Thursday, 10 November 2016

Straight Privilege or Straight-Up Dumb Luck?

I’m still wrestling with the concept of whether it’s possible to be bi and have straight privilege, with the inherent contradiction of feeling like I do and knowing that bi folks in general do not, and also not wanting to define identity based on oppression.  It’s still kind of a tangle, but there are two things that make it a bit clearer in my head.

The first is that sexuality is fluid.  I’m not sure if it’s more accurate to say I realized over time that I was bi or that my sexuality shifted, but there was a long period where I thought of myself as straight and interacted with the world that way.  And it was during my “straight phase” that I got married.  So, maybe it makes sense to think of any “straight privilege” I might have now as left over from that point in my life.

The second is the distinction between luck and privilege.  Privilege is the result of luck, since you don’t pick your race, gender, or orientation. (Religion is the outlier, because there’s some choice involved, but even there, you don’t pick the faith, if any, you’re raised in, nor can you just decide not to believe something because life would be easier if you didn’t.) But, not all lucky breaks are privilege.  For something to be privilege, it has to be a systemic group of benefits that broadly apply to a group of people based on a personal characteristic.

Sometimes random lucky things that don’t stem from privilege can insulate you from oppression.  Like, for example, having the only person you date longer than a month end up being someone awesome who you end up marrying.  No privilege involved, just dumb luck.  But being out of the dating pool before I ever realized I was bi insulated me from a lot of harm from the stereotype of bisexuals being greedy or promiscuous or prone to cheating.  Likewise, having only had one relationship as a bi person and having someone who’s completely accepting means that, while the risk of intimate partner violence is frighteningly high for bi women, that’s not a risk I worry about for myself.  But, it’s not like “married to a good person” is an immutable characteristic the way race or sex is.  Nor is it the result of my good decision-making. My husband is 40 kinds of awesome, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not like I could have magically known that when I started dating him. After all, abusers do a bang-up job of pretending to be decent human beings until they have power over you.

So, I’m coming to the conclusion that the experience that feels like straight privilege to me is really more a mix of leftover benefits from the privilege I had when I was/thought I was/might have been straight and random luck.  Also a subconscious that’s good at protecting itself, because being bi while I was still fundamentalist would’ve been hell.

via Kelly Thinks Too Much