bookmark_borderOther people’s pain is recognized, but mine is not: why I am opposed to the concept of “privilege”

Children with cancer.

Parents of a child with cancer.

Bombing survivors.


Survivors of mass shootings.

People who lost a family member to a bombing, shooting, or any type of homicide.

People who use wheelchairs.

People with a visible disability of any sort.

Victims of domestic violence.

Victims of sexual abuse, sexual assault, or sexual harassment.

Children who grew up with alcoholic, mentally ill, or violent parents.

Parents, especially mothers.

Caregivers of any sort.

Gay people, queer people, trans people.

Black people, indigenous people, Asian people, people of any race except for white.

What all of these categories of people have in common is that their suffering, their difficulties, and their challenges are recognized by our society.

I don’t belong to any of these categories of people.

I have suffered trauma, and it molded me into the person I am today. Not the kind of trauma that is recognized as such by society. Not the kind of trauma that consists of one big, memorable, horrific event. But rather the kind of trauma that occurs again and again, day in and day out. So many different aspects of me, so many things that I did and said, criticized and corrected. The way I did my hair, the way I washed my face, the way I put sunscreen on, the way I dressed, the shoes and socks I wore, the way I stood, the way I sat, the way I held my pencil, the way I played soccer and softball and volleyball, the way I talked, the words I chose, my hobbies and interests. The shame that this repeated criticism causes, the bitterness, the resentment, cannot be overstated. The exhaustion of having to change thing after thing after thing about myself, to go through life with a carefully constructed fake persona, and to painstakingly hide my true nature from others in order to avoid further criticism, is indescribable.

Society doesn’t acknowledge that I’ve suffered. Society doesn’t acknowledge the challenges and difficulties that I’ve faced. Society doesn’t care about my feelings. Society blames me for my own suffering, or fails to recognize that I’ve suffered at all.

People who fall into the above categories are lauded as heroes, saints, warriors, innocent victims. They are praised for their courage, their strength, their resilience. Society embraces them, comforts them, rallies around them. Charitable organizations are founded to help them.

I, on the other hand, am called a weirdo, a loser, a messed-up person. When I’ve dared to complain about, or question, the way that I’ve been treated, society’s response is some combination of:

  • It’s not that bad.
  • It’s not a big deal.
  • Stop making such a big deal out of it.
  • You need to be less sensitive.
  • Everyone has to do things they don’t like sometimes.
  • No one likes it, Marissa, but you just gotta do it. It’s just one of those things you have to do.
  • It’s for your own good.
  • This situation is the result of your own mistakes, your own irresponsibility, your own stupidity.
  • This is what you should do differently to prevent that from happening in the future.
  • You deserved it – you wouldn’t need to be criticized or corrected if you didn’t do things in such a messed-up and wrong way in the first place.

And lately: You are privileged. You have privilege.

Translation: You have no right to complain. You have no right to be upset about anything. Your suffering does not exist, and if it does exist, then it certainly does not matter. In fact, you deserve to suffer. You deserve to be made uncomfortable, because having your privilege pointed out to you is supposed to be uncomfortable.

Pardon my French, but fuck that.

I have suffered. I have experienced trauma.

I am not “privileged.”

I do not have “privilege.”

I’ve suffered just as much as anyone else, and my trauma is every bit as valid as anyone else’s.

It is unacceptable to tell me that someone else’s suffering is worse than mine, and any ideology that does so is an ideology that I will fight against until my last breath.

It is cruel and sadistic to tell me that I deserve to be made uncomfortable, that I deserve to have further suffering inflicted on me, merely because I belong to a politically unfavored demographic category.

And it is completely lacking in empathy to tell me that I should not complain or criticize, should not express my pain, but rather should “center” and “amplify” and “elevate” the voices of others. The voices of those who society has deemed worthy of compassion, of empathy, of help, of support. The voices of those who society believes, falsely, have suffered more than I have.

The ideology of privilege claims that some people’s suffering matters while other people’s suffering doesn’t. That some people deserve help and support, while other people deserve to have additional suffering inflicted. That some people’s viewpoints, perspectives, thoughts, and feelings matter while other people’s do not.

