. Being queer was a large part of my identity for a very long time, and it was important to me that I was acknowledged as such.”

    Feeling guilty is a self-indulgent thing. It serves no purpose, don’t indulge in it.

    I’m not out to upset to the assumptions and rules of heteronormative society every minute. I’m here to live my life. Though being a gay person and a person with a non-standard gender configuration is not something I would consider to be a central aspect of my self-concept. It’s in there, and it’s shaped my life and personality to a huge degree, but there are things beyond that.

    I saw this youtube video of a transman who was ecstatic over that fact that he had just walked down the street shirtless in the rain, and he felt rain against his chest for the first time. You could just feel how happy he was. Yet I was repulsed by it, because for me to do that is illegal in some areas, not to mention it being considered, from a social standpoint, grounds for rape, ridicule, or assault.

    I don’t mean to sound like such a bitch here. It’s the situation I’m mad at, not you personally. I think this article is good. I hope you don’t take what I’m saying the wrong way.

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      I don’t blame Sebastian, but I’m with you. People are always saying that bi people benefit from straight privilege due to bi erasure, but the bi erasure I get always sucks, no matter which end of the Kinsey Scale it comes from. Like, sometimes when older relatives ask me about boys (questions I hate anyway) and I nod along, not revealing I like girls too because I don’t like sharing my personal life with them anyway – I always feel like such a coward. Oh, and I feel just as left out by the heterosexist dating world as gays do. While I might want to be with a boy, I’m sick of the *ASSUMPTION* that they are my only options.

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        Privileges are one hell of a thing. I tell people that I am a gay woman of color who is also an atheist and all the liberal friends are like, “OMFG life must be *so hard*.” I just roll my eyes because what could be seen as my “disadvantages” my relative privileges intersect and almost equalize, but it never really equalizes.

        I too also have the same thoughts as diver in regards in feeling guilty about one’s privileges, ugh, get over it and don’t be an asshole by oppressing others with those privileges. It’s not like I *want* to be a straight cisgenderd white male. It *only* seems life would be easier I just want everyone to have a chance and more importantly just don’t be an asshole.

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          I think ud like the fb page I just joined, “the bible should just be one page with the sentence – try not to be a c**t!” it’s my new life motto! Lmao

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      “Nice” doesn’t have to mean “good/deserved”; in this case, I read what Sebastian is saying as “a relief in contrast to how I was treated before.” It’s human nature to experience positive feelings toward being treated well; I personally am quite exhausted from living with my femaleness, and attempts to defend myself from all the feminist tropes, pointing out sexism, etc. What I’m saying is that if I could exist in the world for a day without being marginalized, I can totally see it being nice. A relief. Think about how “easy” things are for people who have the privileges you don’t, how they’re so used to things being made easy for them that once it goes away, it feels like repression.

      I’m a human person, and I’m not in control of my emotions. That’s just how it goes; I try to be aware of my privilege, but it doesn’t always work that way, and quite a lot of the time it’s only later that I realize it, after I think it through. Privilege is dastardly; if it didn’t feel nice to be privileged, it wouldn’t be so hard to root out.

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        “‘Nice’ doesn’t have to mean ‘good/deserved'; in this case, I read what Sebastian is saying as “a relief in contrast to how I was treated before.'”

        See, it doesn’t provide any relief to me, because I know what’s up. That’s what I don’t understand: how you can temporarily “unknow” what you have always known, like suspension of disbelief, and feel nice about it. Forgetting everything you went through before just because you have been offered comfort… no thanks.

        “That’s just how it goes; I try to be aware of my privilege, but it doesn’t always work that way, and quite a lot of the time it’s only later that I realize it, after I think it through.”

        But he does know.

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          Yes, I understand what you’re saying.

          I’m saying “relief” as “gut feeling.” He can’t help his instant emotional reactions–and neither can you, because you are also a human.

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      This is really belated, but I’m really curious about what the seemingly contradictory expectations you’re placing on Sebastian – you say that he should feel bad and presumably thus guilty about receiving privilege because its dependent on other people’s oppression, and I get that because I experience the same; but then you say that guilt is self-indulgent and not to do it? :/ But if one is not to feel either good or guilty about privilege, then… what are they supposed to feel? Nothing? Is that realistic for a human?

      I often terribly guilty and self-loathing about all the male privilege I’ve been receiving since transition, and people have been advising me to just appreciate it instead and enjoy my life while I can, doing what I can within reasonable bounds to help others who are less privileged. And I’ve been trying to do that instead, and it’s made my life a lot better and more productive, but if I’m reading you correctly, I shouldn’t be enjoying that, but feeling disgusted about it instead?

      (Sorry if any of this is confusing. I’m autistic and not very good with emotions.)

