What is intersectionality?
Intersectionality was first coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a civil rights activist and legal scholar. It refers to the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups.
As a gay man of color, I have experienced multiple forms of discrimination as I live at the intersection of these two identities. While at the same time, I recognize there are others who experience discrimination even more deeply, such as Black transgender women who belong to one of the most marginalized communities.
Black transgender people need our support right now. Despite progress in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, transgender, and gender nonconforming people continue to suffer the consequences of racism, transphobia, and sexism and sometimes — even violence. Black transgender women/people are disproportionately impacted by violence against the community. In 2019 alone, 26 transgender/gender nonconforming people were fatally shot or killed by other violent means, and 91% of them were Black women. Riah Milton and Dominique “Rem’Mie” Fells are just a few of the names in the despairingly long list of Black transgender people who have been victims.
We, as a community, need to make sure that every Black life not only matters, but is protected, valued, celebrated, and empowered. We have a responsibility to help elevate and advocate for our Black LGBTQ+ community.
In that spirit, some colleagues, whom I admire, share their personal journeys with us
Terence Williams, Lead Designer, Salesforce Experience
“I’ve viewed my life as a paradox. I’ve often had to live two lives. One as a Black man and one as a gay man. I’ve felt the rejection of my Black family and friends because of my sexual identity. I’ve also felt the unspoken judgment, stereotyping, and dismissal that often comes from my LGBTQ+ peers who hold racist perceptions.
As a native Kentuckian, I especially feel hurt for Breonna Taylor who could have easily been someone in my family or extended circle, many of whom still live in the West End of Louisville, KY today.
Though it’s often frustrating living at this intersection, it has also given me the foresight to understand sadness is closely followed by hope. As we observe this wave of acknowledgment, dialogue, and a desire to end systemic racism, I hope underrepresented communities will also begin to assess themselves. I hope LGBTQ+ communities address the presence of anti-Blackness. I hope Black communities address the presence of homophobia. I also hope individuals assess how their own intersectional identities are expressed and will learn to be more empathetic to others.
The focus on the loss of Black life in recent weeks has heavily weighed on me, as it has the world, in a number of ways. This moment in time is a sad one, but I also believe it can be a catalyst for renewed hope. I hope that will result in action and lasting change. This moment is an opportunity for people like me to be seen and heard while embracing their entire identity. Black queer people must also have a voice in this movement.”