Saturday, January 8, 2011

Privilege


Privilege: A right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most.


This word is bandied about pretty regularly in poly circles. Endlessly debated, as though it is a bad thing in all circumstances. I have reached saturation with it. Being so tired of it, here are some of my thoughts regarding this oh-so-loaded word! ;)


Gender, spirituality, level of experience, ethnicity, body size, height, sexuality, marital status, age, introversion/extroversion, disabled, mentally diagnosed in some way, sex positive/negative, employed/unemployed/self-employed, dominant/submissive, kinky/vanilla, poly/mono. The list of things that we are supposedly privileged by is extensive, and seems to grow directly in proportion to how much someone is outside societal norms.


There are a great many of these things that are unchangeable, not chosen. That is the arena in which it seems very reasonable to make some noise about changing and have some righteous indignation about. The ones that are chosen behaviors in some ways? Do your thing, be unapologetic about it, educate others, and be prepared for some resistance.


I'm a person that chooses to be poly. Yes, on many levels I consider that to be more hard-wired than not, but I lived mono for many years quite successfully, and it was a conscious decision on my part to divert from that societally privileged state and be authentically who I am. Yes, I live in the Pacific Northwest, where poly isn't so odd. While an eyebrow may be cocked, and there are potential repercussions, I don't live in fear of being exposed. Some will see that as coming from a position of privilege. I tend to see it more as setting up my life so that it works pretty well, despite opting to do and be many things that are quite a bit outside the box.


No, it wasn't easy. Yes, I've paid significant prices for my choices. People that choose to live inside the boxes have prices they pay for their privilege as well, ones that I am unwilling to pay. The folks that spend inordinate amounts of time whinging about how they, or others that they see, are oppressed by the establishment wouldn't choose to be a part of it if they had a graven invitation.


Yes, it is important for each of us to push for changes that are personally valuable and desired. Just remember that societal norms are a moving target, and acknowledge the progress we've already made, rather than complaining that it isn't yet perfect. The 'edge' of today is the 'old hat' of tomorrow. Transformation on a broader level comes from people doing things that aren't easily accepted, and making them a working example to those who lack their perspective and experiences. Remedying ignorance, not railing about privilege, is really where the fight will be won. When more people know and understand healthy, functioning families that happen to be poly, the fear that excludes us from privileges diminishes.


How can you show someone who you are in a way that expands their mind? Who can you reach out to, in some small way, to dispel an irrational fear? Create a new attitude in each person whose life you touch by being who you are without apology or trepidation. I am privileged to be living my life on my terms, and no individual or societal expectation can change that unless I allow it.


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