Passing Privilege / Invisibility

I don’t think I have anything particularly unique or new to say about passing privilege, but it’s often been a feature of my adult life, and has started to exhibit in new ways since O’s birth. Something I have struggled with a lot in the last five years is that I pass really well: I can grow a good beard, I’ve got my father’s goyishe looks, my disabilities are invisible, the multi-racial nature of my family of origin isn’t apparent unless I’m with them, and being single erases homosexuality and other queernesses (to a certain extent). I work hard to undermine some of this passing in the performance of my identity, in talking talking talking, in refusing to be closeted in my personal life, but it’s not without its advantages that I also end up enjoying whether I want to or not.

On the day we all left the hospital, the contract photographer came back around to take some photos. There were ones of me and O, of BMA and O, and then some of the three of us. Looking at those photos, we don’t look like an adoption triad, we look like a happy heterosexual couple welcoming their child into the world. My parents said that people in the hospital assumed that I was BMA’s boyfriend, and BMA herself said that she considered me O’s only father, since his birth father had absented himself. Two erasures at once: my single status (and BMA’s) meant that we could be inserted into a typical het diad around O, which obscured my gayness and the fact of O’s adoption. And while being a single father has a certain queerness to it, it’s a heterosexual kind of queerness.

Invisibility frustrates me. Although I now believe that there is an important, internal core to identity, I still feel that the bulk of it is performative. Passing keeps me safe (and employed), but also smacks of failure and fear: failure to perform completely and compellingly, and the fear inherent in the closet. The things passing erases are things of which I am extraordinarily proud, and benefiting from privilege of any kind tends to make me uncomfortable. It seems the only way to fight back sometimes is to talk, which I guess is why I talk so much.

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