Opinion: The importance of checking your privilege

People often feel uncomfortable when the term "privilege" is thrown into a conversation. But what is privilege and how can we use it to benefit the community?

The importance of checking your privilege

Privilege was once a word that most people associated with someone being honoured to do something; ‘It would be my privilege’. Now, it’s a word we cower from when it is directed at us, a word used to describe a majority of people who receive more than a minority of people. We have grown to flinch and cringe whenever someone of a minority tells us that we are privileged, but why? And how does this fit in with the LGBT+ community?

We flinch either because we feel guilty, or because we reject the idea that some of us are born with more opportunities than others. Most people would assume that members of the LGBT+ community are not privileged, because we’re the minority, the ones who suffer because of their sexuality and/or gender identity, and even though that is mostly true, we are blind-sighted still. If you are white, cisgender, gay, a man, and come from a fairly decent background and a first world country, congratulations, you are the most privileged person in the community.

I, a person of all the traits named above except for the fact that I am a woman, come just below you. We are the first two letters; we are the ones no one ever forgets.

A few years ago, when I was still new to the community, I thought I knew everything about the queer world. Then, I saw a short comic on social media by a queer artist. It told a story of her first Pride as an out bisexual, Muslim woman of colour and how she had been so excited to finally show her true self. However, she didn’t receive the love and acceptance that we all go to Pride for, but rather racial and biphobic abuse from various white gay men and women. She lacked privilege and therefore wasn’t welcome at Pride in the eyes of those people.

I didn’t know everything a few years ago, and I still don’t today, but what I do know now is that even though we are a minority as a whole, there are some among us who suffer more than others and need to be loved, accepted and supported rather than beaten down and told that they don’t belong in a place that was made specifically so people who were different could belong.

The most important lesson out of this is that privilege isn’t a bad thing. We need to stop ignoring it, stop flinching, and instead start using it to help those who aren’t as fortunate. We are a community, which means we stand up for ourselves and each other, together.

It’s time for white people to stand up for people of colour, for cisgender people to support transgender and non-binary people, for gay men and women to support every other sexuality under the rainbow; it is time for us to use our privilege for good within and outside of this community, and accept that some of us have more opportunities than others and that we have the power to change that, together.

© 2019 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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