// by Ilana Masad
I am so incredibly privileged. This is where it all starts for me. In remembering that I am so, so, so fucking privileged. And I don’t mean privileged for the world. I mean privileged even in the West, in which I have resided most of my life. Of course, there are caveats. I’m white (but culturally Middle Eastern as well as North American--but then the Middle East, Israel in particular, so Americanized, but then again, it’s also not, and I have to remind myself that I learned more racism here than I did there). I’m straight-reading (mostly. And I’m not straight. And I hate being read as straight. Even though it’s a privilege. Passing is privilege). I’m able-bodied (but I suffer a constant chronic headache as well as almost daily migraines and body aches and pains that are unexplained). I’m financially stable and I have a mother who can help me out if need be (but my dad died when I was 16 and I remember being poor growing up though my mom says now that we weren’t really poor but as a child I thought we actually were, and I don’t know which one of us is misremembering, and also the reason we’re doing okay money-wise is because five people died before I turned 17. Also I work all the time, really hard, and am constantly exhausted because in my line of work I never know if I will have a job tomorrow or the next day). If you ignore the parentheticals, which most of the world will, I have nothing to complain about.
But being different--as if there were a true norm to which we could aspire to, when it doesn’t really work that way, even if the American Dream wants to tell us that it does--has helped me grow, and I don’t regret or bemoan any of who or what I am. Growing up in a first-world war zone taught me healthy fear, and that people are awful, and that finding good ones is how we can measure luck day by day, droplet by droplet. Being queer has brought me to a place of deeper understanding of others and of the spectrum of experiences there are. Being in pain all the time has made me resilient, my pain threshold high, my body able to withstand the pinpricks of needles on and through skin. And working hard and worrying has made me responsible and careful. Being different, being Other, is the best teacher of empathy that I will ever have. As a writer, that is invaluable.