Intersectionality attempts to identify how interlocking systems of power impact those who are most marginalized in society. This theory describes how an individual’s overlapping identities can pose different threats of discrimination. These classes in include race, gender, age, ethnicity, health, and other characteristics. An example is the inequality between men and women in the work place. Yes, we know that women face discrimination, but, it is important to note how it differs for different groups. A white, middle aged women does not face the same discrimination as for example a trans women of color. With intersectionality, the same issues that arise from being a woman also overlap with the issue that come from for example being a minority. This week, we viewed how intersectionality has impacted several cases in our society. One case is Caitlyn Jenner’s recent transition from male to female. Her story provides a way for us to consider how the definition of gender identity has changed over the years, and how it has affected the lives of different people.
First, let us look at how “two spirit “or “gender fluidity” as changed over the years. In the article titled, “My Spirit in my Heart” by Karina L. Walters, it describes how many native women embrace the term “two spirit: to describe their sexuality. The gender roles in native society was different to those in others. The article states that, “native societies incorporated gender roles beyond male and female…individuals embracing these genders may have dressed; assumed social, spiritual and cultural roles; or engaged in sexual and other behaviors not typically associated with members of their biological sex” (Walters 2006). From the community’s perspective, the fulfillment of social or ceremonial roles and responsibilities were more significant in defining gender than that of sexual behavior or identity. Ones identity did not affect or diminish their role in the community, and often times they were placed in “high respected social and ceremonial roles” (Walters 2006). However, western colonization did not agree with this concept, which ultimately replaced traditional acceptance of the practice and often times shamed the individual. The women describe their identity’s as “complex, fluid, and emergent” and have placed great importance on realigning two spirit roles and the need for countering oppressive dominant discourse. “As they embrace their tow spirit selves, rather than coming out, these women found themselves (be)coming who they were meant to be and filling an integral space in their Native American communities” (Walters 2006). We can see that as society has advanced, the roles of these women have not changed, but the views of their identities did. They faced discrimination and shame from some people in other communities, because of who they identified as. Their fight for rights is significant for others like them in their community and understating the two-spirit community.
Caitlyn Jenner’s story has also created a conversation on gender identity and in specifically gender fluidity. In todays society, gender now holds a more fluid definition, allowing for an individual to choose how they would like to identify. In Caitlyn Jenner’s interview with Diane Sawyer, we hear how it was difficult for her transition. She talks about how she knew for a long time that she was meant to be a woman. Since then, it would seem that society’s idea about what makes a man and a woman have shifted. Gender fluidity has occurred more in society, but, there also have seemed to be more occurrences of violence because of it. For example, there have been high incidents of discrimination and even violence against the transgender community. In 2018 alone, 16 people have been fatally shot or killed because of their identity (Human Rights Campaign 2018). Looking at intersectionality, we see how discrimination can happen. Different groups of people also experience different forms of violence due to how they identify. This violence can be direct and physical or even subtle or indirect. By looking at these cases of discrimination of violence, we can better understand ways of how to address them, and solve the issue.