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    This was great. I love the contrast between your article and Annika’s one. I want to print them both out and show them to everyone that continues to deny that privilege (whether straight, white, hetero, cis etc) actually exists.

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    I’ve always wondered what it would be like to fall in or out of privilege, so your article along with Annika’s article were really interesting to read. Thanks for writing another great article!

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    thanks sebastian for this great article.

    i’m cisgender but people constantly read me as male ever since i chopped off my hair in 2006 and apparently i still don’t know how to reconcile with it. it wasn’t so bad when i was going to college in manhattan; now though i work in an environment which is as far as i can tell 95+% conservative cisgendered straight people and the number of times i’ve gotten awkward glances for using the ladies’ room over the past eight months is absurd. i mean really. my name and face are on a poster next to my lab’s door.

    i fought it for the first year or so, correcting people who called me “sir” or “gentleman” and getting frustrated about it, but now i have to admit that most of the time i just let it slide. it’s so much effort and i’ve encountered enough harassment or painful scrutiny for correcting people (e.g. at airports, in semi-conservative countries) that i just let people think whatever they want to think, get my coffee, and go on living my life.

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    Hi! Whoa this is a great article. Thanks for writing it!!
    I just wanted to write a quick comment to let you know that, somehow, I have also experienced that. I identify as queer, with a prevalent lady-loving tendency, but it so happens that my primary partner (I’m also non-monogamous) is a cis-man. Before starting to see him, I had been mostly with women, and I absolutely loved how everything we did had some sort of political relevance. I mean, damn, I love my activism was 24/7 (I also was particularly lucky/privileged to be going to a very liberal college in a very liberal town). At the time, I struggled with the fact that I seriously identify as queer and being seen with a woman automatically made me a lesbian. Even my dating history was used as evidence that I am a lesbian. So I had issues with that.
    However, nothing was more confusing and unsettling than dating a cis-man. The way I was treated, perceived, it all was so hetero. The questions I was asked by his friends, everything was so heteronormative. I mean, not for long, it’s not like I ever choose to keep my mouth shut around these parts; but still, it was unsettling.
    To this day I still struggle to not have my sexual identity butchered by people’s assumptions, but at least I’ve come up with better (read: more entertaining to me) ways to deal with it.
    ANYWAY, my actual point was to say: Hey! Thanks for letting me know that somehow I’m not alone in the heteronormative waters, and that, yay! There are other people out there fighting the good fight to make this a more inclusive place.
    Also, YES! I super look forward to your post on male privilege and the “dude” culture. Your perspective always rocks and I am seriously curious about how those two things work/feel. Yay!

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      Oh! It was meant to say “I identify as a queer cis-woman”, to give it the appropriate context.

      Oh! And now that I am posting a comment again I want to reiterate that your writing is awesome.

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      I can super relate to that, its like when you’re women sexually/romantically you’re in gayrainbowland and when you’re with a guy you’re in straightland and things in straightland are so hetero with everyone around you. Its all a trip and you just want to stay yourself, and have it not be trip, you know?

      I know I’m as articulate as a drunken unicorn.

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        I relate on this also, except for in my case it is gender. If you’re a man it’s one thing, if you’re a woman it’s another. None of it is necessary. It’s like if you were not religious, but people kept asking you are you a muslim or a zoroastrian Are You A Muslim Or A Zoroastrian ARE YOU A MUSLIM OR A ZOROASTRIAN WHICH ONE WHICH ONE. Ugh, who the fuck cares, you’re all fucking ridiculous!

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    “But as long as they’ve let the drawbridge down, maybe I can rile things up from the inside?”

    This makes me feel like you’re part of a Trojan horse and are wheeling into the metaphorical Troy of straight, white people. Amazing. Maybe you’ll go down in history the same way?

    I’d be willing to be the new Herotodus of THAT story!

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          Dang, now I wish NOM was Cassandra… maybe NOM can be Paris instead? Everybody hates Paris.

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          if i may be so bold, perhaps in this ad hoc metaphor, NOM could be represented by Agamemnon, brother of Menelaus whose wife left him (or was abducted/pick your version) for Paris of Troy. Agamemnon, feeling the need to restore the honor of his brother’s marriage/liking to fight, raised forces to seige Troy.

          countless lives were ruined because Agamemnon/Menelaus pursued with a massive force to redress an issue that was truly a matter between two individuals (three if you count Paris, and some wrong may have been done there, again, pick your version).

          marriage is between two consenting adults, yet NOM, an outside organization feels compelled to seige/campaign on behalf of “true marriage” to defend it, if you will, from the institution being sullied (all night elvis impersonator drive thru services aside, i’m sure).

