Queer 101: The Importance of Intersectionality
Guess what, guys, gals, and nonbinary pals? ✿Queer 101✿ is back with a slightly more serious topic to discuss. Today, we’ll be talking about intersectionality. Intersectionality is an extremely important concept that hardly ever gets the attention it deserves. We’ll try to cover what it is, why we should talk about it, how we can talk about it, and how it affects the queer community specifically. Let’s get started.
What Is Intersectionality?
Intersectionality is the idea that all systems of oppression/discrimination are linked in some way and cannot be resolved separately from one another. For example, homophobia does not exist in a separate sphere from racism. The two forms of oppression affect and interact with each other in many different ways (i.e: a queer person of color can experience racism in the queer community while a white person cannot, and can experience homophobia in communities of color while a straight person cannot). Also, oppression doesn’t add; it multiplies. Different issues will multiply on top of each other in several different dimensions instead of operating on a this-plus-that-equals-this sort of system. Once we understand intersectionality, we can look at how different people experience oppression in many different ways.
Why Should We Talk about Intersectionality?
We should try to talk about intersectionality as often as possible because we might unknowingly be a part of some form of discrimination that we hadn’t even thought about. For example, when consuming different types of media (T.V shows, movies, books, etc.), we should remain conscious of the fact that said media might contain certain forms of diversity, but not others. Say you start watching a T.V show about empowered women in a dystopian society. Wow, look at all these feminist themes! These women are supporting each other, they’re fighting the patriarchy, and catch me while I faint because they’re even including queer representation. You’re really excited about this, so you start talking about how perfect the show is in terms of diversity and representation. Then you realize: none of the regulars on the show are people of color. Also, some of the themes are kind of ableist. In focusing on the feminist and LGBTQ+ aspects of the T.V show, you didn’t notice that it lacks racial diversity and that it contains microaggressions against the disabled community. Therefore, it’s not perfect in terms of diversity and representation. This model doesn’t just work for mass media. It also applies to activities and communities as well. We can still appreciate our favorite books/T.V shows/celebrities/organizations, etc., but we should also acknowledge that these things can be problematic in terms of intersectionality. In recognizing one issue, they can discard or perpetuate another, and we should talk about that instead of ignoring it so we can challenge systems of oppression instead of contributing to them.
How Can We Recognize and Discuss Issues of Intersectionality?
Because different forms of discrimination have become more “subtle” (I’m putting that in quotations because there are still plenty of cases where discrimination isn’t subtle at all), issues of intersectionality can be difficult to recognize. Here are a few questions you can think about while consuming mass media, participating in a discussion, or doing whatever it is that you might find yourself doing:
- What is [this thing here] trying to address?
- Is [this thing here] addressing [an issue] successfully? Why?
- What does [this thing here] fail to address?
- Is [this thing here] trying to trivialize or ignore [that issue there]?
- How would [this thing here] be affected by [this other issue]?
- How can I address [this thing] while also making sure to acknowledge [this issue]?
- What do the people who created [this thing] think about [this issue]? Are they thinking about it at all?
- Is [this issue] really something I can talk about? Do I need to do research or ask someone else who has more experience with it?
Also, please remember that the best thing to do when someone points out issues relating to intersectionality is to listen. You should especially listen when the person is talking about an issue that relates to a group they personally identify with. And never, never, never make statements or judgments about a group you’re not part of!
Intersectionality and the Queer Community
Being a part of the LGBTQ+ community is really cool because it exists as a space for all different types of people to interact and discuss queer-related issues. However, we can’t focus solely on issues of sexuality when issues of race, gender, ability, class, language, etc. exist at the same time. Yes, it’s fun to celebrate and be proud of who we are, but we can’t do that without acknowledging that many members of the queer community aren’t only being discriminated against for being queer. I’m going to put some links at the bottom of the page that discuss different forms of intersectionality within the queer community. If you have any Kenyon-related questions, our lovely friends at Unity House recently had a discussion about intersectionality. There’s also Crozier, Qdubs (Queer Women’s Collective), QMS (Queer Men’s Collective), TransKenyon, Athletes for Equality, and many more. This article dealt with intersectionality as a concept, but if you’d like to see specific issues of intersectionality addressed, email The Thrill or submit your own Queer 101.