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Intersectionality – LGBT+ History Month 2021

As LGBT+ History Month 2021 draws a close, I reflect on what I’ve have learned over this meaningful month. My learning has centred around issues of intersectionality, a term that I was aware of but wanted to know more about. Therefore, I feel that it is only fitting that I close this month with my thoughts around the term and what I have discovered.

Black feminist lawyer Kimberlé Crenshaw first coined the term whilst describing the greater social injustices experienced by black women on the basis of both race and gender at the same time, distinguishing from discrimination based upon just one of these protected characteristics.

The term resonates with me as someone who identifies as a brown gay male. When I came out, I was warned by well-intentioned family members that my disadvantage would be doubled as I was already a dark skinned Filipino, who was now gay too. As I have grown older, I have come to love these aspects of myself and see my multifaceted identity in a positive light and not a negative one.

The LGBT+ rainbow flag was updated in 2018 to include black, brown and trans colours. The new flag is referred to as the Progress Pride Flag. But the community can still do more to demonstrate its inclusively.

LGBT+ spaces that purport to be inclusive, frequently marginalise intersectional groups through lack of awareness and tact.

For instance, racism over gay dating apps is still prevalent. I have seen profiles which state “no rice” as a dating preference against East Asian and South East Asian people. Coordinators of these apps can do more to moderate discriminatory content.

There are very few public places for queer Muslims to observe religious practice. And in non-religious LGBT+ friendly spaces, Muslims are commonly faced with an expectation that one should have to abandon their faith in order to be accepted. We should reject this idea that social identities are mutually exclusive.

The absence of representation and lack of accessibility for (dis)abled LGBT+ people anywhere in mainstream gay culture pushes an already marginalised group even further away. So let’s normalise the visibility of these amazing individuals, and help them engage fully with the community and all its activities.

We must challenge appearance based assumptions and interact with each other beyond boxes and categories. Exposing ourselves to other people’s lived experiences that are different from our own is a step towards social equality.

As part of my thoughts over this month, I discussed the concept of intersectionality with our firms first appointed Diversity Champion, Bahareh Amani when thinking how we can approach closing the end of the month. Bahareh and I spoke about intersectionality, and we were both able to bounce ideas and open discussions on areas. After she explained to me the struggles she has on being labelled as a “white/non-white/other/non-Arab straight female, I nonetheless referred to her as an Arab woman. She corrected me and called out my incorrect assumption, as she identified herself as non-Arab.

After I apologised, it fuelled our conversation about assumptions of identity, and how we should all be willing to have these honest discussions in order to learn from them, rather than shy away from the difficult issues or harbour guilt if we get it wrong.

The idea of any issues arising from intersectionality, sexuality, gender identification, race, disability, class etc shouldn’t mean we should tone done our dialogue, but openly and freely give the platform to enable these discussions to be had.

Both Bahareh and I are looking forward to the future, and the conversations that we can steer.