Wellness365: Pride at the Intersection
Happy PRIDE month everyone! What a year these last six months have been. 2020 is pushing and pulling us in many directions. We’re facing a global pandemic while witnessing the largest social justice movement of the last half-century. Gross systemic inequities against Black Americans have been laid bare. To some, these historic and ongoing injustices have been a shock; to many others, they have been a lifelong reality.
June is Pride month around the world. Typically, we take time to celebrate LGBTQ communities, reflect on losses and advocate for change. This year, there is a greater sense of urgency to use this moment of inspired unrest to secure rights, respect, and dignity for the LGBTQ community. Though we hope everyone is permanently galvanized by this movement to be actively anti-oppression, we must first understand how our identities shape our experience.
There are so many components that make up a person. It’s incredible when you think about it—there are billions of people in the world and no two are the same. Differences are often shamed upon out of fear or lack of understanding; however, with the right tools and support, we can reframe these differences into something to celebrate. The first step is to understand ourselves as whole, intersectional people.
All people exist at the overlap of their identities—race, gender, sexuality, age, ability, language, politics, socioeconomic status, etc. To understand intersectionality is to acknowledge the impact of how a person’s identities interact, how they are perceived, and how a person might experience complex discrimination; this foundational understanding paves the way to achieving equity. We would like to note that, although intersectionality is traditionally framed by discrimination, prejudice, and oppression, these identities are first and foremost a reason to celebrate individuality, joy, and love.
What Intersectionality Looks Like
A white cis gay man navigates the world very differently than a Black trans woman. The types of discrimination they each face are influenced by their outward appearance, how they are perceived in their own communities (LGBTQ communities, neighborhood, family, school/work, etc.), what they have experienced in the past (positive and negative), and more. They are granted access to different spaces and resources, or are made to feel comfortable or uncomfortable. They are also honored differently; queer Black activists like Marsha P. Johnson, Bayard Rustin, and Stormé DeLarverie have propelled social movements over the last century, but are often left unnamed in history. Many other LGBTQ people of color have been excluded not only from our history books, but also from feeling safe or wanted in society. People have made vibrant communities for themselves; however, every person should feel safe and respected for their constellation of identities, their whole selves.
Understanding Intersectionality in Our Own Lives
Understanding intersectionality does not happen overnight. This work requires honest reflection that can sometimes be uncomfortable. As mentioned by the Project HOME Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, “Becoming anti-racist is ongoing daily, personal and professional work that is never finished. It is not an extracurricular activity. It is essential to our building of Beloved Community.”
Since it is Pride month, it seemed only right that we lay these steps out as an acronym using a term that inspires happiness and appreciation: PRIDE. We’ve outlined a suggested process for taking pride with an intersectional lens for our own identities, as well as the identities of others.
Practice identifying things that you do for yourself that help you feel calm, appreciated and grounded. Consider writing down your thoughts and feelings throughout the process to help you organize your mind and facilitate reflection down the road.
Reflect on how your identities influence your everyday life, positively (privilege) and negatively (prejudice):
- Consider gender, sexuality, race/ethnicity, age, health, financial stability, religion, etc.
- Think about discrepancies between how you see yourself and how others perceive you
- Think about spaces, people, and activities that make you feel good about being you
- Think about what you do to make others feel seen and appreciated
Identify peers and people who inspire you to be you:
- These people could be historical figures, people on social media, friends, family, etc.
- Try to identify at least one person who you feel comfortable talking to directly
- Think about what that person does to make you feel comfortable and if you can emulate that for anyone else
- Learn about social movements and people you didn’t see in your history textbooks
Do some sort of action that builds on the practice, reflection, and identifying steps above:
- Attend support groups and/or events, write to your local legislators to call for change
- Find an action that feels right for you—change does not have to be uncomfortable, but be aware of where your comfort zone is and if you are pushing yourself to grow
Encourage others to participate in this process and continue advocating for change
- Notice when people or spaces are less welcoming to certain people
- If you have a relationship with that person, check in and ask if there is anything you can do to support them
- Listen and learn from those who speak up against systemic oppression
- Express genuine gratitude to those speak up
- Encourage them to continue in their advocacy for change
- Ask them how you can join in support
- Be aware of the power you hold and use it to elevate voices that may not be heard
We hope that you are encouraged to find pride in yourself and inspired to help others find their pride. Our differences are our strengths when we appreciate people for who they are. You are important, you are amazing, and you are PRIDE.
Black lives matter.