Behind the mask

Most of us live in two worlds. One is of privilege and employment; we are given respect and jobs often times based only upon the cut of our jibs. I know that I have enjoyed what I like to call “Implied Authority”. The other world is one of uncertainty and fear of unemployment 

 

I unknowingly used privilege at work for years, in the corporation that I worked. It goes like this, I found a job I wanted to pursue and then I would speak to the head of that department (manufacturing). I don’t ask him for a position; I tell him what I am doing for his department. I tell him, because it is often “him”, that I am going to increase his area’s efficiency and find any bottlenecks in the production process (or repair process, depending on the area of the company I decided to work in.) Of course, since I am a man and I am telling them what I am doing, not asking permission, it must be ok. I do increase their productivity and streamline their process. I am actually good at process engineering, though I have no degree and was never hired to do this. I was a firefighter in my company for over 15 years; I went to different areas and fixed them, only reporting to the General ManagerI didn’t realize the privilege I was using. I just thought that if you were really good at something, you can pretty much do what you want, how you want. Having privilege means you don’t have to worry about privilege.

 

I used this in my personal relationships. In hiding behind my mask, in using my male body, I became the problem. Even being who I was on the inside, I assumed that the women I wanted also wanted to be with me, I just had to figure out how to convince them. Implied authority. I was such an ass. I convinced myself that every time was me being in “love”, that wanting a woman was the same as loving them. I would cajole and sweet talk and create situations in which I thought they would feel obligated. I called women bitches for not being interested in me; I called them crazy when we didn’t get along, or hysterical when they were genuinely upset. I used women, having sex with them and often never looking back, never calling back. I loved women, but I hated them a little too. I hated them for being able to be them. I managed to be the worst kind of man, I was a child. I was attracted to men as well, wanted to be with them as well. But that would have drawn attention to the mask, which I was convinced would fail upon close inspection. I pushed that part of me away, so deeply behind my mask that I disappeared. 

 

I have heard the word “privilege” thrown around in the last few years. I didn’t really listen to what was said around the word, the sentences in which the word was used. Having privilege means you don’t have to worry about privilege. But recently, in the last couple of months, as I come out more and more, I am facing life without privilege. I am facing life in small amounts as a woman dominated and afraid of the men around me. In the end, I can take off the makeup, I could remove my wig, I could use my mask. So in the end, I could gain my privilege back almost instantly. I would happily trade privilege for my womanhood, then fight for equality instead.

 

I don’t understand how women, other women do it. They are so strong, so unbelievably brave; to live and thrive in a world dominated by men. They shouldn’t have to be, they should be held to the same privilege, as a human being. I didn’t really understand how strong my grandmother and mom had to have been to be the matriarchs of our family, and they were. Neither ever put up with men dominating them. This isn’t to say they weren’t punished for presuming to be equals. I know my mother was beaten by my father, I was beaten as well. My father had anger issues and felt trapped in a family. So at an early age, I learned to hide. I hid within my head, quietly existing so as to not draw attention, to not be beaten. My mother, she didn’t hide. She said what she wanted to say, defied him, though he would punish her. She stood up to him but didn’t have the physical strength, but mostly she didn’t have the privilege to not be punished for presuming to be equal. One day, he hit her for thelast time, and I stood in front of my mother who was lying on the ground. I stood there, shaking like crazy with fear, but standing. I told him that he wasn’t going to hit her again, that I hated him and that I wanted him to leave. It was the first time I spoke as me, as Beth, though I didn’t know my name then. I wasn’t speaking as a boy with privilege. I was speaking as a girl who was going to be equal despite the punishment I thought was coming. My first words to my father as me were the worst things I can remember having to say. I shouldn’t have had to do it, Mom shouldn’t have been punished, Dad shouldn’t have presumed that punishment to an equal is something he had a right to hand out. So, almost like father, I grew up with anger issues, with confusion. I never raised my hand to another woman. I never wanted to see another’s eyes looking back at me like my mother’s looked at my father during those times. I struck back at myself, wanting to die, holding my breath, not as a defiant child. Holding my breath, wishing to just go, so that I wouldn’t wake up again, like a child that was tired and broken. It was a child’s wish, almost like going blind for some children, to “show them”. It was over-dramatic and without purpose but to emotionally punish.

 

The mask, the privilege it allowed me, was so much worse than the cost of just being me. I didn’t see that then, I didn’t realize that in hiding me, I was causing myself so much harm. 

 

4 thoughts on “Behind the mask

  1. Really astute analysis, Beth! Both of yourself, and the gender double standards. Are these new revelations from your counseling sessions? Or is Beth just that much smarter than your mask?

    Well written!

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  2. Thank you, Leslie. Privilege is something that came up in counseling. I've been pondering my life by looking at it from that perspective. The mask was only ever just a mask, Beth evolves and learns because she is me.

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  3. I think that this is a fantastic post and coming from a real position of knowledge. Beth is very smart and is emerging (as if from a cocoon) and retrospectively bringing important historical knowledge to the fore. This is important as it will help in the long transition journey ahead. Sometimes we need to open our eyes and look at the world around us properly.

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  4. Oh, Avril, that is very sweet. If I were smarter, I wouldn't have spent most of my life behind the mask. I am gaining some wonderful insight from my friends (including you), and the people I have been able to talk to on social media who have my shared issues. Social media is usually a place which I avoid, but this is such a positive use that I find myself taking another look at applications like Twitter. Perhaps it can be a tool for real social change, for a use other than to glorify celebrity or marketing.

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