Extra protections are not special privileges – a clarification

28 Aug

There is nothing ‘special’  about being singled out for harassment on the basis of your (actual or perceived) sexual orientation or gender identity. There is nothing ‘privileged’ about being part of an underserved, under-represented population that frequently has its fundamental rights restricted or challenged.

Seems pretty straightforward, right?

We wanted to highlight that fundamental fact in response to a comment we received a couple of days ago. This comment from William calls out Safe Streets AZ and programs like it as being unfair and non-inclusive. This person argues that programs geared towards a specific population –in this case lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer-identified youth and young adults– provide ‘special privileges’ to those people.

We thought it crucial to respond to this ‘special privileges’ argument, which is just as old as it is flawed.

**Note: While we really dislike censoring any kind of comment or discussion, for the sake of this discussion and our audience we elected not to include particularly nasty hate speech that did not appear to have a purpose other than to be hateful.**

To start off, we would like to further clarify a few things: a) SAFE STREETS AZ is primarily geared towards LGBTQ-identified people in AZ, ages 13-24, because this group is frequently singled out for street harassment, HOWEVER, b) EVERYONE can access SAFE STREETS AZ resources, Safe Sites, and may share their stories, post, comment, etc.

1. Getting back to the fundamental flaw in the ‘special privileges’ argument: working to gain the same rights as others or to prevent your rights from being taken away/undermined is not a privilege. This is like saying that offering two quarters to someone with 50 cents means they will have more money than someone else who had a dollar (or more) to begin with. It just doesn’t make sense.

2. To continue, the ‘special privileges’ argument is neither new nor logical (its roots run deep and through the Civil Rights and Women’s Suffrage movements and beyond). The reality that we are working against  is that people of color, women, and LGBTQ individuals (to name just a few) have less access to and less representation in policy-making and decisions that impact their lives. At the same time, these groups are often singled out or targeted for discrimination and other forms of violence on the basis of their race, gender, class, and/or sexual orientation. So-called ‘specialized’ programs  exist in order to fill the gap between mainstream services and the marginalized communities that are under-served and under-represented. Examples? Women in the U.S. are vastly under-represented in political office and the sciences. Alone, our education systems are not closing (if not directly contributing to) this gap, so programs like Running Start and Girls Inc. Operation SMART aim to provide those opportunities. Another example: programs that specifically support male survivors of sexual violence. Male survivors are not always provided the same legal protections as female survivors (just look at the recently changed FBI definition of rape), and are even less likely to be believed or supported, and so programs exist to specifically serve this population.  And while these examples focus on gender, the same need to bridge gaps exists for all marginalized groups. This isn’t segregation as commenter William suggests – this is a necessary extension of services and education to ensure that everyone possesses the same opportunities and safety.

3. Additional programs and laws are also necessary to provide protections to under-served, marginalized groups because they are more likely to be taken advantage of and to have violence committed against them.

SAFE STREETS AZ is just such a program. LGBTQ people, youth, and women are often singled out for street harassment because they are LGBTQ, youth and women. And while more programs exist now to support female survivors of sexual violence including street harassment, LGBTQ communities and youth are still under-served in many ways. SAFE STREETS AZ is a necessary extension of all of the other essential programs doing anti-violence work: an addition that provides culturally appropriate services to a segment of our community that often has little to no visibility or recourse.

4. Because of all of the above, it is important that we continue to call out the “special privileges” argument whenever we hear it. Why? Because the right to go about your life without the fear or threat of being harassed is only enjoyed by a few, when it should be enjoyed by everyone.

“LGBT rights are human rights and human rights are LGBT rights. We are not asking for any special privileges, just the same protections under the law as everybody else,” — the Kaleidoscope Trust.

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2 Responses to “Extra protections are not special privileges – a clarification”

  1. lista de emails September 16, 2012 at 6:42 PM #

    could you tell me when you’re going to update your posts? lista de emails lista de emails lista de emails lista de emails lista de emails

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