Selfies…the Greatest Menace to Modern Society! Just Ask These Mental Health Professionals!

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Recently an article was posted to my Facebook feed that I wish I hadn’t seen. Unfortunately, once seen, things cannot be unseen, and although I strongly expressed my opinion with regards to this little nugget at the time and location of its post, I find myself ruminating on the matter and felt that it required somewhat more formal redress. The article that was posted was actually quite short and poorly written, so I won’t bother to post that particular link, but therein was cited a source with more comprehensive, and sadly more disturbing information. http://guardianlv.com/2014/04/selfies-cause-narcissism-mental-illness-addiction-and-suicide/
Basically, as the URL states, a handful of so-called experts are claiming that the taking of selfies can cause, or are indicative of, a host of mental illnesses. If you’re behind the times, a “selfie” is a photo that a person takes of themselves or possibly two or more people (if they can fit more) by holding the camera away pointed at themselves, or by taking a photo of themselves in a mirror. This article is expounding on the dangers of taking selfies, and of online media in general, stating that selfies cause or are indicative of narcissism, low self-esteem, attention seeking behavior, self indulgence, actual addiction to taking selfies and in this extreme case they cite, a suicide attempt.
Now, I’m sure many of you have that one friend or acquaintance on a social media site who is constantly posting selfies and waiting for the compliments to roll in, so these declarations may not seem all that far from the mark, but first, let’s take a look at this article and get some facts straight.
The case that is cited in this article is about a man with Body Dysmorphic Disorder who is taking hundreds of selfies a day in the attempt to get the perfect one, which he is of course unable to do, because he has Body Dysmorphic Disorder! Whatever flaw he believes himself to have will always show up in his pictures, so he could take them for hours and hours and never take one that he found acceptable, which is exactly what he did. His parents, who are cited as “mental health professionals”, deemed his constant picture taking an addiction. Mental health professionals could mean anything. Are they case managers, counselors, aides at a hospital? Do they know how to diagnose and/or treat a mental illness? My guess is probably not on the latter if they believe his excessive selfie habit is an addiction. The term addiction is used rather loosely amongst laymen to mean any general activity or behavior done to excess, but let’s make one thing clear here. Something done to excess does not necessarily an addiction make. Addictions are all about reward responses. A person is rewarded, either biochemically, psychologically, or both, to continue to engage in a particular behavior. Yeah, over time they often come to hate their addiction because it pretty much takes over their whole lives and ruins their health, livelihood and relationships, but they didn’t start engaging in that particular behavior because they hated it, they did so because they enjoyed it and continued because they couldn’t stop. A person with Body Dysmorphic Disorder who has an issue with their physical appearance would not enjoy looking at pictures of themselves. It would be extremely disheartening, frustrating, and likely to cause, or deepen preexisting, depression. Each photo amplifying for them the terrible flaw they cannot hide no matter how hard they try. For this particular person, he wanted so badly to take just one image of himself that he could feel was acceptable, and the most comfortable way to do this would be to take the photos himself, (how are you going to enlist a friend or hire a photographer to take over 200 pictures of you a day, and of course only you can look over them because you wouldn’t want anyone to see the bad ones, right?, then tell that person that none of them were any good, let’s do it again tomorrow), but because of his preexisting mental illness, the Body Dysmorphic Disorder, there was really no way he’d ever take an acceptable photo. So with each new photo he becomes more frustrated, more depressed, more upset, until finally he becomes hopeless and attempts suicide. A very sad story, but not an addiction. Addiction to activities, such as video games or sex, or in a case of taking selfies, have a very specific pattern. That activity becomes the focal point of one’s life because that person wants to engage in that activity, even when they don’t want to, because on some level they gain some manner of satisfaction from it. A person doesn’t skip work because they stayed up all night playing video games, or neglect their child because they’re too immersed in their game world, because they hate playing them. They may hate the fact that they can’t stop playing them, that they’ve become such a destructive and disruptive force in their lives, but they keep playing them because they enjoy it and when they’re not playing them that’s all they think about doing. This poor guy didn’t take hundreds of selfies a day because he loved it, he didn’t attempt suicide over an addiction, he did this because he had a delusion regarding the image of his body that was not going to go away.
