Every person possesses an identity that consists of different elements and characteristics and shapes the personality of the individual. Moreover, since an identity constitutes a complex mix of different elements, it must always be assessed as a whole, taking into consideration all its categories. Yet, when living in a society, people must pay attention not only to their own identity but also those of other individuals to be able to understand their experiences and struggles. An intersectionality is a reliable tool that is used for analyzing how overlapping categories of identity can produce certain advantages and disadvantages in the social environment (Rothenberg, 2016). Specifically, intersectionality is utilized in order to analyze the levels and sources of oppression of people due to their identity (Russo, 2018). Personally, the two main categories of my identity are my gender and sexual orientation, which make me a heterosexual male. Although my set of identity categories makes me a privileged member of society, I recognize the fact that people with genders and sexual orientations different from mine experience severe forms of oppression.
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As mentioned above, I am a heterosexual male whose life has been, to a considerable extent, shaped by my identity. For instance, due to the fact that I was little, my parents encouraged me to start playing football and baseball, which I did, since they were sports intended specifically for boys. Similarly, I was never allowed to play the so-called “girl games,” such as playing with dolls, which were considered unacceptable for boys. During my teenage years, I was peer-pressured into listening to music that was considered appropriate for boys by my friends. Although I liked songs of Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift, my male friends viewed them as being girlish, and therefore I had to list different rock bands and rappers as my favorite artists. Essentially, the male category of my identity, to a considerable extent, limited my ability to get certain experiences in my life.
As for the heterosexuality component of my identity, I have never experienced any type of attraction to people of my own gender. Girls have always been the only interest in my romantic life, although my peers and family still imposed certain rules concerning relationships. For instance, I was told that having only one partner was the norm and that dating several people at the same time was unacceptable. In other words, any different kind of relationship which was different from the monogamous one, for instance, polyamorous, was criticized by my relatives and friends. Moreover, some of my acquaintances were quite homophobic and tried to influence me to embrace the same views. Additionally, my parents always told me that I had to get married and avoid living with women simply as partners without any formal registration. Nevertheless, despite the pressure I faced in my life due to my identity, it was not serious and unlike those of people with other identities.
For instance, I recognize the fact that women experience institutional oppression in their lives which significantly impacts their ability to succeed in society. As it was noted by Simone de Beauvoir (2011), women were traditionally treated as others and as objects in every patriarchal society. Despite the fact that the current diversity efforts promote positive change and considerable progress has been achieved in the realm of gender inequality, women remain vulnerable. For example, the parents of my female friend refused to fund her engineering degree because they thought that women were poor at technical jobs. Therefore, many women who have to exist in a patriarchal society are forced to experience constant pressure and belittlement, even of their relatives, due to their gender. As a result, many women struggle to achieve success because they are denied numerous opportunities which are available to men by default.
The situation is even worse for transwomen, who face even more problems, barriers, and institutional oppression in society. For instance, transwomen, despite undergoing all the essential surgeries, can still be denied to enter the female bathroom in certain buildings. Similarly, transwomen can be prevented from competing against other women in sports competitions despite undergoing a complete hormone therapy course. By looking at what transwomen and transmen get subject to in their daily lives, I understand how privileged I am. For example, I never faced any discrimination when competing in sports or in terms of bathrooms. Yet, trans people have to suffer such unacceptable treatment virtually every day and not be considered equal by their peers.
As for my other identity component, sexual orientation, the situation is even more alarming for individuals who are not heterosexual. Personally, I have never experienced any negative treatment from people due to being heterosexual. Moreover, I can openly demonstrate my sexual orientation in public by holding hands with my girlfriends and even kissing in front of other people. Such behavior does not cause any concern or anger in people around, and they simply do not pay attention to it in most cases. Yet, the situation is extremely different for people who prefer to have a romantic relationship with individuals of the same sex. Homosexual men have for a long time been regarded as unmanly, which translated into different types of oppression. To this day, gay men experience unfair treatment, including by their relatives, especially during their teenage years.
Quite frequently, teenagers and young adults establish strict rules of behavior in their small communities and groups, and if someone violates them, they get vilified and abused. As a result, when gay teenagers reveal their sexual orientation to their friends, they risk suffering social ostracism or even beating. Moreover, in certain cases, teenagers can become mentally traumatized due to not being accepted in society or at home because of their sexual orientation (Iacono, 2019). Lesbian girls and women can also be subject to similar experiences if they decide to be vocal about their sexual preferences. Although the United States can be considered a relatively friendly country for LGBTQ+ people, there are many places on the planet that are not as progressive. Nevertheless, in the United States, gay and lesbian people still continue to face oppression which is important to understand for heterosexual people like me to be better allies.
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Intersectionality is an approach that enables people to expose the existing oppression in society arising as a result of the unfair treatment of individuals due to their identity. As a heterosexual male, I occupy a privileged position in society, but I still experience certain negative events due to my personal identity. For instance, I was encouraged to play sports that were considered appropriate for boys and did not face any criticism simply because of my gender. The situation is different for females and transgender people who get denied many opportunities due to their gender. Similarly, as a heterosexual person, I do not face the same discrimination as homosexual people and couples.
de Beauvoir, S. (2011). The second sex. Vintage.
Iacono, G. (2019). An affirmative mindfulness approach for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth mental health. Clinical Social Work Journal, 47, 156–166.
Rothenberg, P. (2016). Race, class, and gender in the United States: An integrated study (10 ed.). Worth Publishers.
Russo, R. (2018). Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw defines intersectionality [Video]. YouTube. Web.