March, 2012 — The first time it happened, it was late on a Friday night. We were walking hand-in-hand, enjoying our night, when a passerby reached out and grabbed our hands. “Hey, I wanna hold your hand, too.” He said, sniggering, and continued on his way. I was shocked and outraged; my girlfriend was mad, but unsurprised.
It was my first time experiencing homophobic street harassment, and I was completely blindsided. After all, of the many different ways to be privileged, I happen to be a lot of them. I come from a stable home with happily married parents. I’m white, cisgendered, upper middle class, well-educated, and American. I can’t tell you what male privilege feels like, but I’m sure that, like many other forms of privilege, you don’t notice it most of the time.
Growing up with that many advantages, it’s hard not to emerge with some sense of entitlement. Not just the obnoxious kind (which I’ve tried to stamp out of myself as possible) but a fundamental sense that I not only deserve to be treated like a human being but I can EXPECT to be treated with a certain level of respect at all times.
When you have all that, losing it — even partially — is disorienting, infuriating, and most of all, bewildering. Continue reading