Trigger Warning:: Transmisogyny, violence, trans*phobia, homophobia, assault
Privilege is something that is granted and gained. Privilege is something that is given, and taken away, by other people and society. People do not just roll over and decide to be privileged one day. If it was that easy, there are a lot of people in the world who would love to hit that privilege switch. Privilege is something that is handed to people society deems worthy, mostly white, cis, straight men who aren’t poor. Just as privilege can be given, it can be taken away, almost in the blink of an eye. A trans* person who is perceived as cis has passing privilege that can be easily removed the moment they are known to be trans*. A queer person who is perceived as straight can lose their ‘straight passing’ privilege the moment their identity and status as a queer person is known. Take it account how many people do not know of their privileges until the moment it is taken away.
One of the better examples is when a person of privilege is a victim of a hate crime for being perceived as a queer person. A trans man who is perceived as a woman by his attacker and is assaulted as such in a misogynistic attack; a straight man that is perceived to be gay and thus is the victim of gay bashing or a verbal assault. People can experience the violence of being perceived as queer without actually being queer due to the perception of another. Denying this experience strips the victim of their assault, whether verbal, physical, sexual or a combination of such. Take the first example. This man has become a victim of misogyny due to his attacker perceiving him as being a woman. While the attack may be tinged with cissexism, trans*phobia, and maybe even homophobia, the attacker still carried out the attack as one meant to be rooted in misogyny. It is almost as if the other causes are accidental. Denying this denies the impact that such violence has not only on queer people, but on the majority as well.
This is not to say that the majority must also experience a problem for it to be real. There are aspects of being a queer person that do not ever reach the experiences of the majority. This is why the experiences of violence due to being perceived as a queer person do not ever mean that person knows what it is like to be queer. While the straight man may have been the victim of a homophobic fueled assault, he does not know what it is like to be gay. He is not the victim of these types of assaults on a daily basis. His existence is not denied, questioned, and attacked day in and day out. A possibly core part of his identity does not bring hatred and violence. This also brings the experience of being a queer person down to violence. It ignores the other aspects such as community, possible shared culture, and so on.
By believing that experiencing an attack for being perceived minority is equal to living as queer person, equates being queer to oppression and violence. While these are realities in the lives of queers, they are not their entirety. By equating being queer to violence and oppression, one perpetuates the idea of the perpetual victim. Queer people (especially trans* people) are seen and portrayed as permanently pathetic, constantly in strife due to being queer. They are seen as unable to view their lives as anything other than tainted by their queer identity and their struggle due to being queer. They are unable to exist outside of this. Every aspect of their lives is tainted by being queer. They are portrayed as perpetually depressed or angry, unable to think outside of anything but their struggle. They are fixated on it, consumed by it. It is their sole focus of their lives. While there is nothing wrong with dedicating one’s life to a core aspect of identity or ridding the world of oppression and violence, the way queer people are portrayed in this light is negatively. Often queer people (especially trans* people) are shown to be unable to hold stable jobs, stable relationships, or other forms of stability due to their all consuming queerness.
While I mention queer people, this same type of perception is pushed towards women, both cis and trans* or those perceived to be women. The trans man I mentioned earlier is an example of this. Women are disproportionately victims of violence. Since the queer label, as I define use it, includes trans* people, I will speak mostly about cis women or those perceived to be cis women in this paragraph. Misogyny and sexism is rampant is society. Rape culture is something that is a very integrated part of the culture in America. The points of being perceived as queer can be applied to those who are perceived as women, whether they are or not (such as the trans man). While all previous statements are directed at queer people, most of the same statements and ideas are pushed towards women. Women are bombarded day in and day out by sexism and misogyny. Experiencing violence based on being perceived as a woman is experiencing sexism and misogyny, but does not grant one entrance to the experiences of women (unless they are one). Trans women face the same issues cis women face, and additional ones due to trans*misogyny and trans*phobia.
Experiencing violence due to being perceived as queer does not remove one’s privileges from society either. While it may cause others to doubt the privilege and status of the person, it does not entirely erase their privileges. Others still perceive them to be straight and/or cisgender. They are still granted the rights that the majority is afforded. Experiencing violence for being perceived as queer does not grant one the right to speak over actual queer people, whether or not they have experienced violence or not. Queer people actively experience oppression, whether is has been enacted against them or not. Media and law makers enforce active oppression against queer people for simply existing. The moment a queer person consumes almost any form of mainstream media, they are greeted by stereotypes, cissexism, heterosexism, and so on. They are told from day one by society at large that they are lesser than their cisgender and/or heterosexual peers.
Experiencing the violence and oppression that queer people face simply shows that the problem is far reaching and deeply ingrained in society. It shows how deeply violent the othering of queer people is and how deeply ingrained into the very messages and psyche of the majority. It shows how we are taught to discriminate indiscriminately due to perceptions rather than facts. Experiencing the violence and oppression that queer people face due to societal norms shows how broken the system is. The system can barely contain itself to queer people and lashes out on anything queer-like. The system overflows with its hatred for queer people to the point of attacking those they would usually consider their own.