Now, moving on to some of the other points of the article. “Taking of selfies is indicative of narcissism, attention seeking behavior, self indulgence and low self-esteem.” I love how the article constantly lumps narcissism and low self-esteem together. Which is it? You can’t really be both at the same time. However, both narcissistic people and people with low self-esteem may be prone to attention seeking behavior for very different reasons, and what better way to gain attention than to snap a flattering photo of yourself and post it on your social network of choice, right? Well, what if one of these people happened to be out on the town with friends and handed a camera to one of them to take their picture with everyone so they could post it. Is that any different? What if they were on vacation? “Take a picture of me in front of the Eiffel Tower!” Narcissist. Attention seeker. What if they just got a new haircut and wanted to show their friends but there was no photographer handy? Or…what if there was? How are these two scenarios any different? To me this seems like a lot of scaremongering. People don’t know what to make of the changing landscape of technology and social media. It’s certainly a LOT easier to take and distribute images of oneself now than it ever has been, and people don’t know whether this is a good or bad thing, so they’re nervous about it. I can say that I have “selfies” of myself and a friend in Disneyland when I was 19 taken with a regular film camera. We eventually found someone to take our picture in front of the Disney castle, but prior to that we just put our heads together, held the camera at arm’s length in a very familiar pose that is seen often nowadays and took the picture. The only difference was that we had to go develop the film before we could see it.
So, let’s try looking at this from a different perspective. They seem to want to mention those with low self-esteem, and the attention seeking behavior, as a bad thing. But has anyone stopped to think that perhaps this method of self expression is healthy? Liberating, even? Imagine this person with very low self-esteem who has always hated to be photographed and never posted pictures of themselves online or sent pictures of themselves out with their Christmas cards or whatever the case may be. Now it’s the digital age. They can take as many photos of themselves as they desire in the privacy of their own home. Examine the photos at length, find angles that are flattering, see things about themselves that they never realized that were positive attributes, and eventually they manage to take a photo that they not only find acceptable, but can actually be proud of! They post it on their site, and all their friends tell them how good they look. What a major accomplishment! This person, who previously believed that their appearance was of little consequence, to say the least, suddenly is able to safely and comfortably choose a photo on their own terms and actually receive praise. It’d be a great boost to their self-esteem, and give them more confidence in themselves and their appearance.
As with many things in mental health, context is everything. I find it just appalling that people who call themselves mental health professionals would make such blanketed statements about an activity that’s mostly innocuous, at worst may fuel the flames of a narcissistic person’s ego and at best could be a very healthy and empowering activity. The particular case cited in this article is obviously not the norm, otherwise they would have cited multiple instances of “addiction” and suicide attempts linked to this activity. For all you psych types out there, remember your stats and research methods classes? We’d call cases such as these “outliers”. They do not fit the regular pattern or curve.
It’s taking pictures of yourself. That’s all. It’s not really indicative of anything concrete other than the indisputable fact that a person desired to have a photo taken and considered themselves to be their own best photographer. There’s no reason for anyone to believe this to be anything more than it actually is.

The Feds Are Ruining Pain Management

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So in their long-standing war on preventing people from getting high, the Feds are now ruining relationships between doctors and patients.
I started seeing my pain management specialist almost 7 years ago when his practice was brand new. I was basically forced to see a pain doctor because my primary care physician at the time was effectively refusing to treat the pain that I’d been complaining of for years: low back pain so debilitating that I could barely stand or even walk at times. His proposed method of treatment every time, lose weight, strengthen my core. I had been doing Pilates for years before he sprang this nugget of wisdom on me, but I took it to heart and also took up bellydancing, which is not just core intensive, but whole body intensive. I had been doing it for 3 years, but often had to take hiatus from it and the Pilates because when my back hurts so badly that I have to crawl to get to the bathroom, dancing and Pilates are a bit out of the question. The pain that had plagued me since my teen years was becoming more severe and more frequent. I found myself in my doctor’s office often begging them to do something. I was talking to the physician’s assistant one of these visits and she gave and exasperated sigh, threw her hands in the air and proclaimed, “All I can do is give you some pain meds!” I told her, if that’s ALL she can do then do it! If she can’t fix me, at least treat the pain. She said she would, but that she wasn’t going to just write me a prescription whenever I asked. Gods forbid I actually go through life pain free. At this point I didn’t even have a diagnosis for what was wrong with my back. I was told it was weak muscles, despite my core intensive exercises, or that it may be sacroiliitis, an inflammation of the tendons in the sacrum and iliac area, or that it may be fluid buildup between the pelvic bone and sacroiliac area, but that it DEFINITELY wasn’t anything structural. They did do xrays, and noticed some slight scoliosis, but dismissed it as being too minor to be of any consequence.
