Intersectionality. This is a word that was brand new to me this past year when I began my work with the LGBTQ* community. Intersectionality is the study of intersections between forms or systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination. For example, there are many similarities to the civil rights movement for African-American individuals, and the Human Rights movement for LGBTQ* individuals. Both populations are oppressed and they both have fought for basic civil rights. In addition to the intersections with the civil rights movement, the LGBTQ* community has intersections with many other marginalized populations. I only realized the extent of this, this past weekend.
I had the incredible opportunity to attend the Creating Change Conference this past weekend in Denver, Colorado. The Creating Change conference is the largest LGBTQ* conference in the country and JMU sent 4 student representatives to learn and help educate students at JMU about the ongoing issues within the LGBTQ* community. So, one graduate assistant, one student events coordinator, one diversity educator, and one Madison Equality executive/pro-choice activist set out for a 5-day educational adventure in the Mile-High City. Each of us loved the experience of this conference and all took something out of it. Kimberley Johnson, a graduate student at JMU said:
“Shannon asked me to share my thoughts on Creating Change, and even now, a few days after getting back from Denver, I still find myself trying to process what the experience of this conference has meant to me. As a graduate student, I’m expected to attend a few conferences every year, but never have I left a conference feeling significantly impacted by my experience. Creating Change was the exception. In the three days we attended the conference, I participated in ten different sessions on topics ranging from LGBTQ youth mental health to racism in the LGBTQ community to reproductive justice in the LGBTQ movement, and left every session feeling inspired to action and recommitted to the work I do. But the importance of these sessions isn’t solely measured by how seamlessly their lessons fit into my work; rather, I felt personally impacted, and left with a more dynamic perspective and a renewed commitment to better serving the communities I strive to ally myself with. In identity politics it’s as impossible to separate the personal from the political as it is to stop yourself from taking certain experiences to heart, but I think it’s important allow those experiences to foster personal growth and passion.”
During the conference there were over 500 different programs that we could attend, so we tried to strategically space out our sessions so we could cover as many topics as possible Some of the sessions that we attended included: campus pride and creating a more inclusive campus, a panel on reproductive choice and how it relates to the LGBTQ* community, LGBTQ* leadership, LGBTQFerguson: lets talk, queer sexual assault, building allyship within the LGBTQ* community, gender identity and feminism, queer human trafficking, LGBTQ* political activism, LGBTQ* history, Title IX and queer inclusion, and many many more. As you can see, much of what was learned had to do with intersectionality.
It is important to remember that every marginalized population has their own beliefs and shouldn’t always be compared with others. However, it is also important to realize that many of these populations have similarities and that representatives from these populations will have support of each other.
While attending this conference, I could not ignore the intersections between the LGBTQ* community and the feminist movement; with the obvious being that many people identify with both of these populations. Whether talking about leadership, job inequality, reproductive rights, gender identity, human trafficking, or political activism, these two movements have a lot in common.
Both populations have been treated as inferior, have been restricted from basic human rights, have been told what they can and cannot do, and have been told to lie about who they were. These are undeniable. We need to realize that we are working together in gaining rights across the board.
All in all, the experience of attending this conference was incredible. My fellow student representatives, as well as myself had our eyes opened to a whole new side of information pertaining to the LGBTQ* community and how we all has humanity need to work together to realize the importance of intersectionality.