By Aarushi Pant
Looking at the history of social justice movements in the United States makes it clear that most movements that were considered radical during their times tended to still focus only on the needs of white people or men, while excluding women or those of color, in their goals and efforts.
For instance, the feminist movement of the early 20th century was notorious for focusing only on the needs and priorities of white women while ignoring the unique experiences and challenges that black women faced as a result of their racial identities. Many well-known suffragists tended to also be racist and advocated against the rights of black people, including black women.
Similarly, the LGBTQ movement has tended to reflect only the desires of the majority and exclude voices of minorities while fostering attitudes of racism and transphobia within itself. Even when it comes to media representation, most queer characters are white, cisgender men. Tropes such as the gay best friend, bury your gays, and the intense fetishization and sexualization of WLW couples reinforce stereotypes that are already rampant within the LGBTQ community. Although progress has been made, there is still much to be done in order to diversify media representation of LGBTQ people.
Furthermore, transphobia among those who identify as LGB is also sadly prevalent. While same-sex couples have been more accepted by society in recent years, those who don’t identify with the sex they were assigned to at birth tend to face more backlash and prejudice at times. In fact, at least 22 transgender people of color, many of whom were women, have been killed since the start of 2020, indicating that they are much more likely to be victims of hate crimes and discrimination. This also highlights how the intersection between identities such as being transgender, a woman, and a person of color can put people’s lives in danger.
Unfortunately, many activists fail to acknowledge the crucial role that intersectionality plays in the realms of advocacy and social justice. Movements that focus on fighting for equality for groups such as women or people of color don’t exist separately; they are all directly linked and are empowered by the same systems of oppression and require collaboration in order to truly fulfill their needs. Without equality for women, the LGBTQ movement cannot be successful. Without racial equality, the LGBTQ movement has not achieved freedom for all.
The idea of intersectionality reminds us that these social justice issues are all connected, and that we need to understand the intersection of all these identities in order to truly achieve equality for everyone. Picking and choosing letters from the LGBTQ community to support is exclusionary, harmful, and isn’t true activism. All queer people’s lives are valuable, regardless of the other identities and communities they may belong to.
Feel free to listen to my interview about this topic for the Katy Youth Political Network here to find out more about how social justice, intersectionality, and the LGBTQ movement are all connected.