Gay on a Budget >> the filthy p word Gay on a Budget >> the filthy p word

I’m not talking about the flower between a woman’s legs, or the phrase used to call men weak. I’m not talking about a little shot or a slightly fancier word for dickhead. I’m talking about privilege, which seems to be a word much dirtier than either pussy or prick.

I don’t think the word privilege has always been dirty. The problem with the word today is that it’s used all over the place, pretty much 24/7. Rightfully so, as privilege is as much a part of this world as oxygen. But with the unrestrained and oftentimes misunderstood use of the word, many people have decided not to discuss or read about privilege at all, or to attack any and all media presenting the topic. Privilege, while it pulls in readers for controversy’s sake, does not fare well on social media. Mainstream consensus seems to be that discussions of privilege are nothing more than an attempt to create problems where there are none, or are manifestations of an overly sensitive and PC generation.

In Bad Feminist, author Roxane Gay talks about her experience with privilege both as an individual, and as a cultural critic. She reminisces about her family visits to Haiti, and the juxtaposition of the luxury she enjoyed and the poverty all around. She clarifies what privilege means:

“Privilege is a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor. There is racial privilege, gender (and identity) privilege, heterosexual privilege, economic privilege, able-bodied privilege, educational privilege, religious privilege, and the list goes on and on. At some point, you have to surrender to the kinds of privilege you hold. Nearly everyone, particularly in the developed world, has something someone else doesn’t, something someone else yearns for.”

She goes on to discuss the necessary act of accepting her privilege–an act which requires intense cultural consciousness, honesty, and introspection. It’s easy to victimize ourselves by embracing the disadvantages that we have, rather than the advantages. Accepting privilege doesn’t mean forgetting about your disadvantages, it means understanding them, allowing them to exist, but not living your life with a complex that always leaves you on the bottom. It’s corny to say, but the reality is that there are people starving and being murdered all over the world. The fact that you’re alive and able to read this is proof enough that you have some form of privilege.

Gay’s short essay on privilege (at least specifically) is compelling throughout and offers a sugar free and patient view of the topic. Where many essays feel accusatory, or as if they’re calling you to accept all of your privilege in this very moment, Gay’s reads like she’s sitting down with you and talking to you as a friend who wants you to be the best you that you can be.

Her essay prompted me to think about my life and the privilege I’ve been blessed with. My mind was taken to my childhood. The days of bouncy red kickballs, Nintendo 64, Pokémon, and sports that I never really wanted to play in the first place.

Gay on a Budget >> the filthy p word Gay on a Budget >> the filthy p word

It’s almost overwhelming to go through the privilege in my life. For starters, there was always a fridge and freezer full of food and a cabinet full of snacks. My twin brother, sister, and I always had breakfast before school and a packed lunch to take with us. That’s just for starters. I was also blessed with luxuries like all the newest video games, air conditioning in the summer, and heat in the winter, Christmases that were ripe with gifts, birthday parties with delicious Carvel ice cream cakes, TVs with cable, and above all else, I was lucky enough to get to live my childhood without hearing or worrying about money. To be honest, I always assumed we had a ton of money (we did not).

Times changed. The family members I lived with changed. And the balance between my advantages and disadvantages changed. When I lived with my father the fridge was often empty, the house was dirty, and disposable income was simply not a thing. Even still, I understand that I have privilege that I didn’t and have not ended up homeless. I’ve been kicked out of two houses and left a third after an emotional night, and still I have a place to go.

Today, as a lower class, unemployed, bi-racial, feminine, non-binary, gay person I face a particular set of professional, social, and societal barriers. I see people like me being attacked all over the world every single day, and it causes me to lose sight of my advantages. This mindset not only slows my emotional and mental growth, but also keeps me in a place where I’m always thinking about my struggles and not the struggles of others.

Gay on a Budget >> the filthy p word

As much as I talk and write about privilege, it’s still a very difficult topic for me to discuss. The realities of my privilege, particularly the mountain of it I’m facing now, has taken quite a bit out of me. Dealing with it has been so tiring that I’ve stopped writing as often, and I lose myself in Netflix binges and hours and hours of video games–neither which get me anywhere. The privilege mountain in question only came into view when I started seeing Rob and Tommy.

Both Rob and Tommy come from backgrounds of severe hardship. It’s not my place to tell their story (although I’ve already gotten their permission to write about them on here) so I won’t go into detail. All I’ll say is that the struggles they faced may very well have killed a person of my emotional, physical, and mental constitution.

