"Passing" Privilege

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of “passing privilege” as in being perceived as someone you are or aren’t and gaining benefits based on that perception. 

There’s the debate about whether or not it is indeed privilege when you are perceived as someone you’re not as opposed to someone you are. I don’t have any conclusive thoughts on this. I am and have been for a while in the process of questioning and attempting to further understand these notions. Another argument I’ve heard is that regardless of passing, say as your gender identity, trans men still gain access to male privilege due to receiving messages institutionally sent to men that affirm men and not the demeaning ones sent to women. 

As a non-binary person, this leaves me in a weird mental space. I don’t feel comfortable denying my access to conditional male privilege or cis privilege. I say conditional to acknowledge that I am often still perceived as female (typically in gay clubs or anywhere that requires legal ID), and I am loud and proud about being trans*. On that same note, I don’t identify as a binary man or as cisgender, so are these benefits privileges or mistakes based on erasure of my existence? Is it possible to be simultaneously privileged and erased?

Furthermore, and again these aren’t conclusive thoughts and can change at any point in time, I feel like all privilege is based on perception without waiting for the confirmation if said perception is accurate. You cannot receive privileges if you are not perceived. For the above argument of internalized messages, it just seems weird to me, because it operates on assuming how someone thinks or does not think. For me, I don’t really ever pick up on messages sent to men. I see them and acknowledge that they exist, but I also recognize that they’re not for me really. I have the same internal reactions to institutional messages sent out to women.

I guess the only conclusive thought I have on this is that I don’t think it’ll boil down to passing privilege does or does not exist. I don’t think it’s that simple. I would like to hear other folks’ thoughts on it though if you’d like to share?

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