Q&A: “why is passing considered a privilege with some identities but not others…”

anonymous said:

I feel like for the disabled community and the POC community being able to pass is considered a privilege. I had read a previous anon q you answered and I felt like some of the things you mentioned in it could apply to these communities as well. Ex. Having a part of your identity being erased being oppressive and not a privilege. I guess I’m wanting to hear your opinion about why passing is considered a privilege with some identities but not others. Thanks!

[the post that anon is referring to]

hi, anon! i think it’s safe to assume that it’s “able-bodied passing privilege” and “white passing privilege” that you had in mind in your ask. in my humble opinion, many of the things that i said in my other post equally apply to both of these concepts of “passing privilege” as well.

i may be the only person in the world who thinks of it this way, i don’t know, but to me it’s not so much that “passing” is considered a privilege with some identities but not with others. my stance on “passing privilege” is that only the person in question gets to decide whether they’re “passing” and whether that’s a privilege or not.

the problem is that within certain communities (such as the LGBTQIA community, POC communities (there literally is no “the POC community” despite what Tumblr thinks) and the(?) disabled community) there are people who preoccupy themselves with hosting Oppression Olympics. Oppression Olympics are always based on the idealization of someone else’s life and how they think that idealized life compares to their own life.

“you’ve got it better than me because society sees/treats you as X but me as Y! you’re so privileged!” they say.

“WTF are you even complaining about? you may be C, but society thinks you’re D! you’re a privileged, token member of D, so STFU!” they say.

without having ever walked a day in that persons’ shoes to know jack shit all about the “privilege” that they insist that other person has.

without even an inkling of understanding of what it’s like to be both idealized and erased at the same time from either side of “the divide”.

without even a second thought given to the reality that that person actually faces every day rather than the idealized assumption of what their life must be like.

no, i do not think that whether something is “passing privilege” or not is dependent upon the identity in question. it’s dependent on the person in question and their feelings about whether their “passing” is a privilege or not.

calling someone else’s experience a privilege is more often than not literally an example of “the grass is always greener”; of one person being jealous of their assumption of what another person has, which is always a distorted idealization of the reality. it’s looking at someone else’s life through rose-colored glasses, deciding that that other person is “better off” in life and thus labeling yourself the winner of The Oppression Olympics because you’ve got it “worse”.

more often than not what someone is describing as “passing privilege” is really just a different lived experience that comes with its own unique challenges that are not inherently “better” nor “worse” than someone who doesn’t “pass”.

“passing privilege” will never be the actual privilege that a person has from actually being a member of the majority group (ie. actually being white, able-bodied, heteronormative, cisgender, etc).

TL;DR: the only time “passing” is a privilege, in my humble opinion, is when the person in question says that it is. why? because i’m pretty sure that the person in question is an expert on their own lived experiences. they know whether they’re actually “passing” or not and how privileged (or not) they are because of it. just because society sees them as something doesn’t mean that that’s what that person wants society to see them as (ie. erasure is a thing). it doesn’t mean that they are automatically privileged, either. chances are there is a lot of shit going on behind what someone might call “passing privilege”– things that neither you nor i nor anyone else but that person knows– which is why i think that discussion of “passing” and any “privilege” related to it should be left in the hands of the expert, ie. the person in question.

YouTuber and Blogger, Vesper is an American expat currently living in Japan.

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