I finally got very angry for being shrugged off so many times. Even if they didn’t care how difficult my life was when I left their office I had to live with that pain every day. I insisted on seeing a pain management specialist, and said I wouldn’t leave the office without a referral to get an MRI.
The first pain management doc they sent me to wasn’t at all concerned with the fact that I hadn’t gotten my MRI yet. He did more xrays, noted a slight tilt to my hips (which is due to the curvature of my spine) and informed me that my back pain was the result of one leg being shorter than the other, which gave me an awkward gait. He said he could give me a shot in a nerve cluster in my leg and all my problems would be solved. It sounded like a bunch of hoodoo quackery to me but I figured I’d let him try it. He pinched my inner thigh so hard it left bruises for weeks. I was screaming in pain and he had two nurses hold me down while he administered the shot. Now my back hurt AND my leg hurt. I went back to my Dr’s office, showed them the bruises and asked if there was a REAL pain management doctor they could send me to.
She said there was a doctor just starting out who had very good credentials and so far they’d heard nothing but good things about him. I called his office and they said they’d schedule an appt AFTER my MRI results reached their office. This instilled nothing but confidence in me. From the very beginning he was nothing but kind and attentive. He explained my MRI. He said I’d had multiple disk ruptures, likely from my spinal curvature, my spine was rubbing against my disks when I moved. I had an annular tear in one disk, it was leaking fluid and causing inflammation and pain. The other disk had lost fluidity to the point that it was no longer providing enough cushion between my vertebrae. Several other disks were showing signs of early degeneration. I continued to see him because he always balanced quality of life over methods of pain relief. I wanted options that didn’t make me a zombie. I wanted to be able to live and be in as little pain as possible, and he tried his very best to do that.
Fast forward a few years. The Feds now want all pain patients to do random drug tests to ensure that they’re taking their meds, not selling them, and that they’re not taking meds other than what’s been prescribed to them. I have to sign a form that says that if my insurance doesn’t cover them I’ll be financially responsible. I tell him I’m not going to sign it, I was a substance abuse counselor for christsake, I know all about addiction and I think I’m safe. Besides, I know I’ll be hit up with a ton of charges and I can’t afford them and it’s a stupid rule anyway. It’s for the government’s peace of mind, it lends nothing toward my treatment. He tells me if I don’t sign I can’t get narcotics, it’s the law. Then he tells me that he knows I’m in pain and he knows I need to be treated, and that it’s not that he doesn’t trust me but that he’s been burned before so he understands why they want to enact such a protocol. He tells me a sob story about a woman who was a professional psychiatrist who had been coming to him and paying out of pocket, and it turns out she was doing the same with 4 or 5 other doctors. So he pleads with me, sign the form so we can continue treating you. I signed it, because I trusted him.
After my first random drug screen I was immediately hit up with an $80 fee. I was livid. I called and threw a fit and said $80 was absolutely ridiculous for something I don’t need and didn’t want to consent to in the first place. They told me from now on I’d have to go to a lab to get them done but I wouldn’t get my prescriptions until I did it. I went to the lab, I was still charged $80. They said they’d look into it. Charges kept accruing and I had started to become very ill from MS, which I didn’t know at the time. I lost my job. Then the office manager at my pain doctor’s office called and said that I couldn’t come in for another appointment until I paid half of what I owed. They wouldn’t let me talk to the doctor, wouldn’t let them fill my prescriptions, and wouldn’t let me do anything until I handed over $200. I didn’t have it. I had to go through withdrawal when I ran out of pain meds because chemical dependence is a terrible thing. After finally scraping the money together I went in to my appointment and told the physician’s assistant what happened. She looked shocked. She said she had no idea they’d done that. For a long time afterward I wasn’t made to do any random drug tests and the doctors were REALLY nice to me. I got a free epidural shot and was told that as long as I paid my copays my debt was forgiven. I said that was fine.
