While we know many Friends will agree with the author of this post, the views expressed here are personal and not a Philadelphia Yearly Meeting statement. Friends within Philadelphia Yearly Meeting are aware that experiences of life differ from person to person. As a faith community, we are undertaking the work of learning more about each other. Within this work, we find that there are ways we will want to change, internally and externally.
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On Monday, March 29th, 2021 – two days before Trans Day of Visibility – Arkansas became the first state to ban health care for trans youth. The bill was just vetoed by Governor Asa Hutchinson due to intense public pressure from trans activists and allies across the country but is expected to be overridden by the legislature. Passage of this bill will not only have the very direct material implications for trans youth through denial of necessary, gender-affirming, and often life-saving care, but also through the continued emboldening of transphobic violence and vitriol. And it doesn’t just impact folks in Arkansas.
Arkansas’ HB1570 is but one of over 80 bills across 28 states targeting trans people, most of them targeting trans young people, access to health care, and the ability to play sports with their friends. This week, Florida (HB1475) and West Virginia (HB 3293) are holding hearings and voting on sweeping bans on trans athletes in sports. As Jen Richards, a trans writer, actress, producer, and activist, asks, “In a time of multiple intersecting crises, these kids are the great enemy?” People like Chase Strangio, Raquel Willis, and Chris Mosier have been sounding the alarm bells about these bills for months, begging (cisgender) folks to take them seriously, to understand them for what they really are:
- A declaration of war on trans people, on our rights to live, to be healthy, and to participate in the public domain; and
- Weapons of mass distraction from actual threats – voter suppression, the loss of over half a million lives to COVID-19, a close-to-irreversible climate crisis, ever-expanding housing, and food insecurities and wage inequality, children still being held in captivity and separated from family for daring to cross artificial boundaries, the ongoing murders of Black people with impunity, wars and genocide and coups and state violence all over the world, and the murders of mostly Asian American women sex workers in Georgia, a strike that jolted the U.S. to finally notice the increasing number of violent attacks on Asian and Asian American people for the past year.
I don’t employ the language of war unintentionally. As an immigrant, as a descendant of genocide survivors, as someone whose family fled war when I was 3, as a queer and trans person, and ultimately as a person who cohabitates the intersections of multiple forces of oppression with so many loved ones and kin, I know what war feels like. War and displacement have a lot to do with the targeted murders in Atlanta. And I cannot help but consider the impact of months and years and lifetimes of all of the above on those who are marginalized within the margins.
This is the necessity of an intersectional analysis and approach to justice and equity work. Intersectionality is often misunderstood to simply mean that every one of us has multiple identities and that we are not ever just a singular aspect of ourselves. That is, of course true, we all embody multiple identities simultaneously. But what intersectionality – a term coined by Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw and built on the Combahee River Collective Statement – points out is that depending on our particular collection of identities, we each experience oppressions differently, with those who are marginalized by multiple systems of oppression experiencing the impact of their intersections exponentially, not in an additive manner. Or, as Dr. Lisa Bowleg explains, “Black + lesbian + woman ≠ Black lesbian woman.” Black women don’t experience racism AND sexism separately. Racism (and specifically anti-Blackness in the case of Black women) colludes with misogyny to produce an entirely different and intersectional form of oppression – misogynoir, a term coined by Dr. Moya Bailey and Trudy.
The murders of Asian women in Georgia was an enactment of racialized gender-based violence. To truly understand the structures and history that create a world where someone can enact this violence, we have to “unpack the discrimination faced by Asian American women, and especially by Asian American sex workers” and “reckon with overlapping histories of racism, militarism, and policing.”
Similarly, queer and trans-Asian American and Pacific Islander (API) people are especially harmed whenever there are multiple enactments of racism, transphobia, and homophobia – which happen consistently, AND there are times when these enactments are particularly loud and explicit – such as these months of blatant transphobic bills, violence against Asian and Asian American people, reinforcement of Catholic rejection of queer relationships, and ongoing vitriol expressed online and in-person. A recent community-led research study conducted by API Equality, API transgender and gender-nonconforming people in the Bay Area reported facing “regular harassment in government agencies, public spaces, and their own workplaces. Almost one quarter (23%) were fired from a job, treated unfairly, or not hired because of their gender identities.” The report, entitled Up to Us, goes on to report on the lack of resources, the need for sustainable and safe housing, a desire to address the high levels of violence they experience independent from the police, and the lack of affordable and accessible healthcare.
As Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, we don’t just lead racialized realities of which there are multiple forms (mired with anti-Blackness, colonialism, xenophobia, Sinophobia, etc.) Our lives are also variably gendered and sexualized, and dis/abled and classed, and so on. Our experiences of white supremacy and racism are not uniform; thus, there cannot be a single uniform approach to anti-racism. We are targeted from multiple directions simultaneously, and justice work needs to be multi-directional as well. As Philadelphia Yearly Meeting continues to reckon with racism within the Quaker community and the world at large, it behooves us all to apply an intersectional approach to the work.
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