Queer Intersectionality


Before you read this, here are some terms that may be helpful:

LGBTQIA+ - Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning Intersex Asexual + (and beyond!!!)

QTBIPOC - Queer Transgender Black Indigenous People of Color

Cisgender - You identify as the gender you were assigned at birth. Cis means “same” in Latin

Transgender - You do not identify as the gender you were assigned at birth. Trans means “across” in Latin.

Non-Binary - Innate gender identity. One does not identify with the binary categories of gender, male or female.

Gender Nonconforming - One does not conform to the social constructs of gender expression (ex: pink = girl & blue = boy)

Queer - An umbrella term for people who are not heterosexual or are not cisgender. Originally meaning "strange" or "peculiar", queer came to be used pejoratively against those with same-sex desires or relationships in the late 19th century. Beginning in the late 1980s, queer activists began to reclaim the word as a deliberately provocative and politically radical alternative to the more assimilationist branches of the LGBT community.

Intersectionality - The acknowledgement that everyone has their own unique experiences of discrimination and oppression and we must consider everything and anything that can marginalise people – gender, race, class, sexual orientation, physical ability, etc.

Nearly this time six years ago, On June 12, 2016, Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old man, killed 49 people and wounded 53 more in a mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. I had an emergency meeting the day after with the Queer high school students I worked with at the time and we felt completely crushed. We had just gone on a field trip to Brooklyn Pride the day before. One student shared, “One day you think you’re safe and the next you remember you’re not.”

At this time two years ago, I threw a few masks on my face, unsure if that’d help hold off the Cov while I joined Black Lives Matter marches in Brooklyn and the Queer Liberation March in Manhattan which began with handing out water and granola bars and ended with handing out goggles because of all the pepper spray. 

At this time one year ago I carried signs made by LGBTQIA+ people in custody at Rikers in the Pride March in NYC which was scarcely attended and I could feel the anxious exhaustion permeating the air. It felt like exasperated unrest.

Here I am now, strolling into Pride month just vibrating away with an anger that is barely contained with a tight smile that I’m sure makes my resting sociopath face look straight up demented. I’m countering this facial contortion with contemplation. I’ve been thinking a lot about Queer Intersectionality.

Stay with me.

Let’s start again.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Queer Intersectionality. And I’m not saying intersectionality in a calcified, academic sort of way nor adopting it as a buzzword; I’m just really trying to see if there’s a new way I can approach the garbage heap I keep trying to “see the beauty in” and for fucks sake, there is no amount of rainbow flavored glitter I can throw at this thing in the name of Pride. I’ve even reached with metaphors like, “maybe we can compost it?” But it’s bullshit, not manure. So I’m approaching it theoretically.

So what the hell is Queer Intersectionality?

We gotta backtrack a bit first.

Black feminist scholars—Audre Lorde, Anna Julia Cooper, bell hooks, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Patricia Hill Collins—have long critiqued the exclusionary ways feminism ignores race. Intersectionality emerges from a feminist scholarship history from many BIPOC women although Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term. Crenshaw offers that intersectionality is an analytical tool or a better framework to address some of those exclusionary issues. Crenshaw also admits and cautions that intersectionality is not a totalizing theory of identity. It’s in itself a suggestion that this is by no means simple.

Many different groups began the journey towards what would be called “intersectionality” in the 1960s and 1970s, when radical social examination and necessary change came to the forefront. Gloria Anzaldúa, a Lantinx feminist and Queer scholar, advanced understanding of the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and immigration status through Borderlands/La Frontera, a collection of accounts of the borders that divide society into distinct groups, such as men or women, LGBTQIA+ or straight, binary, etc.

Much of intersectional research has been focused on the relationships between race, gender, and class, with a recent increase of attention being paid to sexuality, gender identity, disability, age, immigration status, ethnicity, or the endless other categories we use to define ourselves.