Then the drug tests started again and the bills started coming in again. I talked to my doctor about our agreement and he said he’d take it up with the office staff.
The bills just kept coming in and kept coming in and soon I owed over $500. Yesterday I spoke to my doctor again. He told me that they could charge off the lab fees (about $200) but they still have to charge for the test kits and for the “girls”, meaning the office staff doing the tests…basically charging me extra for them doing their damn jobs. Needless to say, I was pissed. After 7 years, and being one of his first patients, it’s all going to fall apart because the Feds want to make us do tests that help no one. It’s all for show. A random UA doesn’t change the fact that I’ve got 30 days supply of narcotics at any given time and can abuse them at will if I so choose. It wouldn’t stop me from selling them if that was my whim, all I need to do is take one before my appointment. It’s absolutely ridiculous.
I’m disabled, and many people on long term pain management are. We can’t afford to be nickel and dimed by the doctor’s office, insurance company, and everyone else who doesn’t want to take responsibility for a test that we don’t need, doesn’t further our treatment, and does nothing to prevent anyone from abusing or misusing their medications.
If the Feds want to make us do this, they need to pay for it. End of story.
So now I’ll likely have to go to my primary care doctor with a long list of specialty meds and beg that she take over my prescriptions. She might say no, and I’ll be screwed. I’m certainly not going to roll the dice with another pain doctor, wind up with a guy like my first pain specialist and STILL owe him hundreds of dollars for unnecessary drug tests.
They are not helping anyone! Nobody cares about the fact that people live in constant pain and there are very few non-narcotic options. That’s not our fault.
My back is getting worse. I now have a bulging disk in my neck, so it’s spreading. I’m only 34 years old. I have to live with this for the rest of my life and may have to settle for subpar care because I can’t afford to prove to the government that I’m taking my meds properly and just don’t want to live with constant, mind numbing pain. Is it too much to ask that I be given a somewhat normal life?

Dream a little dream…

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The music moves all around me and I with it, my body in perfect harmony with sound, no thought in my head but the sheer joy of it. The feel of my muscles as they move and flex, my arms long and graceful extending out to beautiful floreos, I glide across the floor, spinning, colorful silk veils enveloping my body then flowing outward as they’re deftly manipulated, as much an extension of my body as a limb. I feel the connectedness of all things, the many instruments becoming one sound, one sound becoming a song, my movements melding with sound to create nothing short of a work of art that shouts out to the world “I’m alive! I’m free!”, and I can’t help but smile for the simple pleasure of dancing. Oh it’s been so long since I’ve danced! Then I wonder, why is that? My movements falter. Why haven’t I done the thing I love to do most in life for so very long? I stop, puzzled. Where am I, and why do I hurt so badly?
That’s when I woke up this morning, and cried. The reality is, I hurt all over my body every day. I have no balance anymore. My muscles are weak and spastic. Once graceful and strong, I now have difficulty doing simple physical tasks, or walking across an open room without fear of falling down. I’ll likely never dance again. At least, not like I used to. I’m tired of people telling me I can dance “in spirit” or “in my head”. I’ve lost a major part of my life, myself, my identify, my greatest joy in life, and memories of that thing will not replace it. I could also sit around all day fantasizing about the masters I’ll never earn, the career I’ve lost, the independence I no longer have, the days when I didn’t wake throughout the night in excruciating pain, but none of those fantasies will change the fact that this is my new normal. This is the hand nature has dealt me and I have to make the best of it.

