Updated: Mar 23
Everyone have multiple social identities, and all those identities uniquely intersect within each individual. Typical social identities include ability status, age, educational level, gender, geographic region (i.e., where you live), national origin (i.e., where you have citizenship), race/ethnicity, religion/spirituality, sexual orientation, and social class.
Each identity comes with their own experiences. Privilege tends to refer to the social advantage, benefits, or respect given to an individual by holding a certain identity. You may have privilege in one of those identities and not have privilege in your other identities. For example, you may identify as gender fluid and are able-bodied. The gender fluid identity is not a privileged identity, but being able-bodied is a privileged status. We live in a world that caters to gender binaries, oftentimes males, and able-bodied individuals, so those who do not hold those identities usually encounter more difficulty moving through the world.
Why Does This Matter?
We live in a world, where if you are not identifying with the majority, you are often targeted. Conformity is usually expected. Just living in this world and being yourself should not result in harm against you, but unfortunately, it does. We have seen many individuals suppress who they are for the sake of safety, which is not fair to them. Humans are all connected in one way or another. What would you do if your loved one was targeted just for being themselves?
These days, there is more light being shed on non-privileged identities, in showing how folks with multiple privileges are suppressing the rights of those without many privileges. Some examples include the police brutality against BIPOC folks, hate crimes against the Muslim community, anti-Asian hate, abortion ban in Texas, and continued violence against the trans community or those who do not identify as part of the gender binary among many more incidents.
What Can We Do About This?
You can always start within and expand outward. Feel free to use the following few suggestions to start your journey:
Get to know your own identities
What you think about those identities?
Do your research on those identities
What does society think about them?
If there is a certain identity you feel strongly towards and want to help, look up the identity online or ask around on how to help that identity/community
It may be through donating money, volunteering, or getting involved in a related non-profit organization
If safe to do so, have conversations with people you know and challenge them if they hold damaging beliefs towards disadvantaged identities
This all takes a lot of self-work. It can be exhausting but also very rewarding. This all takes time since we grew up in a society that often taught us those toxic ideas about the various non-privileged identities. It takes one step, one day at a time to learn and grow to become a better human being.
"What part of you that you had to destroy to be yourself?" - Alok Vaid-Menon
If you want mental health support with us in this journey of self-discovery, feel free to reach out to us through our site.
Stay tuned. The next topic is "Living with Loved Ones."
Singh, A. (2018). The Queer and Transgender Resilience Workbook: Skills for Navigating Sexual Orientation and Gender Expression. New Harbinger Publications.
Vaid-Menon, A. (2020). Beyond the Gender Binary. Penguin Workshop.
Written by Elena Duong, Psy.D.
Edited by Susanna La, Ph.D.