New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently did a podcast interview with reporters Ryan Grim and Briahna Joy Gray for The Intercept, where she covered a range of topics, including her positionality and privilege as a cisgender person. Like a good ally should, she used her privilege to discuss intersectionality and shine a light on issues that impact marginalized communities. In this case, the trans community.
“Almost every single person in this country can acknowledge some privilege of some type, you know?” Ocasio-Cortez said in the interview. “I’m a cisgendered woman. You know, I will never know the trauma of feeling like I’m not born in the right body. And that, that is a privilege that I have — no matter how poor my family was when I was born.”
This speaks to an important point. Instead of the “oppression Olympics,” as some conservatives like to label identity-focused politics, it’s possible (and frankly, beneficial) to acknowledge both the privileges we do have, as well as the ones that we don’t.
As the Congresswoman says, she grew up low-income, which is obviously not a privilege. Being cisgender (even while being low-income), however, is a privilege. The most common example of this (which is also discussed in the interview) is that one can be low-income but still benefit from white privilege if they are white.
“If you’ve never experienced different treatment in your life, you wouldn’t know what different treatment feels like or looks like,” she continued in the interview, which you can watch below:
While some progress has been made for the LGBTQ community in recent decades, the trans community continues to face obstacles when it comes to even the most fundamental rights and access. For example, trans people face high rates of job and housing discrimination, as well as domestic violence. As students, trans youth also face disproportionate rates of bullying, sexual harassment, and cyber abuse.
Many trans people struggle to find health care where they are able to access gender identity-related treatments (such as hormones or gender-affirming surgeries), while others suffer while seeking non-gender related care (for example, being deadnamed while at a physical exam). Even something like getting a new state ID or license can be a long (and expensive) battle of paperwork and meetings, just to have your correct pronouns or name updated.
While some aspects of one’s identity can make all of this easier (for example a white trans person still has privileges that a trans person of color doesn’t), the trans community indisputably lacks necessary protections in day to day life. And it’s so, so good to see a member of Congress acknowledging that.