The Continuing Saga of the Great Zohydro Freak Out

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I’m saddened and chagrined that I have to revisit this topic so soon, but apparently the state of Massachusetts is making efforts to ban Zohydro in their state, regardless of the fact that the FDA determined it safe enough for the country at large to use. Now typically I’m a big fan of states’ rights, and not particularly a huge fan of the FDA in general, but if I remember my US government classes sufficiently, (and it’s quite possible I don’t, I do have the brain lesions), all state law is pursuant to federal mandate. That’s why states ultimately have to concede to constitutional edict. But, Massachusetts is so afraid of people possibly misusing a pain medication that hasn’t even hit the market yet that they want to try to supersede the Feds. Fortunately, for the time being, their ban has been reversed. (1)
The sticking point that keeps being cited in these articles seems to be that Zohydro has no acetaminophen, which they believe acts as a deterrent to addicts. Their primary concern is that addicts will overdose on Zohydro and die. So…since when has acetaminophen been safe? It’s not as if people don’t die from tylenol overdose far too often, and the reason being that many people don’t realize just how harmful that medication is, and it can be purchased over the counter in 500mg pills in bulk sized containers. You don’t see Massachusetts, or any other state, banning acetaminophen, or even trying to create barriers to its purchase as has been done all across the country with opioids. No one has their hackles raised about the dangers of acetaminophen because there are no addicts seeking it, only people who are trying to relieve pain…so here is the true crux of the problem. Opioids are fun! Right? People take them to get high. They’re not reeally trying to relieve their daily, incessant, mind numbing pain, they’re just looking for a fix. No one has sympathy for an addict, even if that person’s chemical dependency exists only because they have to take daily pain medication to ease their suffering. People are actually UPSET that a dangerous substance is not being added to Zohydro, “to act as a deterrent”, nevermind that it’s slowly killing the livers of pain patients, and could very quickly kill the liver of an addict because it’s not as if they’re keeping track of how much acetaminophen they’ve ingested. And as it turns out, there are more accidental acetaminophen related overdoses due to their inclusion in hydrocodone products than for any other reason, because often the physician prescribes maximum, or even GREATER than maximum daily acetaminophen dosage with hydrocodone, so all it takes is for that patient to take another combo drug with acetaminophen (like Nyquil), and they wind up in the hospital with liver damage. (2)
The makers of Zohydro have proposed adding niacin to their medication to act as a deterrent. This would be safe to anyone who uses it correctly or incorrectly, but to those who choose to abuse the drug to get high, they will have one nasty experience. Anyone who has experienced niacin flush can attest to that, and it would certainly make them think twice about abusing their medication again. Still, people are not mollified. (3)
I can’t stress this enough and I’ll say it over and over again, the best thing that can be done for pain patients everywhere that isn’t being done is to provide education. People don’t understand how opioid medications work, they don’t understand chemical dependence or withdrawal, they don’t understand the ratchet effect with regards to tolerance. I’ve known many people who were placed on high doses of pain meds following a surgery or medical procedure and didn’t have any idea what to expect, how best to take their medications, how or when to discontinue them, and they weren’t properly titrated off of them even though they were on them long enough to develop a dependence, because their doctor decided that they weren’t in pain anymore so they didn’t NEED them, and they just had to sweat out the withdrawal. How does any of this make any sense? Some people who are on pain management are told that they absolutely must take their full dose of prescribed pain meds every day, because the doctor fears that they will overdose and their solution is to keep them on a very high maintenance dose, the dose they’d need for their worst pain days, and take that dosage even on days when they have little to no pain, pushing their tolerance so high that when their worst pain days hit the medication is no longer effective and they have to ratchet it up yet again. How does this make any sense at all? People’s hypervigilance is causing them to enact bizarre treatment decisions. The state of pain management in this country is a sorry affair. No one should have to suffer. Educate them. Tell them what they need to know about their treatment. Every person should be an expert regarding their own disorders and treatment options, and any doctor who becomes angry because a person spends time and energy researching their own health issues is not a good doctor. Forced random UAs and physical prescriptions are not going to help anybody, but education and understanding will. It’s quite possible that some people might opt to not use opioids after they understand how they work, and that would be their decision, but it’d be an informed decision. It’s better than having someone say, “Take these pills, take them exactly as prescribed. Good luck!”

