Straight Male Privilege is a Trip

So just first, to get this out of the way: I do not identify as straight. I identify currently as pansexual (that’s a story for another blog entry,) and I am queer, and will always be queer, even if at any one moment (like this one) my romantic attachments are only with people who identify as women. Many trans men do identify as straight – and that’s totally fine – just not my story.

I am now pretty much cis-passing to strangers (and I imagine I don’t set off anyone’s gaydar.) Which means I have had some very interesting experiences. One is that when I am with one woman, even a friend, everyone assumes we’re a straight couple. I was traveling with an old friend recently (we’ve traveled together in the past) and people totally assumed we were a couple. From the AirBnB host, to the restaurant waitperson who gave me the check. Maybe, in the past, people had made that assumption, but I didn’t *feel* it the way I did this time. I also noticed that internally, once I realized people were making that assumption, a sort of invisible wariness that I didn’t realize I was walking around with went away. It’s kind of like a noise you don’t hear until it stops.

That’s how I would describe all of what’s happened to me now that I am walking around in the world, and people assume I’m a straight guy. There is a wariness I didn’t quite realize I was carrying around with me. A weight on my shoulders as it were, that has now just gone away.

And, in the past, unlike most women because I was gender non-conforming, I wasn’t much of an object for male attention or harassment. But I still walked around with a kind of wariness around men. I had an experience last week that was eye opening. I was hanging out in Oakland at Lake Merritt for a little bit before I was meeting someone, and a homeless guy was sitting under a tree, and began to talk to me. I noticed a kind of wariness and caution, then I realized that he totally saw me as a guy. And then the caution just dissolved, and I walked toward him and had a great conversation with him.

But there is much more. I notice that people listen to me when I talk to them. They pay attention a lot more. When I’m on the phone with tech support, they assume I know what I’m talking about (the frustration level with tech support has gone down amazingly.) I get so much more respect from strangers, even as a black man.

But it also does feel weird to be in queer spaces, sometimes. Like if I’m being physically affectionate with a woman in a queer space, I’m really aware of the optics. So I am buying a bunch of trans t-shirts.

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A New Kind of Pride

It’s Pride month. That annual festival of queer celebration.

My first Pride march was in 1985. I went down to Columbus, OH (Cleveland, where I lived at the time, didn’t have a Pride march yet.) I was 25 years old, freshly minted lesbian, marching with like 200 other people, with about that many counter protesters with hateful signs and more hateful looks on their faces.

When I lived in Western Massachusetts, Pride came early  – because of the students, the Pride march was in May. I rarely went. In 2000, I was traveling to San Francisco with my partner at the time, for a conference she was attending, and we went to the Dyke March, and the pride parade the next day, and it felt really special.

Since I moved to the queer equivalent of Mecca, Pride has seemed both a bigger deal, and a smaller one. There’s lots going on for Pride month here, concerts, film festivals, all sorts of events. And I’ve dipped in and out (much less since I’ve lived up in Sonoma County.) I’ve been to the Dyke March and the Pride Parade a few times, but not lately. It seemed like pride was kinda “old hat.” (Besides the fact that it has become increasingly commercial.)

This year, I’m going to Santa Rosa Pride (today!), and also traveling down to SF for the Trans March later in the month. It feels like a new moment in my life. I was always proud to be queer. And I’m still proud to be queer. And now I’m also proud to be trans.

Happy Pride!

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