by Jessica Morris, Out Now Intern
Intersectionality. Whether you read works of third-wave feminist and queer authors and activists or simply exist outside of whiteness, you know this topic, in theory and/or praxis. You do not need to know the histories of this term to know what it is like to be treated in heteronormative, racist, classist, ableist, and sexist social structures. It did not begin with Kimberele Crenshaw’s critical race theory analysis, but having a name for multidimensional struggles definitely helped mobilize political movement.
“…An analogy to traffic in an intersection, coming and going in all four directions. Discrimination, like traffic through an intersection, may flow in one direction, and it may flow in another. If an accident happens in an intersection, it can be caused by cars traveling from any number of directions and, sometimes, from all of them. Similarly, if a Black woman is harmed because she is in an intersection, her injury could result from sex discrimination or race discrimination […] But it is not always easy to reconstruct an accident: Sometimes the skid marks and the injuries simply indicate that they occurred simultaneously, frustrating efforts to determine which driver caused the harm.” (Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, 1989.)
Through this “traffic scene”, many times when wearing many identity caps, it is difficult to differentiate which influences, positive or negative, have impacted you.
No matter how many classes I take and essays I read at my women’s college, no person or writing can fully validate my intersectional experiences except myself. And so, I have written a vent/poem/what-have-you to express what it is like to be stagnant in the center of that four-way street.
well, what am I?
Those two words remind me of when I was forced to face my realities for an English class assignment in middle school. “I am…”, the twelve-year-old me ponders in front of her computer screen. I can’t remember what exactly I declared then, but I doubt it gave me any satisfaction.
I AM A WOMAN. My heart roars with Mount Holyoke College’s acceptance letter heavy in my hands. YOU WILL BE EMPOWERED HERE. Empowered to have what type of power, they never explained. I am privileged to even consider college, let alone this elite one with an endowment over $500 million. I AM ABLE TO AFFORD THIS –with a scholarship and my Grandfather’s dedication to ensuring his children and grandchildren could have financial access to education.
I AM HAPA. No, I am not Hawaiian, nor am I latin@. I am half-Chinese: with cultures so rich, you could not reach it by wearing our silk or texting on your iPhones made for you by our overworked men and women. Yes, I am half-Eastern European. No, I do not get only half-offended when you make an Anti-Semitic or Anti-Chinese joke. I will not say thank you when you compliment my “exotic” skin. You scare me like Buffalo Bill.
I AM LESBIAN. No wait. I AM QUEER. Actually…I AM A WOMAN LOVING WOMAN. No, no. I AM GAY!! Erm… okay! I got it! I AM A LESBIAN 86% OF THE TIME and QUEER 23% OF THE TIME…No, that does not add up.
I AM FEMME. But wait. Not like the white, lipstick lesbian characters from the L-Word. I am femme only because you wrote that on my forehead. (Only recently have I seen it in my mirror’s reflection and learned to embrace it). I am my version of femme. When we (the white cis-woman femme and I) wear the same outfit, you may be invisible, but I will always be hypersexualized. My femme is TRANS* FRIENDLY. By the way, I will give you shade if you misuse your masculine privilege as misogyny. Just because you are female-bodied, does not mean you are allowed to treat feminine-presenting people like slabs of meat.
I am NOT just one identity. I do NOT escape the privileges I am. I AM allowed to prioritize one identity in front of another whenever I want. I AM emotional.
I will and always will be angry. Do not let that scare you away. Do be uncomfortable.
I want to thank Out Now for giving me this opportunity to express the complicated nature of my identities to you and myself. I felt comfortable utilizing their blogging space because one of their core values is acknowledging and embracing differences in the queer communities.