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The Category Is Gay Privilege

I am an openly gay, cis woman (a term I only recently embraced). I'm a lesbian. I came out of the closet in 1999. My wife and I have been together since 2009; married since 2014. As a lesbian, it is understood that I love women. The one thing that is often assumed about members of the LGBT+ community is that we ALL desire to be a gender/sex other than what we were assigned at birth. Not only do I love women, but I love being a woman even more! I love everything about my body. Sometimes my flabby stomach gets on my nerves, but I still love her ass because she's a part of me. I can't imagine being anyone or looking like anyone or being in any other body than the one I've enjoyed for 40 years. I have enjoyed this body for 40 years. E N J O Y E D. This made me blind....nah, ignorant to the reality of my trans brothers and sisters. My own comfort and love and infatuation and passion and appreciation for the body I was born in didn't make for a welcoming and understanding mind for those who feel like they were/are in the wrong body. I simply could not wrap my head around not loving every inch, curve, freckle, and imperfection that I have lived with since birth. My misunderstanding bordered on dismissal and disrespect. I was ignorant with a big fat capital EYE! My ignorance was astounding in both my thoughts and my actions.

Paris Is Burning is my favorite documentary and I watch it at least once a month. Lately, I've been drawn to it more and I watched it everyday for about 2 weeks. My best friend had never seen it so I invited her to watch it with me. While watching it, she pointed out that the television show Pose was very loosely based on it. Now, I do not watch as much television as most people, but Pose was on my list of shows to binge. Well, since we are all in the house due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I watched it. BABYYYYYYYYY!!!! Not only is the show amazing, it absolutely does pay homage to the documentary from almost 3 decades ago. Pose....let me catch my breath since I've lost it due to excitement....follows the lives of a group of Black trans women and Black gay men navigating love, friendships, family, and life at the height of the AIDS epidemic in the late 80s and early 90s. While the show is fiction, the issues and scenarios represented are real. While on her virgin voyage to Paris, my best friend pointed out similarities and who certain characters might be based on. It became a game and I played it proudly when I watched Pose. And it was in that moment that my tower of ignorance came crashing down all around me.

I realized that I, and probably you, know members of the LGBT+ community with some of those same realities. I've heard those stories many times. I've listened to the woes and the concerns. I have had people in my life who have had to choose between being their true self and being who their family wanted them to be. None of this was new to me! I knew all this shit existed. However, I was resting comfortably in the privilege of having an open minded family and community who never stopped embracing me when I came out of the closet. My aunts and uncles hugged me tighter instead of ignoring my presence at family reunions. My parents showered me with more love instead of permanently changing my address. My friends continued hanging out with me and I didn't have to find a new community and make new friends. It was easy for me to be comfortable in my skin and because of that I ignored the plight of my brothers and sisters. It became crystal clear to me that I could have easily been standing in their shoes. That could have been me homeless and selling my body to survive. More importantly, just because it wasn't my reality, that didn't free me of the responsibility to acknowledge and respect it. The same way there are people on this planet who have privilege because of the color of their skin or bank accounts, there is privilege in the LGBT+ community. Having a loving family and group of friends who love and support you no matter who and what you are is extreme privilege and comes with advantages. I am thankful to the pioneers who used their gay privilege as a voice for those who had had their voices broken and beaten out of them. I now know that I must do the same.


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