As the school year is getting underway, I am reminded of a conversation I had with a classmate pursuing a Bachelor’s in Education with a focus on History. The conversation was centered around how Black and brown people shouldn’t be forcing intersectionality on a movement that is exclusively about LGBT concerns. The topic was about adding black and brown stripes to the flag expressing LGBT identity more specifically and how oppression caused by race and sexual orientation are different. What made this conversation frustrating was having it with a white cis gendered heterosexual male, who identified as an “ally”. He made the argument that we should not combine the two because it is historically inaccurate and bad for both the growth of LGBT youth and teaching the movement. I responded to the notion that race and sexuality have no connection in this conversation with the following: “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” – Audre Lorde. I identify as a non-binary Black gay person. These identities are not separate for me… There is not a core-identity that separates my race from my sexuality because for me they intersect. The racism I experience is often sexualized and the homophobia I experience is often racialized.
His position on this topic alarmed me mostly due to his track in being an educator. He will be responsible for shaping the minds of children and teaching them accurate information. Teaching things like “oppression due to race doesn’t affect oppression due to sexuality” can be more damaging than not having access to education at all. A teacher is also someone who students should be able to confide in and see as a safe space. Having an understanding of how important intersectionality is in relation to the lives of the children we teach is detrimental to the future growth of our students. This also has the potential of leading to trauma or re-traumatization of LGBT youth of color. His response is best described with this: “The dual identities of yours probably don’t have a “standard core identity” because the concepts are disparate (and I’m sure you understand that), no matter how much you associate the both together in your mind”. A white cis-gendered heterosexual male told me, a Black gay non-binary person, that my identities have nothing to do with one another and that any issues stemming from them are not linked. This is something that all queer persons of color deal with. Having a teacher who expresses these ideas knowingly to a member of the community is not someone I would want to teach my children.
Let me be clear, my thoughts are not due to him being a hetero-cis gendered male, they are centered on his ideology and the fear of it influencing him teaching children, more specifically LGBT children, who can be traumatized as a result of his teachings. I offer a few suggestions for those wanting to work with the children in an educational environment, especially LGBT youth of color: 1) Be aware of the issues that the community faces and survey their needs as described. 2) understand personal positions on topics should not hinder your ability to accurately teach and engage students of a marginalized population.
As for more societal takeaways: If you call yourself an “ally,” learn your place. Speaking for others and/or out of place is toxic and does nothing but cloud narratives. It was not his place, especially as an “ally,” to tell me, a member of the communities being discussed, that my race has nothing to do with my sexuality. The next is by not considering intersectionality when discussing issues of gender, race, sexuality, religion, etc. has effects not only on individuals but all members in the respective community. One final takeaway is that if you are going to make an argument about something, ensure you have researched it well. When my classmate said that race and sexuality have nothing to do with the movement it shook me because the movement he is referring to is the Gay rights movement. The gay rights movement was started by Marsha P Johnson… a Black… Gay… Transwomen who threw the first brick at the stonewall riots which marked the start of the gay rights movement. Understanding history is important, especially if you want to be a history teacher…