So I’ve just completed BuzzFeed’s “How Privileged Are You?” Quiz and found out (what a shocker) that I’m not privileged according to the quiz creators’ criterion such as “Do you have a student loan?” or “I have never been called a racial slur”. Before I write about how problematic quizzing privilege is, let me state how surprisingly accurate it seems to be. The questions on the quiz range from sexual orientation and gender identity to race and wealth. However, I unfortunately didn’t see too many qualifiers, if any, that dealt with other aspects of life such as mental illness but I did see questions dealing with sexual abuse.
As a gay, autistic, Pinoy male whose often confused as being straight, another type of Asian, Latino, or basically racially ambiguous, I wasn’t surprised at all that I would be considered “Under-Privileged”. My experience has been one where I still continue to struggle with having enough financial resources to make ends meet or enough support to validate the underrepresented or underprivileged identities that I have. However, the reality is that while I am queer, I am confused as being “straight”, while I am Pinoy (Filipino descent), I am confused as being of other ethnicities or racially ambiguous (which is why I’ve adopted the “brown” label since it’s easier to explain and aligns with my experiences when dealing with ethnicity), and while I am disabled, I am often confused with being neurotypical when I am, indeed, neurodivergent/neuroatypical while my struggles with skin problems (e.g. severe acne and marks, scabies, etc.) are borderline disabling and subjects me to much more visible ableism. So essentially, my experience is one of some privilege and some benefits of a lack of visible privilege. Having visible differences, undoubtedly, makes you more prone to facing discrimination, hate, and other side-effects of bigotry while passing as someone who has more privilege makes you less prone to such experiences (although your existence is still questioned and invalidated by overall society).
The most surprising thing, to me, when it comes to this quiz is that it measured your ability to “pass” as someone with more privilege through qualifiers such as “I have never questioned any of my identities”. The unfortunate truth, though, is that differences inevitably do show and that any false sense of privilege according to your ability to pass are usually exceeded with expectations to “fit in” with the mainstream. For instance, because I pass as being able and because I’m gay, I am faced with the ideal of the conventionally handsome, fit gay male who, in some ways, I do try to embody which leads me to be somewhat more insecure about my own body image, something that I have always struggled with from the time that I first began to deal with my acne. The expectations that come with privilege are also definitely a signal that you don’t have as much privilege as you may think.
However, I find my main issue with this quiz to be the oversimplification of our experiences. For instance, a white cis straight male in poverty, undoubtedly, faces more discrimination than a wealthy white cis gay male who is more likely to have access to the supports and a better quality of life that affords them with more privilege than a low-income, straight counterpart. Caitlyn Jenner, an example of a white trans gay female would still more likely have more privilege than I would because she has notoriety, influence and wealth. The oversimplification of our experience unfortunately also only breeds more hate and conflict. While it is important for the low-income straight white cis male to know that anti-gay hate is intolerable, it’s also important for the wealthy gay white cis male to know that poverty is a reality that prevents too many people from fully achieving their goals and reaching a modicum of success, even with the so-called “hard work” philosophy, in a society where social mobility is limited.
So I will say this as a low-income, gay, autistic, Pinoy male with depression, OCD, and anxiety: let’s stop playing the oppression olympics! At the end of the day, our characteristics and identities do matter but only seeing a person for their privilege and not for their personalities or qualities as an individual makes us look just as bad as those who demonize us for any characteristic/identity we hold. Having respectful conversations and the occasional tweet battle with the overprivileged bigot, however, is called for!
We have to use common sense in order to have the proper conversations that move our respective missions and advocacy further. For instance, using an entire community’s tragedy (e.g. the massacre at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando that targeted the LGBT/Queer community) to further your own agenda is never okay! I must stress this again, you shouldn’t compare tragedies, they are considered as such for a good reason. I do not care that this was not the worst massacre in U.S. history, the worst mass-shooting in U.S. history, or even the worst LGBT hate crime in global history but I will give you points if you mention that every day in America, as many people are murdered through gun violence as were killed in Orlando on June 12, 2016 because, yes, this is both an issue of homophobia and gun violence and it is undeniable the links between these two societal ills and this mass shooting! Unless your point actually helps solve the problems behind these tragedies, you need not do any more than send your condolences, change your profile pictures, and pray because doing any more will only disrespect the victims and cast them off as simple statistics rather than respect and admire them as the beautiful individuals that they likely were. Remember that tragedies such as Sandy Hook and Pulse only happen because, we as a society failed in some way. The only recourse towards honoring the memory of those murdered in these senseless tragedies is to legislate action that prevents such events from ever happening again. For the victims of Sandy Hook, that would mean gun control measures that still need to be legislated, and for the victims of Pulse, it would mean gun control legislation, stronger hate crime laws, and legislation that would improve the lives of queer communities, especially queer communities of color.
In any case, we need to wake up, and in order to wake up, we should recognize our privilege and lack thereof. So although I am a queer, disabled, Asian man, I will not face most instances of gay-bashing, I will not face most instances of ableism, I will not face most Asian stereotypes and I will never face sexism or transphobia. So at the end of the day, I do encourage you to take this test, however, I caution you on taking the results with a grain of salt.
Let’s not play the blame game or oppression olympics and actually engage in nonviolent dialogue that allow for positive, logical change!