“What hidden messages are now visible to you in what you could offer as your autobiography? For example, what does it mean that you did not address your gender, or your sexuality or your racialization as important or constitutive of your identity? Take Kumashiro seriously – “We need to be examining our lessons and lenses, their political implications, and possible alternatives…. we need to put front and center the very things we do not want in our … (autobiography), the very things we do not even know are in our … (autobiography).”
In my autobiography I spoke about my class and my race as a part of being privileged, because I grew up in a middle class family I was able to access materials that improved my educational experience in and outside of school. My social class also ensured that my immediate needs were taken care of and I could focus on learning. While my family was not particularly well off, we had it better than others. Teachers never looked at me as if I was underprivileged and I think that effected how they treated me. Often students live up to what is expected. Our financial standing and my parent’s attempts to give me a better life than they had growing up resulted in me being able to work toward the goal of going to university from a very young age. My race coincides with what being middle-class allowed. I am white, so I am privileged as a member of the dominant group. The system was designed for someone like me, someone white.
I didn’t speak as much about my gender or my sexuality. As a female I have been groomed a certain way and as someone who identifies as “straight” my sexuality is also part of the socially accepted and dominant group. I fit into the norms of being a female in my society. I never had to think about gender so much because I am part of the dominant classification. Being part of a dominant group meant never having to be made uncomfortable for what/who I am in relation to the categories of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. At school this looked like me being, for the most part, accepted by my peers. It also looked like teachers expecting me to be mature and well-mannered. My privileged place in fitting into gendered norms helped me be a “good” student. In my journey to becoming a teacher I’m sure I was also influenced by the number of female teachers I had. It was easy to see how I could fit into the teaching profession. Being a straight woman I also fit into the dominant classification for sexuality. In this way I was able to be well received be my peers and see teacher role models that were like me.
What it means that I didn’t add this to my autobiography is that as part of my privilege I have never had to identify myself by my gender or my sexual orientation and because I fit into generalized norms of gender and sexuality I never had to be othered or made uncomfortable by curriculum. I never had to feel the disadvantages of being othered or not hearing a narrative that reflected my own in my education. I also never had to be defined as different because of my race, class, gender, and/or sexuality. Because of my position in the dominant groupings of each classification I could be sort of seen as neutral and thus it was my actions and choices that defined me instead. My identity got to be untouched by my experience as raced, classed, gendered and sexed. This is uncomfortable because it can be difficult to admit that I have been privileged by things out of my control and others have been disadvantaged because of things out of their control. It can be diffifult to say that I have benefited by systems that oppress others. It can be difficult to say that my own journey was shaped by role-models and narratives reflected me when I now aim to challenge those narratives. The fact that some things are so normalized makes it challenging to see and when they are uncomfortable as well it is easier to ignore them, but in order to challenge issues of social justice I have to see my identity completely and how all aspects have affected my journey.