Queen_George wrote a (very personal) post the other day, and my comment went off on a tangent that I decided I needed to turn into my own post. Interestingly enough, it’s something I’ve found myself talking about with people a lot recently. It involves privilege, namely heterosexual privilege. On Queen_George’s post, I said [sic]:
I struggle with the guilt of [the] heterosexual privilege that I have because I look like a “straight” woman. I can walk into any bar or store and be treated as a heterosexual person would be treated. When I’m dating a man, I retain that privilege. People assume I’m straight and treat me as such. But when I go out with a woman, I lose that privilege. It’s really hard to have it one day and lose it the next. I’m constantly shifting between worlds. And in fact, the only time I’ve ever feared for my safety was when I was on a date with another femme woman in a straight bar.
I struggle with the privilege I [am given]. Part of me doesn’t want it; I don’t deserve it because I’m NOT straight. Part of me likes it, because it makes my life easier. Part of me is angry about having it, because I’m NOT straight! Stop treating me like I am! When I date a man, society sees me as straight, and often my [male] partners, even when I tell them I’m queer and get heated and worked up about stuff, don’t really GET it. It’s such a hard place to be.
This is something I’ve struggled with a great deal lately. And most of my friends, being straight, don’t really understand where I’m coming from when I express my frustration with it. As I said, I look like a “straight” woman. Society assumes you’re straight unless you give them reason to assume you’re not, as heterosexual is the majority, and therefore the default. I’m a femme/feminine woman, which is how society says that women should be. Therefore, I do not challenge conventional gender norms, and appear to be a heterosexual woman by all accounts. And so I’m treated as a heterosexual woman would be treated: normally. I’m not “different.”
However, I am “different.” I do not identify as heterosexual. My queer identity is a huge part of who I am. But when I go out, I pass. And I retain my heterosexual privilege. When I go out with a man as my date, I continue to retain that heterosexual privilege. We are treated as a “normal” couple. No one looks twice at us. We are respected. We fit in.
But what if, tomorrow, I have a date with a female? I lose that privilege in the blink of an eye. And that’s a really hard thing to deal with. Not not having privilege; I could adjust to that. But having it one day and not having it the next. I’m forever in limbo. It’s not like I look like “a lesbian” and am treated in a certain way all the time. I’m treated as everyone else is most of the time, yet when I go out with a different partner, suddenly I’m not. It’s a confusing thing, because I toe the line between privileged and not.
I could easily take the privilege every day of my life by dressing the way I do, and by dating men. But at the same time, that’s not who I am. Even when I’m being treated as heterosexual, I know that I’m not. And that’s always in the back of my mind. I struggle with what to do with my privilege, though. As I said, I get angry. I get indignant. I get sad. In fact, I don’t really know where to end this post, because the entire situation is that conflicting for me.
Does anyone else relate to this?