When the socio-economic and physical conditions like gender, race, disability, caste, sex or any other form of discrimination comes combined it’s called intersectionality. So, in other words, intersectionality is the acknowledgement and consideration that everyone has their own unique experiences of discrimination and oppression owing to the various identities they carry like gender, race, disability, caste, sex and others.
It would be unreal to think that rows and columns can only exist independently. It is about time we understood the ‘table’ of intersectionality. Consider this example : for an assigned female at birth who identifies as a man, and belongs to an oppressed caste (also known as ‘lower caste’), their struggle with power is not only in terms of their gender and/or gender expression but also with the caste supremacy thrown at them by the oppressor caste (also known as ‘upper caste’). To top it all, if they belong to a rather conservative family which believes in ‘marrying off’ their “girl” child as soon as they can, this person’s struggle to reach their potential gets repeatedly crushed. The intersectionality of gender, caste and being born in a woman’s body in a patriarchal society makes it a tough battle to fight. They don’t exist independently for them but intersectionally i.e. altogether.
Similarly, conversations of intersectionality are heard around the demands for horizontal reservation across the transgender community. Horizontal reservation for the transgender community is a prominent step that needs to be taken to ensure that intersectional oppression doesn’t come in the way. A horizontal reservation is one where a person who is Dalit/SC/ST/OBC/Adivasi AND transgender should be able to benefit from both the reservations because they have been oppressed on the basis of both.
Vertical reservation as opposed to horizontal reservation provides only one of the many reliefs to the survivors. Simply put, if one has been discriminated basis their caste or religion they should be given, say 1% reservation for it and if they are a person who is transgender too, they should be able to secure another 1%. This needs to be implemented across education, jobs; both in public and private sector, local election, and welfare schemes.
In India, the Karnataka State Government has become the first state to provide 1% reservation for transgender persons in employment for civil services posts across caste categories. The Tamil Nadu government, however, categorised transgender persons as ‘Most Backward Community’ and at par with the Other Backward Castes. This vertical compartmentalisation means that the seats will first be offered to the OBCs and whatever number of seats are left will then be occupied by the transgender persons. For those who are anti-reservation must ask themselves this – “What came first, caste or reservation?”
Your answer to the question should be the first to go. The same applies to transphobia and reservation because as soon as reservation will be won, people will begin to think that the relaxation is a result of privilege and not discrimination.
At the moment, there is a lack of intersectionality in the mainstream LGBTQ spaces, whether we look at Indian LGBTQ spaces or international ones. If we look at the very first pride march, the Stonewall Riots of June 1969, Marsha P. Johnson, one of the first few people to stand up to the police brutality against gays, drag queens, and trans people in the U.S., was a black trans woman. So, when Black Lives Matter began to ignite the much needed flames in the hearts of people all around the world, they were remembered for their exemplary courage against white and cis-gender heteronormative supremacy.
The awareness of intersectionality is important as it allows us to better acknowledge, understand, and ground our differences in identity, discrimination, and experiences. This awareness can help make space for the various differences in our construction of group politics, queer or otherwise. It also ensures that the needs of diverse groups within our broader community are met.