Hopefully an Apt Metaphor

What would you rather be: broke or in debt?  Think about it long and hard, and don’t get into the ‘well is it good debt or bad debt’ debate.  It’s debt, it may be necessary, but it’s really never good.  Right?

Now think about what that means on a number level.  Broke means you have $0 (or pretty damn close).  Debt means you owe money, which means you’re negative.  Are we all set on this?

Ok, so the reason I bring up debt vs broke, is that I’ve been seeing a lot of stupid shit about “privilege” all over the internet.  Whether it’s “white privilege” or “male privilege” there are a lot of people who think these aren’t things.

“Nothing was given to me!”  “I had no advantages because I was white!”  We’ve heard all of these, and at face value, they can make sense.  The problem is, that these arguments really only hold up when there isn’t an opposing argument.  Just like being broke sounds bad, until you realize at least you don’t owe money.

“Privilege” is essentially being born broke.  You don’t necessarily have any property/money/political power or anything that will help you to succeed in life, you are starting from nothing.  So it seems natural to say “I had no advantages,” but what you didn’t have was disadvantages, and this is where the other side fills in the rest of the picture.

Being born without “privilege” is essentially being born into debt.  Not literally obviously, hopefully no one is being born into an actual place of debt, but the point is that there are specific disadvantages that come with birth for certain groups of people.  If you’re African American you’re more likely to be incarcerated, to be suspected of crime, followed in stores, the list unfortunately goes on.  If you’re a woman, you’re more likely to be harassed, or assaulted, or condescended to, or not be taken seriously in the work place.  There are disadvantages that come with being part of the LGBTQ community, or non-Christian, other races or ethnicities.  Those disadvantages are the equivalent of debt in this metaphor.  They have to work harder to get to “broke.”

I’m sure some will read this, and think those disadvantages I listed are incorrect, or inflated, or exaggerated.  Specifically the ideas of incarceration rates have been pointed out “well, if you do something wrong, you go to jail,” and other similar statements have been said to me, and my question is this: “how many times have you broken laws?”  Because I have broken laws, and I’ve never gone to jail.  Hell, I’ve been confronted by police while breaking laws, and never gone to jail.  It’s one of my least favorite things about people is that everyone wants law and order, but they like to steal movies, or do recreational drugs, or drive at excessive speeds.  There are very few people whom, I meet, who if they tell me they don’t break the law, I actually believe.  Yet we’re always ok with someone else paying the price for their actions.  This is a form of privilege.

The same idea kind of goes for the other examples that I gave of disadvantages, except that I feel like we’ve all heard the arguments against them.  We know that if a woman is assertive she’s called a bitch, and if a man’s assertive he’s respected for it.  We know if a woman sleeps with multiple people she’s called a slut, and a man is “sewing his wild oats” or whatever bullshit you want to call it.  We all know that the people telling gay people they shouldn’t be able to get married because of the “sanctity of marriage” tend to be on their third sacred marriage.  Or that the people who protest most about the deviance of homosexuality, or transgender identity tend to be significantly deviant.  Despite doing very little to actually discredit these things, or to make positive change, we all seem to know this stuff, that’s why I go into more depth on the “well if you break the law you should be punished” argument.

So which would you rather be?  Broke or in debt?  Be honest now.

Trans Bathroom Politics Examined

So, today bathrooms became a key piece of political discussion—again—as the Trump Administration repealed some of the protection guidelines that the Obama Administration had put in place for the Trans community in regards to public restrooms.  I should mention that I am a white cis-gendered male, and so that is where my particular opinion is coming from on this issue.

As I said, I am cis-gendered (meaning that I identify with my birth gender), and therefore have not had much insight into the needs and struggles of the Trans community.  I also have very limited insight into women’s restrooms, as I only remember going in them a few times when I was pretty young, and was out with just my mother.  So please take all of that information into account when weighing the merit of my opinions.

I understand the desire to have privacy from another gender when using the restroom.  Personally, I want privacy from the same gender, the opposite gender, trans gender, and really everyone else.  When using the restroom, I don’t want to share that experience with anyone.  So in this sense, I get why people are uncomfortable—however, our public restroom system that we still use (for men the urinal/stall combo, for women… I assume just a stall system) doesn’t really afford us any privacy.  The system is flawed, but keeping groups of people away (rather than having individualized bathrooms which is the best option) doesn’t solve the problem.  Opponents of trans men and women using their identifying gender’s restroom want to cite protecting women and children, even though there has been no statistical evidence, of any problem based on gender identity.

This argument breaks down—as far as I can see— for three distinct reasons.  First is the statistical evidence I mentioned before.  There isn’t any evidence to suggest that trans men and women are more likely to commit violence.  The second reason, is what we saw last year when this issue was raised, in which you have people identifying as men, who look like men, who may have to use a female bathroom (and vice versa) which in itself can create two distinct problems, one that it makes the people who ‘wanted everyone in their birth gender bathroom’ uncomfortable because honestly they’re the ones most likely to take issue, and second that it endangers the trans people by exposing them to potentially bigoted people.

Now, the third reason that I think this argument breaks down, is more inherent of people’s understanding of what it is to be trans gendered.  There is a lot of confusion, and this is both with the prejudiced and those trying to be allies.  There seems to be a lot of confusion between gender and orientation, which based on how our society has expressed the two for the past several hundred years makes sense.  We have come to associate masculinity and being manly with heterosexuality in men, and femininity with being a women.  We have difficulty when someone does something that doesn’t fall into those rigid gender roles accepting that they may still be heterosexual.  When you think more specifically about some of the things we’ve correlated within that dynamic, it can seem absurd.  Why does drinking beer, or loving sports, or cars get associated with gender dynamics?  And more importantly what do those things have to do with orientation.  The truth is they don’t really have anything to do with each other, but we have been raised in a largely binary society, and so we conflate these concepts.  This binary mode of thinking is what leads us to think that different is bad, and ‘normal’ or common or accepted or whatever best describes what used to be the status quo is good.  There isn’t much difference between this type of thinking and the old thinking that a tattooed person is more likely to be amoral or criminal, but somehow our brains have been wired to see different, and standing out as inherently negative despite the evidence.

Most of us, even those of us who are white, straight, cisgender know what it feels like—to some extent—to be ostracized or mistreated, and if we can keep that in mind, and start seeing whatever way we were made to feel ‘less than,’ perhaps we won’t have to be dealing with this issue in ANOTHER year.