Thursday, February 25, 2010

Queer Disabled Woman of Color Activist/Writer on Intersectionality (cross posted)

All that follows is from here, on the blog of Mia Mingus, called Leaving Evidence. Thank you, Mia, for all your work!

February 25, 2010

“Intersectionality” is a Big Fancy Word for My Life

(Excerpts from MBGLTACC 2010 Keynote Address)
picture of a green bottle with grass and trees behind it.We have to confront white supremacy within LGBT and Queer communities.  A queer politic MUST include solidarity with people of color; it MUST include fighting racism and white supremacy.  Because we aren’t queer OR people of color; queer OR white; queer OR able bodied; queer OR working class.  We can’t just decide to come together as queer people and expect that we are all going to be united and work together—or that we’ll even feel comfortable.

We must be willing to have hard conversations as queer people with each other about how we are different as queer people.  It helps us to expand what “queerness” is—to see that there are many different ways to be queer.  We can’t be afraid to do our own work at our own tables.  And yes, there is much work to be done out there, with folks who aren’t queer.  Yes, that is important too, but we are outsiders here as well.  Because really, there is no “out there.”

For those of us living with multiple oppressed identities, we know this well.  And as adoptees, we know this well—especially as transracial and transnational adoptees.  As people who straddle many different communities, so much of our work must be done with the people in our own communities.  And we do this work for our very survival, because often times, we do not have a choice not to.  There is literally no where else to go.  Our homes are rarely comfortable. (And I know as queer folks we know something about that too).

To the queer white folks in the audience and the folks who benefit from white privilege, I would ask you: how are you connecting your fight for queer liberation to challenging white supremacy?  How are you connecting your queerness to your white privilege?  How are you listening to queer people of color in your world, supporting them and practicing solidarity?  How are you actively noticing how whiteness, racism and white supremacy play out in queer communities, student groups, organizations, and movements?

Racism and white supremacy are so pervasive, that we don’t even have to be consciously or intentionally doing anything to participate in them.  It’s in the air we breathe; it’s how the machine rolls; it’s the default.  It’s backed by everything in our society.  That’s the thing about oppression, power and privilege: unless you are actively challenging it, you are colluding with it. We live in a heterosexist society, we live in an ableist society and we all have a responsibility to actively work against it. We can’t guarantee that things won’t be ableist or won’t be racist (that’s not the world we live in right now); but we CAN guarantee that when there is racism, when there is ableism, that we will do something about it.  We will LISTEN to those most impacted; we will listen to people of color, we will listen to disabled folks; we will listen to trans folks; we will listen to the queer disabled people of color—and hear them.  We can guarantee that we will act and communicate with each other.  And maybe we will make mistakes; and we will learn from them.

There is no such thing as neutrality.  If you have privilege, you can never be neutral, because you are constantly benefiting off of that privilege—even at the same time as you are also being oppressed. That is what “intersectionality” (for lack of a better word) is about.  It is about moving beyond single-issue politics; it’s about understanding the complexities of our lives.  It is understanding that fighting for racial justice IS queer; fighting for disability justice IS queer.

It is trying to understand the way our differences lie down inside of us, as Audre Lorde would say.  It is knowing that heterosexist and patriarchal modes of family and gender and sexuality were used in service of white supremacy as the building blocks used to colonize first nation communities and communities of color and their lands.  It is knowing that women of color’s sexualities and genders are policed everyday (in different ways), whether they identify as queer or not. It is being able to hold the trauma and exploitation of transracial and transnational adoptees, as queer people who often think that transracial and transnational adoption is a valid route to parenting.  It is holding the power of building queer family and new models of parenting AND also challenging compulsory child bearing in a heteronormative culture.  It is knowing that race gets used strategically to divide us all the time as queer people.  That ableism, capitalism and class get used to make us think that freedom and consumer choice is more important than justice and liberation.

“Intersectionality” is a big fancy word for my life; for your life, for our lives.  It encompasses so much more than I could ever talk about in one talk.

Intersectionality is not just talking about the places you’re oppressed, but also the places where you have privilege.  Intersectionality is disabled white folks enacting their white entitlement through their disability identity.  It’s me having to choose between the POC caucus, the disability caucus, the API women’s caucus, or the adoptee caucus at the Creating Change in Detroit.  It’s thousands of LGBT and queer folks coming out for pride and 150 people coming out for Transgender Day of Remembrance…

So I would say the same thing to the queer able-bodied folks in the audience and the folks who benefit from able-bodied privilege (in many different ways):  how are you connecting your fight for queer liberation to challenging able-bodied supremacy?  How are you connecting your queerness to your able-bodied privilege?  How are you listening to queer disabled folks in your world, supporting them and practicing solidarity?  How are you actively noticing how ability, ableism and able-bodied supremacy play out in queer communities, student groups, organizations, and movements?

