I decided that it would be interesting to explore the intersection of heteronormativity and passing (the latter of which has come up recently over at the excellent Woman of Color blog). I am a queer woman in a straight relationship. I am a light-skinned Chicana who passes unless she says something about it. It makes me incredibly uneasy to exist in this strange place, being of multiple realities simultaneously.
I don’t want to pass as a straight white woman. And then I think, why the hell not?! Everyone who knows me just a bit knows my identity, in all its wondrous complexity and utter whackiness. But the random stranger on the street? The prospective employer? Anyone I don’t know but who might have power over me? Basically, unless I was male, there’s no way I could get closer to being the dominant. All that privilege, mine. Granted, it’s not like white, straight women have had it all that great and not to get into a pissing contest about who is more victimized, blah blah blah. But it could be worse. But I guess that I love who I am too much to let it all go. I’ve always been bisexual. So how come it’s only relevant when I’m with a woman? I’ve always been half-Mexican, always will be, and to just let that part of my history, and the history of La Raza, float away from me? I think not. I’ve known many immigrant parents who would like this to happen to their children. My Deer Mami was never like that, even if she didn’t speak to me in Spanish as much as she might have. It would just feel like a betrayal – of myself – of my brothers and sisters, mis hermanas y hermanos to be anyone but someone who is proud of who I am.
But, you know, it takes work. I’m always watching out to see if I slip into heteronormativity behaviors. Does what I do or say somehow validate heteronormativity? Shit, does walking down the street holding the sqvirrel’s hand reinforce the heterosexist nature of our (present) society? I once mentioned to the sqvirrel (my sweetie and husband-to-be) that I was a little upset that it would seem obvious to people that I am a straight woman. Being the peach that he is, he said he thought he should get one of those t-shirts (that were so popular when I was in college) that says, “I’m not gay but my girlfriend is.” Maybe I could make him wear it every day. Or just every time I want to hold his hand in public!
I feel like I could have written this except not nearly as well. The whole piece is just so expressive and I relate so well. The intersectionality of all the passing privilege I have as a cis, bi, white-passing woman of color in a heternormative marriage (with an invisible illness, no less! ha). And it’s not that I ever, ever want to deny that privilege. But I’m also not going to erase my own identity when so much of that has already been done for me (thanks for the assimilation, Grandpa).
It just feels so fucking murky to do one without doing the other. And I’m having a hard time with it. So yeah.
Also please for the love of all things sacred call me out if I’m not picking apart my privilege enough. I usually use my passing privilege as a way to point out how horrible racism and heterosexism are. Like when people use me as a ~~good example of Mexicans. Or when they fetishize my bisexuality because I’m conventionally attractive and still suck dick. Or when they call other people with lupus lazy because I’m still able to do certain things. Those words are not compliments. They’re disgusting and I won’t be silent about them.
But I still fuck up. So check me.
“But I still fuck up. So check me.” This is the key.
You can never pick apart your privilege enough, especially as a white-passing woman. Never be silent. Unless you’re in a POC space, then use your ears more.
To the Original Poster- I’m uneasy with how your words sit with me. The fact of the matter is, by your own admission, you’re always going to pass as a straight white woman. You have enormous privilege, you’re aware of it, AND you’re using it. I think that makes you even more responsible to tread lightly, use your privilege when it’s not for personal gain, and never stop talking about it. I know you’re not really asking what you should do, but it seems like you’re torn a bit.
Why does it make you uneasy to live in that space? Explore that unease, it’ll bring you closer to your people and confident in yourself.