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Where did all the Intersections go?

Where did all the Intersections go?

Hummingbird's picture

I told my girlfriend about the prompt for this week's post (Making it Local) and mentioned the post you did, Anne, on "Signifying the South," and her comment was, "I feel like people won't think the trans topic is as relevant with the race stuff going on. Based on the conversation last night, people will feel like they have to pit those two things against each other."

The tendency at our college, in our communities, and around the world to look at identities as separate from one another is incredibly troubling to me. I call it a heirarchy of marginalization. And I've heard it within our class too – when my peers say things like, "How can we think about admiting trans women when we still have not made Bryn Mawr a safe and supportive space for people of color?" I want to push back on this thinking and ask, "What about the intersections?" At last night's SGA meeting, I heard students saying, "We talk so much about gender and sexuality, but we don't have conversations about race. I'm tired of talking about gender and sexuality." Why does talking about gender and sexuality preclude talking about race? Or why do we believe it does? What about queer people of color? What about trans people of color? What about working class trans people of color or wealthy queer people of color or working class queer white people or working class straight white people with disabilities? There are so many intersections and so many experiences based on those intersections that chosing to pit identity categories against each other seems utterly counter to building a welcoming and supportive community. This is why I was so drawn to Eli Clare's writing. He brought all kinds of identities (privileges and marginalizations) together and held them in one space. How can we work do to that in our community?

As Anne has said, Bryn Mawr was created to be a safe educational space for people who have been discriminated against based on their gender. In that sense, I believe trans people absolutely belong here. Bryn Mawr has done a far worse job at welcoming and supporting people who have been discriminated against based on race, ethnicity, religion, class. I'm less aware of how Bryn Mawr has (or has not) made space for people with disabilities, though can say many buildings are not particularly accessible. We cannot ignore that history, but we can work to move forward. We can try to reclaim our dorm spaces to be welcoming of all people (instead of simply the white and wealthy) by taking action to educate each other. We can take down symbols of oppression and work to remediate the damage, hurt, and broken trust resulting from those symbols. We can validate the anger of our peers. We can stop saying things like, "Calm down." 

To go back to the prompt – "What might be the effect, on trans women, of being welcomed by BMC?"– trans women might ideally be able to exist in a space where they are viewed as whole people and not characters (something we must constantly work on). What if we take this a step further? What might be the effect, on trans women of color, of being welcomed by BMC? Well in that case, it would be important to ensure conversations about gender and sexuality continued to happen. But it would also be important to ensure spaces like Perry House and conversations and education about race continued to happen. And for that matter, let's continue to be aware of differences in class, educational backgrounds, religion, nationality, ability, age, and other identity categories. 

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I was having a chat with a friend last night about identity. We started our discussion because we are doing a collaboration, as the leaders of a new poetry group, with a CDA for their tea. We were trying to come up with poetry prompts that had to do with identity (I suggested that we do something with the “characters” we play at Bryn Mawr, and the intersection between the characteristics of those characters and the rest of our identity). Further along in the conversation she said that she does not know who she is without the context of other people.