Intersectionality is a term used when multiple aspects of a person’s social identity interact with each other. For example, a person may identify as a working class, Black British, transgender man, who is bi-sexual.
This means that the relationship between different aspects of a person’s identity can become complicated and, in many ways, adverse to one another. This can lead to discrimination and prejudice within the so-called LGBTQ+ community as the inequalities and injustices seen in wider society become mirrored within a space that has positioned itself as a beacon of acceptance and inclusivity.
If we take the example given above and focus on the relationship between race and ethnicity, class and sexual orientation, it’s easy to see how these three factors can become conflicting.
Demographics influence a person’s experience.
Research shows that sexual orientation is viewed differently in different cultures, with many people who identify as LGBTQ+ from Black, African, Caribbean and Asian communities reporting higher levels of discrimination, abuse and ostracisation from their respective communities, for reasons that may be cultural or religious.
What’s more, research shows that people who identify as working class and LGBTQ+ report much the same, with high levels of stigma attached to non-heterosexuality within traditional working class communities. This inevitably leads to people from such backgrounds being significantly less likely to ‘come out’ or identify as LGBTQ+, compared their Caucasian middle to upper class counterparts.
Then there is the relationship between class and ethnicity, exclusive to sexual orientation. Research shows that ethnicity and class can be both intrinsically linked but also in conflict with one another. For example, a person of Black, African, Caribbean and Asian descent living in a majority white working class setting may experience racism. At the same time, a working class white person in a majority middle or upper-class setting may also face class-based discrimination and inequality. Throw sexual orientation and gender identity into the mix and the issue becomes even more complex.
Discrimination within the community.
It’s important to acknowledge that discrimination still occurs within the LGBTQ+ community. Stonewall found that 51% of people from Black, African, Caribbean and Asian descent surveyed had experienced racism from other LGBTQ+ people, with 61% of Black LGBTQ+ people specifically, saying the same.
There has also been an increase in transphobia within LGBTQ+ circles, with a lack of willingness to accept transwomen, from so-called ‘radical feminists’ who see transwomen as men who have ‘colonised the female body’. Bisexual people can often face discrimination from others who see them as ‘too gay to be straight but too straight to be gay’ or espousing the view that Bisexual people ‘have it easier’, leading to many feeling snubbed by the so-called community.
As we can see, identity is an incredibly complex and nuanced part of our human nature and navigating it is hard for most people in some way, at some point in our lives.
At our core, humans are social creatures, who are reliant on social interaction with others. Within that comes the innate need for acceptance and belonging. Identity is central to this because our identity influences our social experience and as a result, our feelings of belonging.
Why is this important?
At Second Step, we recognise the role that intersectionality plays in supporting both those who use our services and staff. We are tuned in to the often difficult struggles of someone whose identity is intersectional. We also try and stay alive to the multitude of effects that this can have on a person’s mental state and as such, their journey to recovery.
It’s also imperative that we see people as people and rather than any label used to describe them. We should not assume that because someone presents in a certain way, that they will behave in a certain way and we must ensure that all people are treated with dignity and respect.
Acknowledging how intersectionality influences a person’s lived experience only stands to make us better support workers. It allows us to understand the diverse and complex lives that people lead.
What’s more, it allows us to deliver well rounded and person-centred support that honours our commitment to a culture of diversity, equality and inclusion central to the work we do in supported services.
Intersecting Sexual Identities, Oppressions, and Social Justice Work: Comparing LGBTQ Baby Boomers to Millennials Who Came of Age After the 1980s AIDS Epidemic: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8459889/
Race, gender, class, and sexual orientation: intersecting axes of inequality and self-rated health in Canada: https://equityhealthj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-9276-10-3
15 things LGBTQ people of colour want you to know: https://www.stonewallscotland.org.uk/about-us/news/15-things-lgbtq-people-colour-want-you-know
The latest form of transphobia: Saying lesbians are going extinct: https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/the-latest-form-of-transphobia-saying-lesbians-are-going-extinct/2021/03/18/072a95fc-8786-11eb-82bc-e58213caa38e_story.html
A look at Transphobia within the LGBTQ+ Community: https://victoryinstitute.org/a-look-at-transphobia-within-the-lgbtq-community/
Racism rife in LGBT community Stonewall research reveals: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/cy/node/79551
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