Intersecting Identities 101
“Intersectionality refers to the ways race, class, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, ability, status and other markers of differences intersect to inform individual realities and lived experiences.” –C. Nicole Mason, PhD
Kimberle Crenshaw coined the term intersectionality to describe how our multiple identities impact the ways we experience oppressions. Terms such as transmisogyny (oppression against women who are transgender) and misogynoir (oppression against women who are Black) were coined to express how misogyny + other oppressions are experienced in complex rather than additive ways.
You can’t just stack some classism (oppression against poor and low-income people) on top of some sexism (oppression against women and people who are perceived as women). Low-income women’s experiences of poverty are different than those of poor men, and their experiences of womanhood are different than women who have more income, wealth, or resources (such as a safety net).
“Intersectionality is a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects. It’s not simply that there’s a race problem here, a gender problem here, and a class or LBGTQ problem there.” –Kimberle Crenshaw
We cannot fight oppressions individually, like we see in disability rights groups that are mostly white, or in Black, Indigenous, multiracial, and people of color (BIPOC) organizations where the focus is on anti-racism, but not on sexism, queerantagonism (oppression against LGBTQ2SIA+ people) or disablism (oppression against disabled people).
Rather, we must integrate a multiplicity of anti-oppressions into our liberatory work.
This is why Disability Justice is integral to all equity work. By working for the liberation of disabled BIPOC, we are working toward the liberation of everyone.
We need to always ask, “Who is not at the table?” and “Who is most targeted by interlocking oppressions?” Such a person (or community) may be Black, disabled refugee(s). Or maybe they are Deaf, low-income, Indigenous two-spirit person(s). This is who needs to come to the center of our work together. This is who needs to be leading us all. To facilitate that, we must ensure collective access and more.