June marked the start of Pride month, a time for the celebration of identity and the commemoration of the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement. Pride month means embracing identity, acknowledging history, and critically thinking about what it means to achieve equity for the LGBTQ+ community. While Pride month is symbolized in many communities by temporary logo redesigns, lively parades, and flashy rainbow merchandise, the movement’s origin is based in police and societal persecution, most widely recognized as the Stonewall riots.
The Stonewall riots are considered to be a catalyst for the ever growing LGBTQ+ movement in society. On June 28, 1969, patrons and residents of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York, passionately protested and rioted against a police raid that had occurred early in the morning. For weeks, riots and demonstrations continued by those beginning their fight for queer liberation and visibility.
Among the rioters stood Marsha P. Johnson, a gay rights activist and queer black drag queen. Johnson’s contributions to the Stonewall riots and LGBTQ+ civil rights movement were expansive and radical for her time. Like Johnson, many prominent figures from this movement were black, also facing discrimination and bigotry for their race as well as gender identity or sexuality. As we approach the conclusion of pride month, it is essential to educate ourselves about the convergence of racial justice and Pride, critically examining the need to be intersectional.
But What is Intersectionality?
Because of the lack of education surrounding the term, there are many misconceptions about what it truly means to be intersectional. Intersectionality is not synonymous with diversity, nor is it a competition to see “who has it worse”. Intersectionality is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” To be intersectional means to acknowledge, embrace, and appreciate all sectors of people’s identities, keeping in mind how differences and experiences create a complex analytical framework to view marginalization and oppression through.
Lawyer, Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term intersectionality in 1989 after publishing a paper that studied the intersection of race and sex, narrowing in on how a black woman’s identity automatically creates a higher level of vulnerability vs. what their white counterpart would experience. “Intersectionality is simply about how certain aspects of who you are will increase your access to the good things or your exposure to the bad things in life,” Crenshaw said in an interview with TIME.
As the Black Lives Matter movement gained traction over this past year, Pride has begun to see a larger acknowledgment and accreditation for it’s founders’ contributions and the dire need for multifaceted justice. From birth, black individuals and other racial minority groups automatically face a nation built on systemic racism, and are met with discriminatory policies, inherent biases, and the difficulty to acquire basic human rights. Black and minority members of the LGBTQ+ community have an even greater chance to experience oppression as a result of the intersection of both their sexual and racial identities. It is impossible to celebrate Pride without recognizing the higher levels of oppression that racial minorities face when identifying as members of the LGBTQ+ community.
The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the need to approach social justice through an intersectional lens with racial minorities, the LGBTQ+ community, lower-class individuals and families, and other marginalized groups being non proportionality affected by the pandemic’s negative impact. This notion could be exemplified by two friends of different races, gender, and economic status, experiencing the pandemic in dramatically different ways due to the intersection of their identities and how all facets play together.
“Without frames that allow us to see how social problems impact all the members of a targeted group, many will fall through the cracks of our movements, left to suffer in virtual isolation.” – Kimberlé Crenshaw.
On social media, many people have become more comfortable with calling others out on their tone deafness to societal issues and failure to take more initiative when it comes to combating different systems of oppression. On my own social media timeline, I have seen an influx in social justice content being shared, putting many issues on many people’s radars that otherwise may have gone unnoticed. For myself and many, social media is no longer just a social platform, but also a tool for education, compassion, and accountability. Advocacy online is just the start, and it is important to avoid falling into the trap of “performative activism”. Here are some of our tips to work towards being more intersectional in your day to day life.
How Can You Work Towards Being Intersectional?
Learn and Listen
Continue to educate yourself and your family about the roots of social justice issues and how they continue to persist in today’s world. Listen to those who are members of marginalized communities, learning how you can continue to support that group.
Many marginalized groups have been silenced in their own discussion about racial and social justice. It is important to allow and at times create space so that those with important information or testimonies can share their experiences and knowledge.
Engage with Intersectional Content
The internet is a tool that has made information and research widely accessible, allowing us to do our own research, as well as the ability to engage with creators who demonstrate their approach to intersectionality in their work. Writers Audre Lorde and Angela Davis and Activist Kimberlé Crenshaw all have made impressive contributions to the academic study of the intersectionalist framework.
Consider your Privileges and Inherent Biases
Our own inherent biases and privileges can easily shield us from the prevalence of racism, sexism, classism, and other systems of oppressions in society. Work on considering how your own identities have affected the way in which you have learned to view the world and others around you. Work towards being more empathetic and compassionate to all, and understand that everyone comes from different experiences.
While social media is a great place to start, it is important to remember that any social justice movement is not a trend, and deserves the proper recognition and respect when being shared online. Many petitions, academic articles, personal testimonies, and fundraising efforts are easily found online.
Since its origin, the pride movement has always been entwined with the needs to address racial justice. We cannot celebrate pride without accrediting the black people who acted as agents of change, leading the original pride movement. In order for us to continue to make systemic change in the world, we must learn to be intersectional in our approach to all forms of social justice. While June is a time to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, it is essential that we adjust our approach to be all inclusive.
Annie is a junior studying Communications at Emerson College. In her free time she enjoys exploring Boston, listening to music, and watching hockey. Annie is excited to be working with the MEDIAGIRLS team to spread positive messages throughout social media.