Oops, Your Privilege Is Showing

When my husband came home from work today, he put his arms around me and said, “You’re shivering. I’ll keep you warm.”

Except I wasn’t shivering. I was shaking. I hurt a lot of people on Twitter today, and there’s no way I can take that back.

This post isn’t for them. There’s no reason they should listen to anything I have to say. This post is for people like me—straight, white, and cis—who might not realize how deeply their privilege affects their perspective, even when they consider themselves an ally.

I was engaging in a Twitter conversation that, in my mind, was about the presence of M/F erotic scenes in M/M romance. In an attempt to communicate an extremely complex and sensitive subject in 140 characters or less, here’s what I hastily tweeted.

In a display of privileged arrogance, I forgot about trans people. In a conversation about trans people, with a trans person.

Ugh.

I offer no excuse. There is no excuse. A trans man is a man. There are too many voices denying that fact, and I’m ashamed that today, mine was one of them.

Here are some things I learned today:

  • When a trans person says that a dislike for erotic M/F scenes in M/M romance is transphobic, biphobic, and misogynistic, I don’t have to agree with that. But as a straight, cis woman, there’s no point in my arguing with it. My privilege affects how I see the issue, and I bring nothing of value to the table.
  • Romance authors are under no obligation to consider the fetishes of readers. Fetishes are for erotica, not romance. We can advocate for readers without pandering to them.
  • When authors cater to the stereotypes, they reinforce them. Authors have the power to gently (or not so gently) challenge the preconceptions of their audience. Readers aren’t entitled to feel comfortable when they read a book. That’s not what books are for.

I’m going to do a lot more listening to trans people from now on, to avoid ever again saying something so stupid, tone-deaf, and wrong.

I’ve apologized, but here’s the thing: apologies don’t negate what you did. They don’t take away the hurt you caused. I don’t expect to be forgiven, because I’m not entitled to that. But I’m a better person than I was this morning, and I have the trans community to thank for that.

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