Feature by Nikita Fernandes
What comes to your mind when you think about intersectionality? Intersectionality is a term that was coined in 1989 by Kimberly Crenshaw, who is a social justice advocate in America. Crenshaw coined the terms to denote of the intersections of people's identity which might contribute to their unique world view. For example, two black individuals might have different life experiences if one of them was queer and one of them was straight. Intersectionality also speaks to the multiple points of disadvantages or inequality that someone might experience due to holding multiple minority identities. The identities that people hold might include gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, class. For example, someone that is a person of color might also be from a lower economic class and be disabled which presents multiple barriers for them to navigate.
So why is intersectionality important in therapy? It is important for therapists to apply intersectionality to how they conceptualize clients. It lends a lens through which therapists can understand how their clients different identities impact the way they navigate the world. I primarily work with queer people of color who identify as ethically non-monogamous. I would therefore not just dive into how clients feel as queer or people of color but also how they feel being ethically non monogamous in a mononormative world. They might feel loneliness at all levels of their identity and speaking to just one part of their identity might not be as fruitful.
Here are some questions to guide how you might think about intersectionality:
I really value intersectionality because it allows me to have more grace for myself as a human being in a social environment. As a therapist, the intersection of my own identities allow me to connect with clients that hold identities that are altogether different or similar to my own. As Kimberly Chenshaw says, "Intersectionality has given many advocates a way to frame their circumstances and to fight for their visibility and inclusion." Examining the intersection of my own identities also allow me to recognize the privilege and difficulties I face as a queer woman of color and an immigrant. I can then move forward with kindness and compassion and extend the same to my clients.