Do I Have Male Privilege? A Dualistic-Privilege Model by a Trans Man
There have been many discussions concerning this question, both within the transgender community and throughout the community of people who regularly discuss gender as a whole. Do I, as transgender man, have male privilege? The general consensus is that, because I am a male (and perceived as such) that yes, I do have male privilege. I respectfully disagree… but not entirely.
The question of whether I have male privilege, of course, depends upon one’s definition of male privilege. The most common examples of male privilege (Source) that I’ve seen often include not having to fear walking down the street and being sexually assaulted at the same rate as women, or being perceived as more competent, especially in professional environments. Other examples, such as those in the cited article above, are solely descriptive of cisgender men’s experiences. (At the risk of being called out for using a “Not all men” argument, I will add that I do recognize that even not all cisgender men may reap the benefits of any given example of male privilege at a given point. However, seeing as this article is directly addressing whether transgender men have male privilege, any concept of male privilege that claims to encompass both cisgender and transgender men will theoretically represent them at equal rates.)
One of the most prevalent examples that come to mind of male privilege that primarily benefits cisgender men is representation. I don’t mean the representation in government, although one might argue that transgender men don’t reap the benefits of this kind of representation either. I mean social representation, specifically in terms of how people are represented based on their gender. Male privilege describes a scenario where boys see their gender being depicted as stronger and more competent in the media they consume. Growing up, I saw this too, and while it is arguable that my gender may have been “male” at the time, I did not reap this benefit of male privilege because I was not being told that that was me. I neither reap the benefits of previous exposure to strong male figures in media because I did not identify with those figures when I consumed that media. (I will state that I reap the benefits of seeing healthy and competent male figures now if I identify with them.)
Another example of an area that begs the question of whether or not I truly have male privilege is space occupation. I have the privilege of being afforded the space to man-spread in public if I wanted to, without being questioned too much. However, I have not been afforded the peace of mind. I was socialized as a woman, who was not expected to take up too much space. This translates to other aspects of my life too. I was implicitly taught that my voice did not matter, but my face did. I was implicitly taught that I needed other people (especially men) to survive, and I was expected to be social and polite.
[Side Note to ignore if you wish: I acknowledge that both of the examples I have cited are inextricably tied to other (non-gender) aspects of culture. The first argument is conflated by racial representation in the media, so that my experience as an Asian-American may be different from that of a Caucasian transgender man, or even another transgender man of color. The second example is dependent on regional and cultural social norms in terms of how much space one is expected are allowed to take. These conflations don’t negate my argument, as all privileges are situation-dependent anyway.]
This is all to say that I reap many privileges because of my gender, but all of these experiences are a result of me being perceived as male. Are they actually related to my gender though, my internal sense of being male or female (or neither or both, etc.)? Where does that leave transgender men who are not perceived as male, either because they have not yet or will not physically/socially transition (or because they aren’t transitioning in a way where they are perceived as male in mainstream society)? They are still male.
Perhaps then, I have “passing male” privilege? I undeniably benefit in countless ways because I am male and am perceived as male. Yet, I don’t benefit in all ways because I am not a cisgender male. Rather than creating a subsect of male privilege and calling it “cis male” privilege and exacerbating the convolutions already tied to social terminology, I propose a new model of privilege: a dualistic-privilege model.
Privilege can be broken into (at least) two categories based upon: perceived identity and socialized identity. Both categories are highly culture-dependent, but in very different ways. The privileges I am afforded by my perceived identity as a male is more dependent on the culture I am in now, and the privileges I am afforded by my socialized identity are more dependent on the culture in which I was raised. Because I have and continue to internalize messages directed towards females, I did not internalize a privileged identity. Yet, I am still bestowed one by society, who will (for the most part) listen to me, acknowledge me, and pay me as a man.
William Alexander Morrison, a recent graduate of psychology at Centenary College of Louisiana, is quite comfortable talking about the plethora of facets that his identity has to show. He currently lives in Waco, Texas with his ukulele. For more of his work, visit his blog at https://scarred-and-saved.tumblr.com/