LGBTQIA+ activism itself involves a variety of identities and concerns, which unsurprisingly leads to more intersectionality in theory than in practice. White people are disproportionately represented in gay and lesbian activism, and many critiques of the LGBTQIA+ movement as a whole argue that it focuses mainly on the experiences of white gay cisgender men or that it too heavily relies on the “state- centered approach” to social change. The relationships between affluence and activism in the Queer community correlates with socioeconomic standing and how that affects one’s ability to be involved in activism.

Ok, keeeeep staying with me and let’s now take on the term “Queer.”

“Queer” was originally used to deride a broad group of social outcasts and its historically negative meaning calls into question the accuracy of those categories of identities we prescribe to ourselves and others. "Queer," unlike "lesbian and gay," does not merely describe sexual practices, but a destabilization of heterosexual hegemony. It suggests the differences within the LGBTQIA+ community. In many ways, “Queer" is a political category, permitting the recognition of differences and intersectionalities. With a Queer Intersectional approach, we can continue to pull in what is on the periphery of some and in plain sight for others. We can focus and see more clearly that Pride means nothing if Queer Transgender Black Indigenous People of Color are not front and center.

So when I saw the following posted on June 2nd, I thought “Is the LGBTQIA+ political landscape finally shifting a wee bit?”

I mean, Adams responded to the “Don’t Say Gay” policy by telling LGBTQIA+ Flordians to move to NYC. 

The fuck kind of solution is that, Adams? So LGBTQIA+ and QTBIPOC people will move to an unaffordable city therefore face homelessness under your administrative watch only to have their encampments demolished and then arrested to join the other disproportionately represented numbers of LGBTQIA+ and QTBIPOC people incarcerated while you go to some fucking socialite event at Zero Bond or the Met Gala whilst kissing Meryl Streep’s ass? 

This fucking clown. I can’t.

Still, I am sorta impressed that four of the city’s most prominent LGBTQ+ political groups are inching away despite the backlash that I’m sure will occur. Which is a move on their end given their history of silence as to not compromise their budget. Could be optics but maybe they're actually listening to the grassroots movements that have been tirelessly exposing the hell QTBIPOC people have been shoved into.

Okay, when Adams rolled in and I experienced the administrative change while working at Rikers, I knew we were in for some seriously convoluted bullshit. Which is saying a lot when I was working for an agency that was already defying the physics of convoluted bullshit. I mean, I’ve stood on that island, totally stopped in my tracks and screamed into the void, “THIS DOESN’T FUCKING WORK! THIS IS COMPLETE BULLSHIT! FUCKING BURN IT DOWN!!!” I believe it is because of Rikers that I will permanently spit profanity every other sentence.

But I saw so much opportunity to address the multi-level systems of torture via the QTBIPOC advocacy my team tried our damndest to address. Like I had mentioned in a previous newsletter where I included my resignation letter to the NYC Department of Correction, Latee Brockington, a Black, Transgender woman that has been abused her entire life because of the many identities she holds, illuminated a system we are all engaged in that does not accept Latee as a human being which is reflected in her treatment.  And the death of Layleen Palonco, a Transgender woman who suffered an hour-long seizure and was left to die in solitary confinement, was the catalyst for much of this illumination as well. Government will do all sorts of shit for optics but you can not deny the power of LGBTQIA+ and QTBIPOC grassroots organizing. The Statement to Boycott Adam’s Pride Reception would never have been created without the collective outcry in the aftermath of Layleen’s brutal death. 

And Layleen is still dead.

And Latee is still being tortured.

The LGBTQIA+ community and our accomplices have the opportunity to stand the fuck up and compost the hell out of this bullshit heap of garbage with FOCUS. Steadily evolve and be intentional. Stand in our integrity and harness the power of collectivity and more importantly, deep understanding. A Queer Intersectional approach, I feel, could shift these endeavors of change with first, reflective work that is an inch wide and a mile deep. No more of this shallow mile wide, inch deep fuckery which one could in fact call the contemporary Pride Parade. In answer, the Reclaim Pride Coalition took a Queer Intersectional approach to redirect activist efforts with a counter march. There is some movement.

So where do we start? Start with yourself. 

And then with slow, deep deliberation, move towards each other.

With the QTBIPOC community front and center.

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