My moment of hesitation

As a heterosexual, able-bodied, white cis-gendered male, I have a lot of unearned privileges in society that were taught to me through everything I interacted with. Whether it was media, school, etc. One of the only areas in which I don’t carry privilege is in my spiritual identity. I identify as an atheist. (An identity that I’m still exploring and potentially adjusting)

The only time ever that I felt hesitation in declaring my identity was during an exercise at a training retreat that I was taking part in. We all stood in a circle and stepped into the middle of the circle if we identified as {insert your social identity here}. In attendance at the retreat was every one of my new colleagues and all of our supervisors. I had yet to have a full conversation with everyone and suddenly became nervous when asked to step into the circle if you identify as atheist.

Now, I had no reason to be nervous. I was in a room of open-minded people who appreciate diversity and multiple perspectives. And yet, I still feared for the slightest moment that I would be judged for my identity. That is based on the inherent Christian privilege of the United States that implies that anything not Christian is wrong.

Due to my other social identities, I hadn’t felt that sense of not-belonging before and it wasn’t until much later when I was reflecting on my identities that I realized what that moment meant. And if I can feel momentary hesitation and fear about identifying as an atheist what does that mean for someone who identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, genderqueer? What does it mean for someone whose identity is visible? What about someone who is African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Asian American/Pacific Islander? This line of questioning shook me to my core. It opened my eyes a little more to the socialized oppression and privilege prevalent in our society in ways that I previously had not experienced due to my visible privileged identities. It led me to want to become an activist and advocate. It shifted my perspective and professional identity. It made me strive to learn more about myself and our society. It made me engage in social justice advocacy and education.

For these reasons I am grateful for my moment of fear.

Tell me your thoughts