I’d always been a pro-equality kind of cisgendered white male so after some friends pointed out that the used miata that I bought in ‘07 is a car that has been embraced by the gay community (a fact I never went to check, just accepted as I’m not a ‘car guy’ so what do I know about who likes what kind of cars) I didn’t really see any issue with that. I mean come on, we’re they warning me because they thought it would turn be gay or did they just think my ‘manliness’ would be diminished? Regardless, I enjoyed driving the car and liked the idea that (at least in my head) it was a pro-gay statement to drive it around.
Less that six months after getting it, I was pulling on to a college campus and a young white man leaned out the passenger window of a large truck and yelled, “faggot,” at me as they passed by. So angry, so full of hate and violence was that word issued from his mouth, that I was truly afraid. I watched in my mirrors to make sure the truck didn’t turn around. I was shaking with the adrenaline.
Once the truck was out of sight, that is when it hit me; gay men (and other minorities in general) have to live with that fear every day and the less ‘concealable’ the person of the minority is within the larger group, the higher risk for daily incidents.
This was a huge moment for me. It was the liminal temporal space between being aware that there’s a problem vs. seeing the problem first hand. For a brief moment my privilege was pulled back and I felt the problem.
For the 1st year or so of having the Miata there was a total of three times that this happened. The last time I was chased for two miles by a young couple, the woman spat on my car as they pulled along side of me. They pulled in front of me to try to make me stop or hit them (I’m not sure which).
But I didn’t have a name for it, this awakening to the reality that I never before had had to face. “Privilege”…never heard of it. There was just an awakening but being largely mute in how to express it, how to talk about it with friends and family.
Then the elevator incident happened with Rebecca Watson. Privilege was talked about throughout the blogs on the subject. The first time I saw it in a post I almost commented “what’s privilege” but thankfully I had learned of that whole ‘google’ thing so instead of making everyone answer my question (and risk coming off as a troll) I googled and read.
So that’s it. That’s my realizing my own privilege (at least the parts I have become aware of…it’s looking to be one of those ongoing life-learning experiences). That unless I’m driving in a Miata I largely don’t ever have to worry about someone targeting me for a hate crime. That I can walk down dark streets at night without, largely, having to be afraid. My privilege protects me from fear…but it doesn’t mean that that fear, for those that experience it, isn’t real nor is the source of the fear…those who would do harm to others simply because they are “different,” whether verbally or physically, not real. It is, and they are. And that’s a world I don’t want to promote.