What is Privilege?

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Updated: Mar 20, 2021
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What is Privilege? essay

Privilege is a special advantage, neither common nor universal. It is granted, not earned or brought by an individuals’ effort or talent. It is a sort of entitlement that is related to a preferred status or rank. Lastly, privilege is exercised solely for the benefit of the recipient and to the exclusion or harm of others. In addition, “social privilege is defined as any entitlement, sanction, power, immunity, and advantage or right granted or conferred by the dominant group to a person or group solely by birthright membership of prescribed identities” (Black & Stone, 2005, 245). Historically, examinations of privilege have focused on gender and race but there are many other forms of privilege, such as, sexual orientation.

Sexual orientation refers to a person’s sexual identity in relation to the gender to which they are attracted. There are three categories being, heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual. Personally, I am categorized as heterosexual because I am attracted to people of the opposite sex. Heterosexuality is viewed as the normative expression of sexual orientation; therefore, I have benefitted in many ways from my dominant status. Some of these include culture in the areas of coupling and marrying, self-acceptance, cultural validation, institutional acceptance, and personal safety. For example, I can walk down the street holding a man’s hand without receiving dirty looks or feeling judged. In addition to not being judged, I won’t feel unsafe in the community around me.

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Claims and refutations that same-sex marriage is abnormal, deviant, or disgusting has been coded into society. Heterosexuality has historically been a privilege. The cultural blame has been supported by three arguments. These arguments are, that homosexuality doesn’t occur in nature, so it is unnatural, the structure and function of the sexual organs allow for an unmistakable and particular use, and reproduction is natural and because nonheterosexual sex doesn’t result in reproduction, it is unnatural. In addition to the argument that reproduction is natural, social science research makes the claim that having two opposite sex parents is necessary for children’s sex role development. They claim that children from nonheterosexual families suffer harm, including development of nonheterosexual sexual orientations in adulthood or emotional trauma from stigma associated with homophobia. Throughout history in the media, schools, and society, sexual orientation is viewed as a choice, something that can and must be changed. Religious arguments have also contributed to the history of sexual orientation privilege. Statements made such as, “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”.

There are many negative stigmas attached to having a sexual orientation that is other than heterosexual, therefore many choose not to share their sexual identity. There is a fear for personal safety and discrimination in housing and employment. There are many ways that a lesbian woman, gay man, or bisexual person is affected by being in this unprivileged group. Heterosexuals can comfortably and safely talk about their relationships with opposite sex partners and they can easily work as teachers or with children, whereas people of other sexual orientations are unable to do these things. Nonheterosexuals can’t raise, adopt, and teach children without people believing that they will molest them or force them into their sexuality. They can’t go wherever they wish because they don’t know that they won’t be harassed, beaten, or killed because of their sexuality. They have to worry about being mistreated by the police or victimized by the criminal justice system. These are just some of the many problems that gays, lesbians, and bisexuals have to face.

Sexual orientation bias and privilege has been formed and integrated in our society throughout history. Therefore, reversing this bias and privilege has been found to be quite challenging. This bias exists and still persists today because of what people are raised to believe and how society has shaped them. Children grow up seeing man marrying women in movies, television shows, on social media, and in the community around them. For example, heterosexual love is displayed as natural in Disney animated films for children. When characters of different sexes fall in love in Disney films they are visually depicted in settings with imagery of the natural environment, including fireflies, butterflies, sunsets, wind, and the beauty and power of nature. Heterosexual love is so natural that all of the surrounding nature comes alive and is synchronized with music to celebrate the characters’ love. Not only is this bias perceived in the media, it is passed along from generation to generation. Millennials are making milestones of change when it comes to sexual orientation privilege, although older generations are not as adaptive to the idea.

Because this has been a problem throughout history and it still persists today as individuals, we can all work on little things to decrease stereotypes and remove implicit biases in association with sexual orientation privilege. Three actions that I can take to address this inequality would be to challenge my thoughts, question others, and practice positivity toward the subordinate group. By challenging my thoughts, I will become more aware of the situation, which will help me to feel more comfortable questioning others. If I am to hear a comment that is negative towards the subordinate group, I will question them, making them aware of what they are doing and how their words are affecting others. I believe this will help to make lesbian, gay, and bisexual people feel safer and more comfortable in the community around me. Lastly, I will practice positivity towards the subordinate group to not only make them feel safer, but to influence others’ attitudes towards them as well. Making change starts small and turns into something much bigger.

In conclusion, history has been cruel, to those with sexual orientations that differ from being heterosexual and it still persists today. Although, sexual orientation privilege has been engraved in our society throughout history there are things we can do to improve or even eliminate this privilege.

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What is Privilege?. (2021, Mar 20). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/what-is-privilege/