ally

Questions from the search terms: “everyone has a marginalized identity”

This was an interesting search string that brought someone to my little corner of the internet: everyone has a marginalized identity

I don’t know if it was meant as a question or a statement, but it wormed its way into my brain nevertheless. Because the thing is, when you get right down to it, the *vast* majority of people do experience some sort of systemic marginalization in their lives (though I would argue that there are many cases in which the axes of marginalization in question are not particularly axes of the people’s active identities).

To look at it another way, let me ask: what people in this world have faced no forms of systemic marginalization? For simplicity’s sake, I’ll actually limit myself to people in the US and Canada.

That would be white, anglophone, cisgender, heterosexual, allosexual, monotheist (really, Christian specifically), thin, conventionally attractive, non-disabled, neurotypical men from at middle-class backgrounds or higher. I am sure I’m even forgetting some things here. But the point is, its far and away a small sliver of the population.

This is, of course, part of why intersectionality is an important aspect of social justice discourse. Because once you’ve missed one of the privilege boxes, every additional hit doesn’t just add on to that, it multiplies and interacts with it. So, for instance, if you’re a rich white straight dude, you can usually get away with being publicly atheist without facing too much scrutiny (depending of course on specifically where you are, but nevertheless), whereas if you’re a rich white gay dude, it’s probably safer to at least pretend to be into the kinder parts of the bible (y’know, one of the ‘good’ gays or whatever). You don’t want to question the hegemony too much, after all.

Not to mention that when you have intersecting marginalized identities, you’re more likely to find yourself not just excluded from mainstream stuff, but also from groups dedicated to individual aspects of your marginalization – LGBT people might not want atheists visible in their groups, and atheists sadly aren’t free from heterosexism).

And I actually think this is one of the places where relatively privileged people often get stuck in social justice discourse. Because most of us actually have experienced some sort of marginalization, but those who only experience this marginalization on one or two fronts, or on the ones that are less relevant to day-to-day living, often make the mistake of thinking they know what it’s like to be marginalized. Because they kind of do. And I think most of us (myself included) are sometimes guilty of forgetting that the impacts of different marginalized identities aren’t directly comparable, that the effects of marginal identities aren’t simply additive, and that the intersections between privileged and marginalized identities within any given individual have complex and hard-to-parse consequences.

None of us can seperate out the parts of our lives that result from our privilege and the parts that result from our marginalization, because everything flows out of all of these things.

I want to be able to say that remembering we have all suffered should help us all be a little more compassionate, but unfortunately in practice it is those who have suffered the most, or those who are currently trying to end their own most immediate suffering, who are put upon to be kind and quiet and gracious and compassionate toward those who are contributing to their suffering. We are always playing a game of “no, you be civil first!” and this is a game that the most marginalized people will always lose, because the most marginalized people will inevitably have fewer emotional resources available to do the work we are constantly demanding of them.

So yes, I guess almost everyone does have some sort of marginalized identity. But we all need to learn to see past our own marginalization and recognize the experiences of those different from us, their suffering, and the ways in which we may have been complicit in, or complacent about, their marginalization. And none of us is absolved of doing so.

Gender Perspectives vol. 12. Special Edition: Perspectives on trans allyship

download[In the Gender Perspectives series, I aim to highlight diverse kinds of personal narratives and reflections on gender, gender presentation, and identity, to broaden the gender conversation and boost a variety of voices. Check out the rest of the series.]

For this special edition of the Gender Perspectives series, I’ve pulled together a bunch of posts that highlight what it means to be an ally to trans folx, and especially how to be a good one. I’ve deliberately included both the voices and perspectives of trans folx, and some examples of good allyship from cisgender people.

I’ve written very basically about the first steps toward becoming an ally, including how allies can be important, because they can use their privilege to accomplish things that those facing oppression cannot:
What to do now that you’re aware of your privilege(s) | Valprehension

Commonly, the refrain from someone who has their privilege pointed out to them is “So, what, then? Should I feel guilty about being [white/thin/straight/etc.]?” The answer to this question is, of course, no. Feeling sorry for your advantages in life does no one any good. But being aware of your privilege is important for a whole host of reasons. And there are things you can do with your awareness of your privilege.

 

Raye takes a very personal approach to describing ally behaviours that have had a positive impact in their life:
Five Ways Cis People Have Supported Me As A Genderqueer Person | Gender: Awesome

Some of the most meaningful forms of support I’ve encountered are moments where a cis person takes it upon themselves to do the work of educating other cis folks. Again, it’s important to first ask, then act. In one case, I was experiencing repeated misgendering from someone in one of my communities. It was hard for me to correct this person because I knew they weren’t doing it on purpose and I didn’t want to make them feel bad. But it was frustrating! When I vented to a friend, he volunteered to talk to that person if I wanted him to. I said yes, so he did. It was a perfect example of allyship and a huge relief to me.

 

Vincent discusses the problem of false allyship, and the problem of people who claim to be allies but then offer no support to those with whom they claim to be allied:
Allies: How to Tell False From True | Becoming Vincent

This shit is literally a matter of life or death for a lot of trans people. We often face much harsher words and attitudes just while trying to go about our day-to-day lives. There are, it seems, a great many people who want to jump on board the ally bandwagon without being fully aware of exactly what that entails. And so, mostly for the benefit of my fellow trans people but also for any cis person who is interested, I present my personal ‘true ally vs fake ally’ lists.

 

The author of genderrolling examines her own cis female privilege in a way that exemplifies the kjind of awareness that is vital for good allyship:
Females, and cisness, and privilege- oh my! | genderrolling

Explaining trans identity to cis people as a cis person, rather than as a trans person is like the difference between a man explaining feminism to a man compared to a woman explaining it. The man automatically has more respect because of how we privilege a man’s experience and opinion in society. Likewise, my cisgenderness is a privilege that transwomen simply do not have.

 

Finally, the Cisgender Privilege Pledge is a good starting point for anyone who wants to start actively thinking about being a cis ally to trans people. Please consider doing your own, and let me know in the comments!
Example 1
Example 2