I’m sorry that I haven’t acknowledged this fact sooner, because I’ve been aware of it for a long time. I have certain privileges that most don’t have. And it’s because of this fact that I have such a strong voice. I resent and adore this at the same time. And I’m about to be brutally honest in the following chapter because this is something that people should be aware of.
I’m privileged in the fact that I’m white. Especially living in Ireland. I avoid the prejudice that black people face every day over here (and in other places of course). I avoid the prejudice that trans black women have to attempt to overcome. According to a study of 594 LGBT murders in the Americas (North and South and the Caribbean) from a 15-month period starting in January 2013, the average life expectancy of a trans woman of colour is 35 years old. 35 years!
Trans people (particularly women) are a lot more likely to face violence than any cis person. In fact, a trans person is murdered ever 29 hours, even though they are thought to make up about 1% of the population. This is scary. Trans people of colour (again particularly women) are an awful lot more likely to encounter this as seen from the above statistic. This is terrifying!
I’m going to sound like a horrible person when I state the following and the majority of my being is screaming at me not to, but I want to be honest about this. When I hear about the death of a trans woman, I feel horrified. But there’s a certain part of me that’s desperate to find out more. There’s a part of me that wants to know what her circumstances were. Where did she live? Most importantly, was she white? This is terrible! This should not matter to me but the truth is that there’s a safety in being white and unfortunately I feel a relief to know that my white privilege is not being threatened.
Why am I admitting this? It’s not an easy thing for me to come to terms with but I’m hoping that by sharing this and by being honest, I can change. I have to be aware of this and you have to be aware of this. White privilege is a very real thing and it is the responsibility of white people to abolish it.
Skin colour isn’t the only factor that gives me a privilege. I’m also privileged to be pretty. Honestly I hear it all the time (although it’s not phrased in the following way). To a cis person it makes sense that I’m transgender when they look at me. I’ve always been feminine. I’m glamorous. I have a beautiful face and a supermodel’s body (God I sound totally narcissistic). I do get special treatment because of this fact. I am listened to more than less “passable” trans people. I am respected simply because I am pleasing to the eyes. This is disgusting. This is wrong. I shouldn’t be treated any differently than other trans people simply because it’s easier for society to accept me. But how can I hate something that is such an advantage to me? I am slowly learning how.
My personality is another thing. I am unapologetic, strong, witty and likeable without being too much in your face and because of this, people are a lot more okay with me than they’d probably be with most trans people. This is wrong too. I’m not that special and I shouldn’t be treated as such.
I am luckier than a lot of trans people in many other ways. I have a supportive, middle class family who are willing to support me through my medical transition. I’ve always been popular and haven’t had to face too much bullying. I have independence at eighteen years of age. I’m talented and fashionable, loving and loved, articulate and genuine. I’m extremely happy, and for that I’m extremely grateful.
But this should not be the case. It’s a complete injustice for me to have so many privileges based on such trivial things. I’m not saying that I don’t deserve a voice or that I don’t deserve these things, I just don’t deserve a stronger voice than others for things that I cannot help.
At the moment I am working on myself. But when my career has developed to a place where I can make a difference, I intend to. Not because I have a hidden motive, not because I wish to improve my public profile, but because this is what I’ve always wanted to do. I want to help someone who needs it. I want to see the situations of others improved. I want to be a voice. And I will be.
Listen to an episode of my podcast about Samira Bellil and gang rape in the French Banlieue below:
Read my article about life for Transgender Citizens in Ireland here.