by Liz Schob (she/her) Director of Operations and Communications, Charlotte Pride
Decades ago, civil rights scholar Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality” and wrote that it is, “a metaphor for understanding the ways that multiple forms of inequality or disadvantage sometimes compound themselves and create obstacles that often are not understood among conventional ways of thinking.” She devised this term to describe how race, class, gender identity, and other characteristics like sexual orientation “intersect” in our everyday lives through layers of power and privilege.
For members of the LGBTQ+ community, intersectionality shows up in complex ways. Our community is not monolithic. No one person represents us all, and still, we get lumped together as if we all have one singular experience. This does our entire community a great disservice. It’s important to make space for all the nuanced experiences members of our community can have that are informed by things like race, gender identity, economic background, etc. Reducing us all down to just our singular membership in this one community leaves out all the other experiences that make us all who we are.
Charlotte Pride has a complex history with intersectionality. My predecessor Matt Comer wrote an article last year talking about why our city has two Pride organizations and the journey Charlotte Pride has been on to embrace intersectionality and better represent the diversity of our community. White cis gay male privilege is real. Charlotte Pride has grappled with this, and it is still something the LGBTQ+ community as a whole still grapples with. I’m glad Charlotte Pride has been moving intentionally (and has been for a while) in the direction of diversity, equity, and inclusion and making sure that more voices are represented at the table. All of Charlotte Pride’s staff (including myself) are LGBTQ+ women for the first time in our organization’s history. Growth is a good thing, but there’s always more work to do.
March is Women’s History Month and I’ve been reflecting on what it means to me to be not just a woman, but a queer woman in our community doing the work I do. To be a publicly queer woman takes a lot of courage, but I often don’t feel as if I have any choice. I can no more separate my queerness from my womanhood than I can my family’s deep and abiding love for Duke basketball. My queerness and my womanhood exist in the same sphere, equal to each other, intersecting and responding to the ways in which I move through the world.
It took me a long time to reconcile my identity as a queer woman. The word “queer” is incredibly loaded; it has a complicated history that must not be ignored, yet we must still hold space for the expansiveness and intersectionality of the word. The great bell hooks wrote “Queer’ not as being about who you’re having sex with (that can be a dimension of it); but ‘queer’ as being about the self that is at odds with everything around it and that has to invent and create and find a place to speak and to thrive and to live.”
To step out into the world as your authentic self, to “find a place to speak and to thrive and to live,” takes so much courage. And I so admire the courage of my community every day. Identity is nuanced and complex. Everything is connected and those of us in positions of power and privilege in the LGBTQ+ community have a duty to stand up, speak out, and lift up the voices of our siblings who don’t always have a seat at the same tables we do.
I feel like I read something every day about a new attack on our community. Those of us with platforms must speak out as well as amplify the voices of our siblings who have been speaking out from the beginning. Pride, after all, was founded on protest. May we never take for granted the nuances and intersectionality that exist in our community and may we never take for granted the importance of making our voices heard.