Intersectionality: Rediscovering Who You Are and Reconnecting With Others
As I sat in the room, I felt like I stood out like a sore thumb.
I was at a networking event hosted by SNAPBI, which is a Somali Association—something that I was unaware of until I entered the room. So, when I reached the event with my friends, I soon realized that I was the only brown person, which made me feel really awkward and out of place. This was not the first time I was a minority identity in a room, but the experience was one that I had not felt before.
As the event began, I tried to not think about what made me different than the crowd but rather tried to focus on my identities that helped me connect with the speakers, two British Somali Muslims. As I listened to them, I was reminded of the intersectionality workshop that I attended with Reviving Sisterhood the week before, and I realized that there were many identities that we shared.
I already had an understanding of intersectionality before going to the workshop. But something new that I had not thought about much was using my different identities to connect with people and forming allyship with them. The workshop really made me wonder how intersectionality plays a role in connecting with others and can help me make stronger relationships, and at this networking event I had the opportunity to explore exactly that.
This was the first time I used the intersectionality of my identities to connect with people who appeared different from me.
I went beyond my visible identities and looked deeper to find personal identity traits that helped me feel a part of the audience. I used my identities as an immigrant, a Muslim and a POC to connect with the speakers. These identities I often overlook because they are not as visible as my other identities. Our invisible identities are sometimes missed when thinking about intersectionality, but they are essential to us as individuals and how we interact in the world around us.
So, what is intersectionality? Intersectionality is defined as the interconnectedness of social categories such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, creating an overlapping and interdependent system. In other words, intersectionality is a combination of your many different identities, helping shape who you are and how you show up in the world and extending to how you are perceived in the world. Before going to the workshop, I had learned from previous experiences that intersectionality applies to everyone. But the workshop also focused on how intersectionality offers us advantages or disadvantages in this interdependent system of identities.
When thinking about intersectionality and my different identities, I like to focus on and understand how my different identities have shaped and influenced my perception of the world and how I choose to show up. My prominent identities that intersect and make up my personality are being Pakistani, Muslim, American and a hijabi woman. My most visible and physical identities are a really important part of me because they are also responsible for how people see me in the world and perceive me.
Through this workshop and experience I learned not only about intersectionality and how often it creates a system of disadvantage for certain identities but how important it is in connecting with others. It helps us go beyond our differences and focus on our similarities.
Intersectionality emphasizes the importance of hidden identities that we carry as individuals and how they can bring us together for a cause or purpose.
Being aware of your identities is really important in advocacy and engagement because it helps you not only understand more about yourself but also connect with others on a deeper level. It breaks the physical identity boundaries in pursuit of creating meaningful relations. And it takes you from a place of awkwardness to one that you feel a part of.