My good friend is a PhD student in experimental particle physics. Up until a few months ago, he was participating in the SuperB collaboration, centrally based out of Italy. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing economic crisis in Europe, his project was cancelled, and so he switched over to working on the Belle Experiment, which is centrally based out of Japan.
He is not best-pleased by this change. “I was looking forward to going to Italy,” he told me. “Japan is so racist!”
Now of course, I should probably point-out that my friend is a white male living in Canada. This being the case, his problem isn’t really so much that Japan is ‘more racist’ than Italy (something I don’t care to comment upon as I don’t claim to know one way or the other) so much as it is that, in Japan, they are more likely to be racist against him.
Now, of course, there is always a certain degree of amusement in white people freaking-out when they suddenly find themselves in the position of being an ethnic minority, but the truth is that I can empathize, to some extent, with my friend’s concerns.
You see, because the fact is that when you grow up as a straight, white male in a country like Canada, you really don’t appreciate the sheer extent to which people go out of their way to kiss your ass until such time as you stop being as straight, white male in a country like Canada*. This was actually a major stumbling block for me when I first started transition. You see, the first few times I started going out en femme, I would notice how differently people would react to me as a transsexual woman.
The novelty, I must say, wore off pretty fucking quickly. There is little to be said for having middle-aged men constantly gawk at you like some kind of freak, mothers shielding their child’s eyes and giving you reproachful looks, or dudebros screaming insults at you whenever you go out in public.
Now, of course, some of that has died down for me; partially (I hope) because I’m now ‘passing’ better, but for the most part I think it’s just a matter of getting over it.
And that is what I would say to my friend as well. Loss of privilege sucks, believe me I know, but you’ll get over it.
Who knows? Maybe it might even inspire him, as it did me, to support a greater degree of egalitarianism.
*Either be no longer living as straight or male (as in my case) or no longer being in a country like Canada (as in my friend’s case).