The terfs are wrong about nearly everything, but not about this.

Me wondering where my privilege went

There’s a lot of nonsense to learn about as freshly de-closeted trans woman. People think I’m a victim, a joke, or an accusation. At their better selves, they think i’m a toy, or a lesson. I’m rarely just a person. Very few people get the option to be just a person. I used to get that option. I used to be the magic default — safe rich white dude. I’m still white. But I’m no longer rich or a dude. The whiplash is a lot for a single body. I wish someone had warned me about this. I found a few warnings. None of them were about the relentless overwhelm. The sheer weight of seeing this much, so quickly, with so little practice.

My ride is a loss of privilege. And that’s missing a key part of a trans woman’s story, but I’ll come to that later. Privilege turns out to be a BIG fucking thing. I had oodles of it. Then I had very fucking little. And I’m standing, jaw-on-the-floor, heart overwhelmed, as I learn more on any given day than in all the days that preceded my gender transition. I’m watching a rapid-fire reel of all the ways privilege makes a person’s options. But it’s not a movie on a screen. It’s a flood and I’m drowning.

I was always a sensitive thing. Sensitive to kindness and cruelty. I watched and imitated, as Autistic kids often do, so as to blend in. I watched really closely and copied the fine motor elements of bourgeoise cruelty. Snarkiness and passive aggression. The White Lotus is a remarkable examination of the edgy white violence I grew up learning. The thing about us Autistics is we don’t absorb the social rules by intuition. We can say them out loud. And we often do, much to the horror of a culture bathed in unmentionable social violence. I broke it all down into components — tacked them one by one onto my operating system. Modules. And as I grew more convincing, people withheld their barbs about my weirdness. I exited the realm of freak and entered the realm of eccentric, such is a white dude’s possibility.

With that privilege came a commensurate obligation. I had to keep a lid on it. No respect without basic conformity, even for the privileged. My clothing had to be gender. My repartee had to be wit. My good nature had to accommodate. I could have gone the way of entitlement. My privilege allowed that. But my training didn’t. I was an Autistic trans kid, begging for acceptance from the start. I didn’t know how to profit off the racket I’d been offered. I could have stuffed people’s submission into my man-bag and gone to the bank. But my parents were sentimental progressives, like I would become. White liberals. It wasn’t polite to profit off people. So I painted that idea in shame and ran the opposite way. Very good boy.

I’d missed the subtext of course. The bourgeoisie actually loves a go-getter. They just can’t say it out loud. That person’s exploitative behaviour, their violence, is no more mentionable than the violence inherent in capitalism itself. If that person donates a quarter of their income to acceptable charities and says the right things at the dinner party, their violence means nothing.

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Emma Barnes

Autistic, trans, survivor, abolitionist @friedkrill on Twitstagram