The ideology of privilege is vile, it is immoral, and it is despicable.

My suffering matters, period.

Period, not but.

There is no “but.”

It is not okay to tell me that I am “privileged,” that I should be grateful, that I should stop complaining, or that other people have it worse.

I deserve to have my pain recognized and acknowledged just as much as anyone else does. With a period, not with a but.

That is why I am so vehemently opposed to the concept of “privilege.”

bookmark_borderNewspapers and reminders of trauma

One of numerous activities that I’ve given up since the statue genocide happened is reading the newspaper.

I used to read the Boston Globe every day, as well as two small local papers every week. But now the news is so filled with triggers, opinions that make me angry, and reminders of the horrible things that have happened, that I’ve decided to give it up. I have always valued being informed about world events, politics, and the happenings in my community, and have always found the news interesting. But these benefits are no longer worth the pain that consuming news now causes.

Last week, my dad visited my uncle at his new apartment and picked up a copy of that town’s local paper. Thinking he was being nice, he gave it to me, and against my better judgment I decided to read it.

Despite the fact that it was only a small, local weekly newspaper, I could feel my mood steadily decline while reading it.

A column about how the town was celebrating St. Patrick’s Day immediately triggered comparisons with how our society treats Columbus Day. Why is one ethnic group’s holiday embraced almost universally, with parades, the wearing of the green, playing of traditional Irish music, and consumption of traditional Irish food and drink, while another ethnic group’s holiday is either ignored, condemned, attacked, protested against, or abolished entirely?

I became angry when reading a press release from the office of Rep. Ayanna Pressley, which bragged about the “just and equitable” district she was creating by securing funding for childcare and programs to help young parents. How is it just or equitable to discriminate against people who do not have children? I found myself wondering.

Similar thoughts were brought forth by an article about a housing voucher program, which was described by the town’s mayor as particularly important because of the disproportionate impact of the housing crisis on people of color and families with young children. Again, I wondered why, in the eyes of society, do white people and people without children always seem to matter less?

The “Beacon Hill Roll Call” column reminded me of the bills to abolish Columbus Day, to force people to undergo medical procedures against their will, and to discriminate against people like me in various other ways, which have been considered by the state legislature at various points in time, some of which unfortunately are still under consideration.

An editorial about Women’s History Month brought to mind thoughts about why other heritage months, such as Confederate History Month and Italian Heritage Month, are not celebrated with equal enthusiasm.

Even an article about subway track work and station improvements caused a pang of sadness. As an autistic person, my special interest is history and statues, exactly the thing that our society over the past four years has decided to destroy. I know several fellow autistic people whose special interest is trains, and I know that they would enjoy reading about these new MBTA developments. It was bittersweet to think about how others are still able to enjoy news about their special interests, while for mine the only available news centers on condemnation and destruction.

The “On This Day In History” feature, something that had been my favorite part of every newspaper since I was 10 years old, reminded me of how much things have changed. I learned that on that particular date, Hernan Cortez had landed in what is now Mexico, and Jefferson Davis had signed a bill authorizing slaves to fight in the Confederate Army. These would simply have been interesting facts to my past self, but now I cannot hear the names of Cortez or Davis without being reminded of how our society has decided to attack, condemn, and largely obliterate from existence, these historical figures.

Because I have always found news interesting and have always valued being informed, my goal has been to one day add the news back into my life. But I have found that right now, the best way of building a life that is worth living is to turn towards my inner world and away from the outer one. Drawing, writing stories about my imaginary world, organizing my toy soldiers, figurines, and dolls, and spending time with my Stonewall statue… these are the activities that bring comfort, joy, peace, and a sense of control. The news, on the other hand, is filled with nothing but oppression, meanness, and injustice.

Perhaps this will change one day, but perhaps not. Maybe my healing will progress, my resilience will increase, my mental state will stabilize, and the world will change for the better, to the point where I will be able to add the news back into my life. But for now, it’s best that I stay away from it.