If you’re still confused about intersectionality, Sarah Brown provides a brief guide
It’s a word that’s been around since the 1980s – coined by law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw – but you could be forgiven for thinking that intersectionality was having a bit of a moment.
And while its origin lies in the feminist movement – specifically addressing the fact that women of color experience discrimination to a much greater degree than their white sisters – it can now apply to pretty much any -ism you care to mention (racism, sexism, classism).
“It’s about including everyone,” says Sarah Brown, producer and host of The Queerience podcast. “When people talk about the feminist movement, it’s mostly white women, and a lot of women of color are excluded from that conversation. So are trans women.”
“In a lot of queer or LGBTQ+ spaces, they are predominantly white. A lot of times there aren’t any trans people or there aren’t any people of color.”
The same discrimination is happening in the LGBTQ+ community. “In a lot of queer or LGBTQ+ spaces, they are predominantly white. A lot of times there aren’t any trans people or there aren’t any people of color.
“And if you’re not being included in the narrative, if you’re not being represented, it’s as if you’re invisible, as if your story doesn’t matter. And that’s something that I need to check my privilege about because, while I am gay, I am a cis white woman, and a lot of the systems that are put in place right now are geared toward my advantage and my privilege.”
“You look at the gay bar scene right now, and I can name probably five bars in a five-block radius in Hell’s Kitchen that are not lesbian-friendly, are not always trans-friendly, they’re not always POC-friendly.”
So, to ensure all sections of society feel seen and heard, they must be represented in the conversation. “No offense to cis white gay men – we love everyone – but a lot of queer spaces are for them. You look at the gay bar scene right now, and I can name probably five bars in a five-block radius in Hell’s Kitchen that are not lesbian-friendly, are not always trans-friendly, they’re not always POC-friendly.”
And we can’t talk intersectionality and ignore a growing marginalized group: the massive 30% of LGBTQ+ adults who identify as having a disability (that’s in contrast to 12.6% of the general population). Why so many?
“A lot of the LGBTQ+ community suffers trauma from not being accepted by their parents or their loved ones, or being bullied,” says Sarah. “It’s a huge problem. You feel like you can’t be yourself and you’re inside a cage with this weight on your shoulders. That does a lot to affect your mental health.”
That anxiety can be exacerbated when you never know if a new space you’re entering is going to be queer-friendly or not. “And in some communities it’s still a stigma to go to therapy. Some of my friends say, ‘We don’t talk about our issues. We don’t go to therapy. That’s not a thing.’ And we need to change that.
“Know the proper terminology, know the vocabulary. To be a good ally requires patience on both ends.”
“I suffer from anxiety and depression. I have my good days and bad. But every day it’s important to talk about it and, when you have a really good day, to celebrate that. And when you have a bad day, to humble yourself and say, ‘This is OK. I’ll have a good day, soon, maybe tomorrow.’”
And it’s the responsibility of the rest of us to ensure we’re creating a safe space for the whole community. How, you ask? By doing the work.
“Educate yourself,” says Sarah. “Know the proper terminology, know the vocabulary. To be a good ally requires patience on both ends. It’s one thing to post a hashtag on Instagram. But you actually have to do the work and listen to your friends when they try and tell you something, or when they call you out. It means they care.”
Sarah Brown has lived in NYC for six years. She’s an Equity stage manager, and hosts and produces the Queerience, a podcast born out of a desire to tell the stories of the queer community.