The 7 Privileges

Featured Artwork: Claire Merchlinsky

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Although Pride Month is usually a time for celebration, this year, the LGBTQ+ community held off on the parades and festivities in order to support the Black Lives Matter movement because despite their differences, these two communities actually significantly overlap. After all, the LGBTQ+ movement in America was originally led by Black, transgender women such as Martha P. Johnson, who is commonly known as the “Rosa Parks of the LGBT movement.” It is the intersectionality of these two communities that has fueled the development of the new ALL Black Lives Matter movement, which addresses the additional discrimination and prejudices faced by Black members within the LGBTQ+ community.

“Intersectionality” is a nuanced topic that expands beyond the racial and sexual overlapping prejudices mentioned above. It is a term that is used to remind activists and social leaders that the movements they advocate for, whether that be feminism, climate change, the end of racial discrimination, etc. are not mutually exclusive. Many of these issues affect different communities differently by either compounding existing issues or merging with them to become a new issue within and outside of those communities. In order to better understand how each person experiences social injustices differently, it is important that we all recognize and address the 7 privileges in our society:

    • Sex (male)
    • Race (white)
    • Sexual orientation (heterosexual)
    • Gender identity (cisgender)
    • Religion (Christianity)
    • Physicality (able-bodied)
    • Economic status (upper class)

Most people have at least one type of privilege mentioned above. Privilege doesn’t mean that your life is easy — everyone goes through hardships, and having privileges does not invalidate or belittle those struggles. However, having privilege does mean that it will not be the source of your struggles and/or oppression. I, an able-bodied person, do not have to worry about accessibility when I travel or when I visit museums and theaters. As a cisgender person, I do not have to worry about being harassed in a public bathroom because of bigots who believe I don’t belong there. These are privileges that may be often taken for granted because I have never experienced any struggles that have resulted from being cisgender or able-bodied. But as a bisexual person, I may face ostracism from both within the LGBTQ+ community and outside it. As an Asian-American person, I may face racial slurs and degradation (especially now, during the COVID-19 pandemic). As a woman, it is much harder to be taken seriously in the workplace, and I constantly worry about various forms of sexual harassment. As a bisexual Asian-American woman, those struggles overlap and compound in various ways that will differ from the experiences of a heterosexual Black woman or an asexual Hispanic man, for example.

Having a better understanding of our own privileges and lack of privileges not only makes us more aware of how they might distort our world view, but also allows us to develop a greater sense of compassion for others who do not have those same privileges, as these are generally circumstances that are out of our control to change. This greater sense of self-awareness enables us to recognize how certain privileges may be interrelated, and how that affects our interactions with others within our self-defined communities and outside of it. Rather than dismissing people’s unique struggles, it is important to see them and to listen in order to create a positive, lasting change for the way minority groups are viewed and treated in our society.