That being said, Rob and Tommy have worked past their disadvantages to earn everything that they have today. They’re each working, paying rent, paying for their phones, paying for SEPTA tokens, and using whatever they have left on necessities. They’re making it work, and knowing what they’ve come from only makes me love and respect them more. But it’s a double-edged sword for me.

You see, I have much more privilege than them. I was able to attend college (albeit primarily on government loans) and have a place to stay where I don’t have to pay rent or for food. So tell me why I’m the jobless one, sitting around all day? I wonder if doing so little with the privileges I have makes me a loser, especially beside people doing better than me who had to work ten times harder for it. I love them, and they love me, but sometimes I wonder how they don’t resent me.

Gay on a Budget >> the filthy p word Gay on a Budget >> the filthy p word Gay on a Budget >> the filthy p word

My dialogue on privilege, both with myself and with others, is just like everyone else’s, tremendously challenging. I had hopes that this post would cleanse me of all my guilt about my privilege, but it hasn’t. And I think that’s the point. We never stop dealing with our privilege, because we don’t live in a vacuum. There are going to be new situations, new people, and new environments that we see, all of which will force us to look at ourselves in return.

Most days I still feel pretty bad about myself, mostly because I see Rob, Tommy, and so many of my friends working past their disadvantages and shooting up right past me on the road to success. Although, to be fair, each of them has privileges of their own. I guess for now I can take solace in the fact that I’m trying.

In her essay, Gay writes that accepting privilege is hard. This post was very hard, so maybe I’m doing it right. One of the most powerful sections of the essay seems to cover where I’m at right now, more than anything else:

You don’t necessarily have to do anything once you acknowledge your privilege. You don’t have to apologize for it. You need to understand the extent of your privilege, the consequences of your privilege, and remain aware that people who are different from you move through and experience the world in ways you might never know anything about. You could, however, use that privilege for the greater good–to try to level the playing field for everyone, to work for social justice, to bring attention to how those without certain privileges are disenfranchised. We’ve seen what the hoarding of privilege has done, and the results are shameful.”

Gay on a Budget >> the filthy p wordI know I do a lot of things, but I don’t think hoarding privilege is one of them. I write what I can to try to help others. I volunteer when I can. I have conversations with other privileged people. None of these things make me special or a hero, but it does make me a person trying to do the best thing they can with their privilege.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

So, I’m gonna talk about RuPaul’s Drag Race. Katya was eliminated. Kennedy Davenport danced the house down, no matter what anyone says. RuPaul has a more educated opinion on drag performance than anyone sitting on their couch at home.

What has been bothering me… what’s more bewildering, I guess, is the anger that comes from the results on the show. I’ve had a lot of my favorite queens sashay away, but it’s never caused me to like retain anger towards other queens, or to go online and post about it, just because these are human beings. They’re not characters on TV. And I think we forget that they’re just pursuing their dream.

So I just wish people would stop being so angry with Kennedy, and start looking at why they’re so angry in the first place. The problem isn’t her, it’s you.

 

Gay on a Budget >> Hi, my name is Jayson and I'm FUNemployed

It’s funny how employment is the most important thing in a human life. From youth, we’re told that education is meant solely as a path to our career–a career which we must ultimately choose long before we’re ready. Kids don’t learn anymore, they prepare. For test after test after test. You don’t have to be the best you can be, you just need to be better than everyone else.

I was never the best. I’m still not. I don’t say that because I’m trying to be deep or grab sympathy from the world, I say it because the past year of job searching has dug that fact into my cranium. From countless unanswered applications, to the countless “We regret to inform you…,” job hunting becomes a game of how confident can I be before I break. I played the game for a while, pretty successfully too. I shirked off rejections from BuzzFeed’s Editorial Fellowship and a BuzzFeed Style internship because deep down I know I’m not the kind of writer whose main concerns are page views and social shares. I bounced back after a potential Refinery29 interview fell through. I’m even still managing to keep my head up after being cut after two months of hoping and praying, and three different interviews, for the Huffington Post’s Editorial Fellowship. My self-esteem and confidence in my writing has taken some major curb stompings to the balls, but life always goes on.

I don’t harbor any anger or resentment towards these publications, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sauty from time to time. This is how the media industry works, at least in this country. A lot of a person’s success depends on who they know, where they live, and how much money they have. I didn’t go to an Ivy League school, I don’t live in New York, and I’m broke as hell. Sure, it would be swell to waste my time writing or interning for popular publications for free, but I don’t have that luxury. I’m lucky enough to have family I can stay with, but that does not mean that everything is smooth sailing. I don’t come from a rich family, and almost everyone around me is struggling in one way or another. And here I am not contributing anything. It’s a truly terrible feeling for one who holds themselves to high standards. Soul crushing would be close.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to surviving the shame of unemployment that comes from within or from others (family members can often be the worst offenders). I don’t have any answers, and the answers I do have probably only work for me. Plus, who wants advice from an unemployed feminist gay boy anyways? But I will share some wise words I heard recently when I visited by alma mater.