1. http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSBREA3E1T520140415?feedType=RSS&irpc=932
2. http://www.prohealth.com/library/showarticle.cfm?libid=18875
3. http://m.livescience.com/43766-zohydro-new-pain-drug-hydrocodone.html

Socially Acceptable Discrimination

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I hate the term “privilege”. I’ve seen this term pop up so frequently recently, and I fully understand what it’s supposed to convey, but to me it seems to carry a very negative connotation, and apparently I’m not the only one. An article was written recently on Everyday Feminism to help people not guilt themselves about their own privilege. Apparently people are wandering the country with privilege guilt, feeling bad for being born into a real or perceived higher status in life. Within this article is a particularly sickening quote: “When spaces are open to those striving to be allies (keep in mind that not all spaces will or should welcome people of privilege), show up.” So basically, people of “privilege” are expected to be discriminated against, and somehow that’s okay. From the same website, another article tells us that while it’s okay to want to remain in touch with our European heritage, and that not all white people are bad, whiteness itself, in fact, inherently is. I find these statements amusing and unsettling. Much of my “European heritage” is Jewish. Does that absolve me of this privilege guilt that’s supposed to weigh heavy on my heart? Or am I supposed to do as these articles state and get in touch with my roots in a positive manner, understand my privileged place in society and use that to enact change? I have quite a diverse mix of ancestry, it’d take quite a lot of time to research all of that, keeping it all positive of course, reminding myself at every turn that whiteness is bad! Whiteness is bad! Then use my new found knowledge to help others who are less privileged than I? It just amazes me that a site that prides itself on being so open, inclusive, and anti-discriminatory would so blatantly socket so many people into a category of which they have no control, and is so broad stroked that you couldn’t possibly know for a fact who fits this category without an intimate look into their personal upbringing and experiences.
The idea of privilege is just too subjective, and it seems like it would be easy for some to make assumptions about another’s privilege without knowing enough about their background that I don’t feel comfortable applying the term to any person, creed, group, what have you, as we’re all individuals with vastly different backgrounds and coming from different places in life. When everyone is screaming that equality is so essential, why single out whole groups of people based on their gender, religion, sexual orientation and race and tell them that they must ADMIT to, even SUBMIT to, the fact that they’re perceived by other groups to have been dealt a better hand in life? It is discrimination come full circle, and I’ve never been willing or able to abide discrimination in any form.
As one with “privilege”, (being white apparently gives me privilege…but being a woman does not, and I suppose neither does being disabled, so do those two things cancel out my one privilege point?), I grew up dirt poor in an equally poor neighborhood being one of the few white children at a primarily Hispanic school, and had the misfortune of being painfully shy, nerdy and always at the top of my class. I got beat up by other kids on a regular basis and they expressed so much rage at my very existence. They accused me of incurring favor with the teachers, not receiving my high marks for actually doing well in class, but solely because I was white. As they stood around taunting me and kicking me¬†with their high dollar, stylish LA Gear shoes, and I lay curled in a ball crying, wearing my sister’s too large hand-me-downs filled with holes that I’d poorly patched myself, I just didn’t understand. I was so completely colorblind as a child, in so many ways, and their rage at something about me that seemed so without grounds or merit was puzzling to say the least. I obviously knew that there was historical racial tension, but to my childhood mind that was a thing of the past. I didn’t have any comprehension of racial tensions, stereotypes, or the anger that these children presented to me. As far as I was concerned, we were all just kids. I wondered where these kids got the idea that my skin color gave me an advantage. As far as I knew, it was more likely my huge forehead, or rather the giant frontal lobe encased within, that gave me what was basically my only advantage at school. I certainly wasn’t any good at sports or fitting in and making friends. It’s tough to make friends with people who hate you simply because your skin color doesn’t match theirs.
When I was 13 I was outed by one of my closest friends at the time, because I confided in her that I felt more attraction to women sometimes than men, and even though at that point, as I told her, I wasn’t even sure what I was or who I was or what I liked, she took it upon herself to tell our entire circle of friends that I was gay. I didn’t realize the waves this would make with my classmates. I expected they’d be more understanding, and had no idea that being gay or bi would cause such a scandal. I was outright crucified for something that I didn’t even know for sure yet might grow to be a permanent part of my life. I was taught by my mother that being gay wasn’t a bad thing, that people are born that way, just as people are born hetero, and in my mind at that time I honestly thought that confiding in my friend was not a big deal. After all, being gay is normal, why would it be a bit of juicy gossip?
