In a way I feel privileged to be a transwoman because I am one of the few that gets to be on this amazing journey, but it certainly does not privilege me in society. In some societies in the past certain transwomen† were privileged. They held special spiritual positions in their societies. Today this is sadly fading. With the intrusion of western patriarchy into all areas of the globe, their status has waned drastically, and they now face the same discrimination that western patriarchal societies place on us. Even in the most liberal western countries transgender persons face discrimination in many areas.
But, this post is about me having certain privileges in society because of certain classes that I belong to. I will eventually explain these. But more than that I will show how these privileges give me advantages over other intersectional classes of transgender woman when it comes to living my life as a woman. Some of these privileges I receive are white privilege, social privilege, health care privilege, mental health care privilege, and middle class privilege.
Perhaps I will start with my health care privilege. Because of a mental health disability I receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This entitles me to Medicare benefits. But, because I receive SSI I also have state Medicaid benefits. This not only covers what Medicare does not pay out, but also pays my Medicare part B premium. This limited income also reduces my Medicare part D prescription costs. So, I am privileged to have, oddly enough, one the best healthcare coverage in the United States.
Because of my great healthcare coverage I do not have to pay anything to my doctors. All my blood tests are covered. The only thing I pay is a few dollars for my estradiol and spironolactone. It will even pay for the majority of vaginoplasty.º And again because all I have is disability income and it is so low I will be able get financial aid for any uncovered costs.º I might have to pay associate costs, like transportation and possibly hotel costs for the first days of aftercare. Whoever thought that having a disability and living with an income below the poverty line would be a privilege, but it is in regards to transgender health care, or so it is in my case.
Next I want to talk about my middle class privilege. While my income may be low, I do come from a middle class family, you might even consider it as upper middle class. My family have lived in middle class or mixed class neighborhoods. They had paid for several attempts at college at the community college level, so I have received some middle class education.
What privilege do I actually have in this regards. It works against feeling marginalized as I am in multiple stigmatized groups (4 Strikes Against Me and Proud of It). So I see this privilege more as a psychological buffer, than any tangible benefit. Still I imagine it helps me be seen as more acceptable to others.
There is also a connection between my middle class privilege and my social privilege. My association with others is mainly with liberally minded people. I have many supportive relationships. It is not that I don’t have associations with others outside of the middle class stratification. I do, but I am mostly surrounded by others that share similar middle class backgrounds.
In regards to my social privilege, it incorporates locational privilege. I live in a very liberal county in a mostly liberal state. While, no area is completely safe, I feel a certain degree of at least marginal acceptance when out. I take my safety very seriously. I am always aware of my environment. Only part of it is being a transwoman; I also have a fear of a bad looking person or group of bad looking persons as I imagine any woman would feel. Still, I move around freely, staying away from dodgy areas if possible.
As I mentioned safety, I will bring up my being white as a privilege. While again, no transwoman or woman are totally safe or free from fear of attack or abuse and the actuality of it, I have nowhere the odds of coming to harm as transwomen of color. I obviously face no discrimination because of the color of my skin, so I recognize that my ability to intersect with trans* persons of color is very limited. Still, I wish we lived in a world where color or ethnicity didn’t matter. I think someone famous had a dream about this.
Last, I will say something about being privileged in regards to my mental health. Okay, you might ask, “how is your mental health a privilege?” It is a privilege in three ways. The first I described above in regards to health insurance coverage. And as of today, I have been free from depression and anxiety for over 6 years. So, that makes me privileged to have recovered my mental health because not all that suffer with these conditions make it to the good place I feel I have been in these last 6 years in regards to it.
However, and this will be the oddity here, I am privileged to have suffered at all. My suffering has enabled me to learn a great deal about life, and how to deal with difficult issues. Everyone has issues that are difficult, even those with no mental illness. I now can better navigate my life as it has returned to mental normalcy.º Lots of people have not learned the lessons I have been privilege to learn that would help them deal more effectively with their difficulties, especially how to deal with the negative emotions that crop up during the difficult times, and of course with those connected with being a transgender woman in transition.
So, these are some of the areas of my life that I found I am privileged and to be receiving benefits from them in some manner. I am not quite sure I have recognized all my privileges in life, but for those I have I am very grateful.
† I am using this term even though it is only of recent vintage. It is not even certain that they would have understood the term back then as it is used today.
‡ I was misinformed on this aspect of my care. However, I still have some options. One of the issues is medicare refuses to provide the necessary criteria for the surgery, so they cannot be billed. And medicaid relies on those criteria as well. One option is to wait and see if Trump’s hopeful exit from the presidency will get medicare to move and create a national policy for criteria. Currently, it is handled by contracted regional companies, and the Mid-Atlantic one, where I reside hasn’t yet done its job. The second option is to apply for financial assistance. One of my mottoes is that the future is open, so I refuse to believe there is no solution out there.
º I know normalcy can imply that those who have a mental health condition are abnormal. Statistically that is true. But, not in the sense of being less than human. Here it is in the sense of not having to deal with symptoms that severely interfered with my life endeavors.
3 thoughts on “I am Privileged”
That’s a really interesting and balanced analysis, Stephie.
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