Today I am talking about the aspects of my life that are impacted by various forms of oppression or marginalization. Often times these are much easier for us to identify because we can see how our experience differs from the majority, and because it often leaves us feeling sad, angry, frustrated, scared, or alienated. In short, it feels bad.
To reiterate, being oppressed in one area does not negate privileges in other areas. They may impact each other in various ways but they do not negate each other. A cis, queer, white person still has both cis privilege and white privilege and will therefore still have those protections as they move through the world, which is a very big deal. Queer and transgender PoC do not have that protection which deeply impacts their experience of and safety in the world on every level.
So let’s start with what my identity is and isn’t.
I am a chronically ill, invisibly disabled, autistic/neurodivergent, queer, multisexual/bisexual*/pansexual, nonbinary transmasculine, greyromantic/nebularomantic, and poor person. I also identify as demisexual, ethically non-monogamous, and pagan but as a liberal white person I find myself not overtly negatively impacted by those identities. Whiteness moving in more liberal circles makes being demisexual, “polyamorous”, and pagan, even in the unusual ways I may express those things, more or less accepted and even embraced as being “quirky”. Quirky in my experience is often either a sign of other privileges that person posesses or with more marginalized people, tokenization at work.
I also have some situational or relative privileges which impacts the way I am oppressed. Because people in general expect and assume parents to be cis gender and heterosexual, when I am with my cis male nesting partner and kids, especially when I am with my toddlers, I am not usually read as transgender at all, which means I usually don’t read as queer either. This protects us socially from homophobic harassment, me from transphobic harassment, and means both my relationship and children have more legal protection than I have or have had when in relationships with women, femmes, or folks socially read as “women”. But the trade off here is that it erases my identity entirely. It is lonely, anxiety causing, infuriating, and upsetting, but it is less likely to be dangerous.
Other ways in which the complexity of passing privilege exchanges increased physical and social safety for erasure and dismissal for me personally is that my disability is invisible and most people seem to see me as weird or quirky rather than neurodivergent. This is a mixed social bag but is in most cases, physically safer for me as a white, “educated”, disabled and neurodivergent person with a home and relative stability. It means instead of violence and dismissal as a human who deserves a life, I get a lot of isolating microaggressions and disbelief.
One last relative privilege that bears reiterating is that as a white person raised and encultured as a “woman” I am more likely to be written off, dismissed, or scoffed at than violently attacked or murdered. Trans women and femmes of color, especially black trans women and femmes are frighteningly more likely to be brutalized and/or murdered. I should not ever leave them out when I am talking about multiple levels of oppression and privilege.
So where does that leave me? Well let’s talk about that.
As a chronically ill person I was ever so politely forced out of my good stable job I had held for 8 years, almost 2 years ago exactly. I can no longer work outside my home or attend any social anything except in situations where my exposure to airborne chemicals, scents, smokes, and illnesses are at an extreme minimum. I am therefore perpetually under or unemployed, which impacts our ability to simply live reasonably. I can not attend support groups for my other identity aspects, social occasions, or gatherings because they will be inevitably to smokey or to perfumey. Most of the time I am unable to leave my house more than once or twice a week for anything more than a brief sedate walk. I am consequently locally, socially isolated and constantly both stressed and carrying an immense amount of guilt about our financial situation.
Because my disability is invisible and varies with the ebb and flow of my illnesses, people often underestimate how heavily I am impacted, or disregard my struggle entirely as “made up”. I have only once or twice had people offer or ask about accommodation that might make it possible for me to attend something, mostly I am made to subtly and not so subtly understand that my affection, my friendship, my love, my time, and companionship is disposable, expendable, and categorically not enough to merit any time or effort.
On a personal level it is nearly impossible to maintain local friendships, no matter how good our intentions may be. People tend to need time and energies I simply do not have, everyone slowly falls away. It isn’t their fault, it’s hard to be friends with a distant memory.
As a neurodivergent person I have some social and physical difficulties, we would be here all day if I started listing every single potentially negative impact or aspect of oppression, of every single one of these identities. In the case of autism one thing that is weighing heavily on my mind lately is selective mutism and difficulty with words, compounded by sensory issues and anxiety. Lately I have been so stressed I have been unable to maintain contact with most people, and unable to reach out or converse “normally” when people reached out to me. This difficulty reached its apex three days ago when my brain became totally bogged down with so much anxiety and autistic burn out that it became almost impossible for me to speak, write, or even make simple decisions. My way with words was simply not there. This obviously has social impact, it understandably alienates most people but also it impacts my ability to contribute to my family. Writing, reading, my brain, and my hands encompass the entirety of my ability to contribute financially to my family’s well being. If one or more of those become compromised, it can be catastrophic for us….the stress of which only increases the depth and width of my burn out and anxiety.
This very article has been written in fits and starts, in an exhausting struggle for the correct words and with twice as much proofreading needed, because of the complicated for me interplay between my need to earn a living and my need to honor my own reasonable boundaries and limits.
The overall arc of my queer, gender, romantic, and sexual identities are a complex stew of moving parts so rather than have this go very long. I will touch on that in the next installment of this series.
*there are some generational differences in how people use the word bisexual, as a nonbinary transgender person who grew up using bisexual in a trans and self inclusive way, I use the definition of bisexuality, genders like my own and unlike my own, or more generally, attracted to more than one gender.