Highlighting Intersectionality in LGBTQ+ Communities
February is Black History Month, which SOGI wants to celebrate by bringing attention to Black contributions to the LGBTQ+ community and by spotlighting the current experience of Black members of this community. To start, it is important to define the term intersectionality. The term was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw (she/her) in 1989 to describe the experiences of oppression faced by women of color, especially Black women, in our society. It has since expanded to include more social identities after being adopted by other feminists in the early 2000s.
History of the term intersectionality:
1970s: “Simultaneity” used by the Combahee River Collective in Boston, a Black lesbian organization, to explain interlocking influences of race, class, gender, and sexuality to emphasize African American experiences over the predominantly white, cisgender, heterosexual, middle-class movements
1989: “Intersectionality” officially coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw to describe three levels of oppression (structural, political, representational) faced by women of color, especially Black women
1991: Crenshaw uses intersectionality to describe how race, class, gender, and other systems create disadvantages for some and advantages for others through politics, academics, and violence.
To celebrate intersectionality, we want to highlight a few major contributions to the LGBTQ+ community made by people of color:
- Marsha P. Johnson: Marsha was a pivotal figure in the Stonewall Riots, becoming one of the first people in the crowd to fight against police. She dedicated her life to LBGTQ+ rights and co-founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) to provide housing, food, and other necessities to LGBTQ+ youth in NYC.
- John Amaechi: John (he/him) is the first former NBA player to publicly come out as gay, a decision he made to become a visible representation of a black gay man in the media. He now works as a psychologist and funds an organization that improves leadership and diversity skills within corporations.
- Ashton Mota: Ashton (he/him) is a Black and Latinx transgender teen from Massachusetts who campaigned for “Yes on 3” in 2018, which upheld state laws that protect transgender people. His activism began when he fought to play on the boys’ basketball team and use his preferred name, and he know uses his platform to advocate for queer people of color.
- Indya Moore: Indya (they/them) is a model and actor who uses their platform to advocate for people of color in the LGBTQ+ community, most recently raising $20,000 in coronavirus relief funds for Black queer individuals.
Yasmin Benoit: Yasmin (she/her) created #ThisIsWhatAsexualLooksLike to increase asexual visibility and dispel stereotypes by calling out harmful depictions in the media.
The following links include discussions about what it means to be a person of color in the LGBTQ+ community:
- Highlighting the Story by It Gets Better Project: Kenneth Senegal does author Blair Imani’s makeup as she shares her knowledge about black historical LGBTQ+ figures and they recount their own experiences in honor of Black History month in 2020.
- Time to THRIVE from the Human Rights Campaign: Giovanni Blair McKenzie reflected on his identity and how it is impacted by intersectionality during the 2015 conference.
Lastly, intersectionality can be a difficult topic to both comprehend and navigate. Here is a resource from the Trevor Project that can help guide these conversations!