          …and seriously, if we’re gonna dislike someone from an hisorical POV, Agamemnon was a ruthless man who was willing to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia to redress his boasting about being a better hunter than Artimis. not a nice guy.
          http://www.pantheon.org/articles/a/agamemnon.html

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          boldness accepted! I will now have this metaphor neatly on file in my brain with the correct characters should the need to use it in conversation to impress a lady ever arise.

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          That certainly sounds reasonable to me! Had I known my metaphor would garner such interest I would definitely have thought out more possibilities.

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    Fascinating article, Sebastian! It’s so interesting to read both Annika’s and Sebastian’s articles back to back; they offer such great insights into the way things are coming from different angles.

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    I love that Autostraddle has both a transwomen and transman (right terms?) blogger. I think I’m pretty good about trans* stuff in general (pronouns, gender identity etc etc) but I’m really enjoying reading these articles to further educate myself. That makes me sound like kind of a jerk, but hey. Knowledge is power. Which also makes me sound like a jerk, haaay.

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      If your interested in further educating yourself I highly recommend reading:
      -“She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders” by Jennifer Finney Boylan
      -“The Color of Sunlight: A True Story of Unconditional acceptance between a a rural RN and a blind, terminally-ill transsexual” by Michelle Alexander
      -“Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity” by Julia Serano

      -She’s Not There is an interesting read that covers the basics of the trans-female experience.

      -The Color of Sunlight is an amazing and heart wrenching story that brings to light the fact that gender is a mental imprint from birth and not a socially constructed framework.

      -Whipping Girl explores the gender politics of transition and the sexism that is part of the world that we live in. If you’re new to the trans experience, I would recommend saving this book till later because I’m trans and even some parts went over my head.

      I can’t really speak to good books covering the trans-guy side of the spectrum, but I think there are a enough trans-guys here that can recommend some good reading.

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    This is a topic that I’m really interested in. I’m a femme dyke and when I’m hanging out without my girlfriend (or a group of visible queers) people generally presume I’m straight; however, when I’m with my girlfriend, we’re visibly a queer couple. I feel the shift between assumed heterosexuality and surplus visibility on a regular basis and it is dizzying.

    Part of me wishes I looked queer all the time, because walking down the street and knowing that most of the queers I pass don’t recognize me as “one of them” is tough for me sometimes, but on the other hand, I completely understand that my social and job opportunities are much wider because of my presumed straightness. It’s a tough conundrum.

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    I love this post. I have been dating a transman for the past few years, and though I feel as if we are queer – to the public we are just seen as a ‘normal’ straight couple. We definitely have heteronormative privilege. Sometimes I feel sad that we’ve lost our ‘queer card’.

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    Thank you @Sebastian for sharing this with us. And thank you, @Autostraddle for supporting such an amazing array of queerness on “our” site. I can honestly say that I have gained a whole new perspective on the trans community, and an appreciation for what they go through in our society that I never fully grasped before I read about it.

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      It’s good to hear that our stories are helping the queer community and the rest of the world understand our perspective on life and the struggles and challenges that we face on a daily basis. I’m relatively new to Autostraddle and I absolutely love the awesome community that I’ve found here! We’re all queer in our own way and we need to embrace and celebrate the variety that makes us all truly human!

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    This is awesome. It inspired a new lesson plan in my GSA in which me and my vice president, who also just happens to be my TRANSGENDER BOYFRIEND (sorry, I can’t get over saying it ever since he came out) will talk about surplus visibility and what to do when you get crap for making out when heteros are doing so much worse.
    Thank you.

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    I spent the day musing on the concept of surplus visibility in the back of my head and am still interested about how it affects the nature of non-straight-appearing couples. It does explain why my girlfriend and I show very little sign of affection in public and even then, I’m a little hyper-conscious of it despite it not being an issue at my school.

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    i liked this a LOT and i think a lot more needs to be said about all that crap about queer identity politics and how a lot of people divorce ‘lesbian’ and ‘queer’ and ‘trans’ politics when really i think we should all be fighting for a lot of the same things together… i think a lot of ladies, whether they admit to it or not, are a little bit transphobic because they don’t understand that trans folks aren’t all suddenly like “hell yeah! i pass for straight now fuck y’all weird homos back in gayland! i don’t care about ladies and their problems AT ALL ever AGAIN! shit’s so EASY now!” — i think a lot of women inaccurately feel “deserted” and have these false notions that ftms “did it just for the sake of the privilege” or something similarly crappy. and i think they should probably read this.

    it’s also funny because, like other folks mentioned, as a super femme gay lady, my gender presentation feelings and the sort of privilege i have there couldn’t be more different than sebastian’s, but there was so much to relate to in terms of feeling uncomfortable with a lack of visibility in certain environments.

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