Gay on a Budget >> Hi, my name is Jayson and I'm FUNemployed

Gay on a Budget >> Hi, my name is Jayson and I'm FUNemployed

The man, Calvin Wang, was speaking at my school’s ALANA (African America, Latino, Asian, Native American) Alumni & Friends Dinner. He said that memories are fleeting. If we want to remember things we have to consciously do so because our memories are not trustworthy–they won’t just deliver the events, conversations, and occurrences that we want and need to not only be happy, but to ensure that we don’t make the same mistakes. It takes effort to remember the late night conversation you had with an acquaintance that suddenly upgraded them to best friend status, or the 3 AM visit to the local diner, or how proud you were the first time you rode a roller coaster with a loop. You have to dig through your mind to find these things, to remind yourself that life isn’t always so bad and that you’ve blessed in one way or another. It’s easy to be miserable and give up. It takes strength to look for the good among the bad–to admit that maybe we’re lucky in some ways and that our problems aren’t actually worse than everyone else’s. I look back because I want to be able to look forward with clarity and strength.

Remembering is one of the greatest joys of humanity, as is creating memories worth remembering. Your life itself is an album and you should be filling it with as much joy and insanity as possible. We’ve only got the one life so why are people living like they’re waiting on something, like life is just going happen to them? The world will never give you happiness because our world is dominantly capitalist. Here happiness is purchased and then quickly upgraded so that the happiness you have is suddenly out of date. Think about people, conversations, hugs, cuddling, laughing loudly in public places, singing songs in tandem, driving with the windows down in the summer, and being the group that’s having so much fun that all the bitter people within a ten-mile radius moan in unsatisfied-with-life power. That’s how I’m choosing to live, and it is a choice.

Gay on a Budget >> Hi, my name is Jayson and I'm FUNemployed

Like I choose to celebrate my birthday like a child because that’s what I want and just because I’m an ancient 23-year-old doesn’t mean I need to act like one. I still have ice cream cake every year. And I’ve gone to Dave & Busters the last three years. What am I supposed to do on my birthday? Have a party so people can drink and annoy the poop out of me? Go to a club and lose my voice shouting all night? Or worst of all, have a big celebration with my entire family? I’ll pass on all the above and stick to my arcade games and tickets, but that’s just me and what does and doesn’t float my boat.

Gay on a Budget >> Hi, my name is Jayson and I'm FUNemployed Gay on a Budget >> Hi, my name is Jayson and I'm FUNemployed

My boyfriends got to meet more of my friends and we talked about anime, so all in all it was a pretty unforgettable night. Definitely something I happily think back on when the job hunt gets me down. I refuse to let society strip me of my happiness. I might be jobless, but most of the people with jobs are just as unhappy as I am. So really who is the winner here (clearly them because they have money but…)?

Gay on a Budget >> Hi, my name is Jayson and I'm FUNemployed Gay on a Budget >> Hi, my name is Jayson and I'm FUNemployed

In other news, I lost another virginity of mine–my hair dyeing virginity. I was not about to pay for a salon to do it, so I had my boyfriend Tommy help me because he’d worked in a salon before. First we bleached it, which royally sucked. Like I swear I’ve never wanted to scratch my head so bad in my entire life. Once the bleach was washed out, I thanked Jesus. Tommy then told me really liked blondes and started kissing me. Two seconds in as a blonde and I was already reeling people in.

I would’ve thought about playing around as a blonde for a bit, because it was so new and so cool to me, but then my other boyfriend, Robert, had to ruin it by telling me I looked like two people I loathe, Eminem and Justin Timberlake. I gagged and at that moment decided the purple dye was going in ASAP.

Gay on a Budget >> Hi, my name is Jayson and I'm FUNemployed Gay on a Budget >> Hi, my name is Jayson and I'm FUNemployed

I’ve got a lot of new things planned, aside from my hair. It’s time for change. Seriously this time. Whenever I get worried I remember RuPaul’s wise words on Twitter, “Your fear of looking stupid is holding you back.” I’m gonna go all out, get myself a job, and let the world know I’m a someone in this world and that they need to catch up and realize it too. If you’re struggling to find a job, just hang in there. You are far from alone. I won’t sugarcoat the situation, but what I can say is something Tommy told me, which is, the only way you can truly fail is to give up.