So, okay, I don't really know how to start this, but I was thinking a lot about Tumblr, social justice bloggers, problematic things and the Internet a lot recently, and I thought I'd blog a little about it.
I remember a couple years ago having a conversation with a friend in my kitchen about privilege. I had been told before by the social justice side of the Internet that I had it, but because I didn't even know what privilege really meant, I got defensive. Since I had always attributed my own successes to my own efforts, I defensively understood 'privilege' to discount my own efforts entirely and attribute them solely to my race, gender or other factors.
A lot of Tumblr posts have taught me a lot of things since then, but one ah-ha moment in particular happened when I saw a video called, "Cracking the Codes: A Trip to the Grocery Store" which defines privilege. As Peggy McIntosh said:
Privilege exists when one group has something of value that is denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to, rather than because of anything they've done or failed to do. Access to privilege doesn't determine one's outcomes, but it is definitely an asset that makes it more likely that whatever talent, ability, and aspirations a person with privilege has will result in something positive for them.
It was like a switch flipped and I could see: privilege played (and will continue to play) a role in so many parts of my life, and by acknowledging and understanding that, I can use my inherent privilege to stand up to systematic inequality.
On a personal level, I don't want to be that gay-white-cis-male that Tumblr thinks is what's wrong with the world -- the type that only cares about the G part in LGBT or that uses racial stereotypes for laughs or that ignores the experience of trans people by throwing around slurs. In fact, I refuse to be. So I appreciate many people holding me to a higher standard and holding me accountable, and I'm sorry to anyone who I've ignorantly hurt or offended over my decade online. Half the time I think I'm being funny without seeing the bigger picture. I guess another ah-ha moment is realizing that privilege is having your feelings hurt by being called racist or sexist or transphobic or problematic, but not actually having to face racism or sexism or transphobia day to day.
Although I've seen many Tumblr posts accusing me of acting as though I'm "the voice of the gays" or of being "a gay icon" -- I've never considered myself that, nor would I ever want to act like that. I can only offer my own perspective and use my privilege to showcase other perspectives that could help the world.
I recognize that by being the G part of LGBTQ, I'll inherently have more of a spotlight than the rest of the LGBTQ spectrum -- and I can use my voice to help others in the community share their own voice. I recognize that by being white, cis and male, I'm systematically allowed more success than others -- but that doesn't stop me from using my privilege to work toward averting that inequality.
And I'm still learning. I was kind of scared to write this, but I don't think anyone should fear bettering themselves. So... yeah. A lot of things I've been accused of being problematic for happened years and years and years ago, but I still wanted to keep you in the loop, so thanks for getting through this mess of a blog post. Oh -- and I guess one last ah-ha moment (that happened while writing the previous sentence) is that even though these thoughts and things have been said many times before, the only reason you might be paying attention is because a person in a place of privilege wrote them down for you to read.
This post originally appeared on Tyler Oakley's Tumblr page.