Say it with me: Intersectionality
What is intersectionality? Why does it matter to this queer Mormon woman?
Well, see it matters because of how I just referred to myself: a queer person, a Mormon person, a somewhat female-identified person. I could also refer to myself as able-bodied, white, fat, trans, an abuse survivor, and a number of other descriptors that give a small glimpse into how I live in the world, how I am perceived, and which oppressions and privileges I live with.
Intersectionality matters because nobody is a single aspect of their experience. Everyone experiences an intersection of something. But first things first: where did I first learn about intersectionality?
Like many things I have benefitted from as a white person, I learned it from brilliant black women and people of color who lived with a particular intersection that is at the heart of many American’s experience and history. People of color have consistently experienced the oppression of racism, as well as the oppression of socio-economic status in the form of poverty. And black women have experienced the added layer of sexist oppression, while black queer women have yet another layer of oppression related to their sexual orientation, sexual identity, and more. As you can see, intersectionality becomes real complicated real fast.
This brings me to the reason I even know about intersectionality in the first place: bell hooks. bell hooks wrote a book called “Ain’t I a Woman?” that woke me up to how racism, classism, and sexism converges to oppress people, especially poor black women. It got me thinking: this is why I have so much work to do to understand my white privilege and class privilege, but I already feel the familiar oneness with other women about sexism. Seeing the intersection for myself and how it differed from other feminists: this was the foundation for my awakening.
Later in my life when I could finally admit to myself that I am queer, I felt an even deeper ache that comes with being closeted out of fear. Fear of the afterlife. Fear of being ostracized from society. Fear of so many things. This fear led me to find the voices of queer oppressed women in poetry and activism. I found so many queer voices I could relate to. I was not alone. I am not alone.
Intersectionality is personal. It’s made up of our being, our experience, and usually our heartache.
Audre Lorde was a black lesbian poet who spoke with unapologetic beauty and anger and sadness about her life. She spoke through her poetry, and through other poems. I speak through mediums like these essays. Social media. The choice to become a social worker.
I don’t speak about intersectionality to be a downer. I don’t speak about it to be smart, or right. I speak about it because it is vital to who I am as a human being. Part of my life is being in pain because I experience oppression every day. I don’t get to set aside my queerness. My fat body. My Mormon roots. My femaleness. My reformed and re-identified gender identity and expression. That is a privilege that some may enjoy, but I do not. And that’s the point.
There will be more to come. I am determined to speak about my fear, my anger, my feminine wound, my healing, and all the combinations of who I am. Let’s hear each other.