I got married very young, while still in college, because I thought that’s what people do, but maintained an open relationship because being bi and monogamous with a man was never going to work for me. Because of my experiences, I applied to volunteer at the LGBT center near my college to work with teens, remembering how painful and scary my surprise outing was, and how confused I had been with regards to my sexuality. I was none too politely declined because they stated that, being a married woman, I’d have little experience with “alternative lifestyles”. I was beyond hurt by their remarks. I explained my history to them, but apparently I was still too mainstream to be of any use to needy teens who may benefit from someone who might understand them. So it seems that I do both have privilege and don’t, and those people who should be most open minded about the state of my privilege or lack thereof are the first people willing to judge me based more on what they perceive that I have, rather than on the struggles I’ve dealt with that make me such an oddball and so likely to be cast out by “privileged” society members.
It’s just too easy for someone to make assumptions about another person’s place in society. We’re such complicated creatures. Some things may seem inarguable, that yes men get paid more in the workforce overall, and that yes in general western culture is heteronormative and cisgendered, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that each and every person from that pool of people does, or is able, to reap the benefits of these skewed standards, and it doesn’t mean that people outside of those circles cannot find their own niches in which they’re able to flourish and compete on an even footing, and it certainly doesn’t mean that the “privileged” members of society are so high up on their ivory towers that they can’t possibly grasp or engage in the struggles of others. Pain is universal, and empathy is a natural reaction for most people.
The social services industry is dominated by female workers, even to the highest levels of management. Payscales at many of the organizations where I worked were preset, if you got the job you got paid for that job, same starting salaries for each position across the board, and if any of us were ever lucky enough to get a raise, which would occurred if the budget allowed and we weren’t on a corrective action plan at the time of our annual assessment, those were all scheduled in advance and given to each of us in the exact same increments, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, facial piercings and etc. If I was still able to work, I could still be climbing that career ladder if I so desired. One thing I absolutely loved about working there is that no one was ever discriminated against for their tattoos or piercings, and I worked alongside many members of the LGBT community at all levels, from entry level to upper management. I was treated with just as much respect as the next person, regardless of my mods or sexual identity. So despite people’s insistence that one may be given a better footing as a white male, I’ve worked in at least one industry where this rule of thumb doesn’t apply.
I’m certainly not saying the world is a perfect place, I’m just saying that when we stress that we should make efforts to be mindful of our language and our approach to how we treat people of different backgrounds and affiliations, it’s important to be mindful of ALL of it, and the idea of being a person of privilege implies across the board that that person has something more or better than the rest of us, and from my standpoint, I find that hurtful both as one who would be deemed with privilege, and without.
By accusing someone of having privilege they’re being set aside as different, as unable to understand another’s struggle, as being above any possible personal struggle or status that may make their lives more difficult simply by being who they are. Isn’t that exactly what making them “privileged” society members does to them? It sets them aside as a group to be hated, despised, avoided, and on whom we can place all manner of blame. Isn’t that the exact kind of discrimination we’re trying to avoid?
Despite all my hard work in school I had very few opportunities for scholarships or grants, those being reserved for, not just underprivileged kids, but underprivileged MINORITY kids. I’ve had difficulty finding jobs due to being monolingual. I even had to fight tooth and nail to get promotions in some workplaces for which I was more than qualified simply because I was deemed too young at the time. Within each group, and each subgroup, there will always be barriers, there will always be those who incur favor, there will always be, in one manner or another, inequality, because humans are, after all, only human. Flawed creatures. Prone to creating and staying within niches and protecting their own. Do we really have to create another group to be angry with? Do we really have to build more barriers?
Perhaps those people who are so keen on breaking down preexisting barriers should make more efforts to not build more, to include those who are different as they would like to be included, rather than make as much effort as possible to make them feel guilt, or at least feel keenly aware, of things beyond their control, particularly who they are and where they came from. They would never stand for being made to feel guilt about such things in themselves, why go to such lengths to put that burden on others?