Happy Birthday, George Harrison: born 12:10am, 25 February 1942 (died 29 November 2001)

[image is from here. video is from here]

I love you, George. (Lorde, he was a sweetie-pie.)

Human Needs and Feelings: A Humane Inventory

[this book cover and content may be found here]

Much of what follows is from

In considering why we do what we do, there is a theory that we are all trying to get very human needs met, humane needs, in fact, but that civilisation is organised in such a way that "our" needs are seen to be perpetually in conflict with the needs of "others". NVC, Non-Violent Communication, offers these lists of human needs and human feelings, so that when, for example, we are in dysfunctional situations, or oppressive ones, we might assess what needs we have that aren't getting met, or that are getting met in dysfunctional ways. Similarly, by taking an inventory of our feelings, we can know better whether our needs are getting met in healthy/non-oppressive ways. If we're feeling irritable, anxious, and depressed, it may be that our needs are not getting met at all, or are getting met in destructive ways.

This could all be very individualistic and liberal. So I prefer to ask another set of questions as these exercises of done (of identifying needs and feelings). These other questions include:
1. Who am I? Where do I begin and end?
2. Who do I assume "we" are? And who are "they"?
3. What does capitalism tell us about what we need, that, in fact, we don't need at all but functions to make profits for the few at the expense of the many?
4. What does patriarchy tell us we need that we don't need, and that is, in fact, destructive?
5. What does a white supremacist and heterosexist system/society offer "us" in the way of healthy/non-oppressive ways to express our feelings and meet our needs.
6. Assuming the Earth and all sentient being, and all creatures are part of "us", how do we assess what we need differently? If something is good for me but horrible for the Earth, what needs is it meeting, long term?

Non-violent Communication Key Concepts:

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is sometimes referred to as compassionate communication. Its purpose is to:

  1. create human connections that empower compassionate giving and receiving
  2. create governmental and corporate structures that support compassionate giving and receiving.
NVC involves both communication skills that foster compassionate relating and consciousness of the interdependence of our well being and using power with others to work together to meet the needs of all concerned.

This approach to communication emphasizes compassion as the motivation for action rather than fear, guilt, shame, blame, coercion, threat or justification for punishment. In other words, it is about getting what you want for reasons you will not regret later. NVC is NOT about getting people to do what we want. It is about creating a quality of connection that gets everyone’s needs met through compassionate giving.

The process of NVC encourages us to focus on what we and others are observing separate from our interpretations and judgments, to connect our thoughts and feelings to underlying human needs/values (e.g. protection, support, love), and to be clear about what we would like towards meeting those needs. These skills give the ability to translate from a language of criticism, blame, and demand into a language of human needs -- a language of life that consciously connects us to the universal qualities “alive in us” that sustain and enrich our well being, and focuses our attention on what actions we could take to manifest these qualities.

Nonviolent Communication skills will assist you in dealing with major blocks to communication such as demands, diagnoses and blaming. In CNVC trainings you will learn to express yourself honestly without attacking. This will help minimize the likelihood of facing defensive reactions in others. The skills will help you make clear requests. They will help you receive critical and hostile messages without taking them personally, giving in, or losing self-esteem. These skills are useful with family, friends, students, subordinates, supervisors, co-workers and clients, as well as with your own internal dialogues.

Nonviolent Communication Skills

NVC offers practical, concrete skills for manifesting the purpose of creating connections of compassionate giving and receiving based in a consciousness of interdependence and power with others. These skills include:
  1. Differentiating observation from evaluation, being able to carefully observe what is happening free of evaluation, and to specify behaviors and conditions that are affecting us;
  2. Differentiating feeling from thinking, being able to identify and express internal feeling states in a way that does not imply judgment, criticism, or blame/punishment;
  3. Connecting with the universal human needs/values (e.g. sustenance, trust, understanding) in us that are being met or not met in relation to what is happening and how we are feeling; and
  4. Requesting what we would like in a way that clearly and specifically states what we do want (rather than what we don’t want), and that is truly a request and not a demand (i.e. attempting to motivate, however subtly, out of fear, guilt, shame, obligation, etc. rather than out of willingness and compassionate giving).
These skills emphasize personal responsibility for our actions and the choices we make when we respond to others, as well as how to contribute to relationships based in cooperation and collaboration.

With NVC we learn to hear our own deeper needs and those of others, and to identify and clearly articulate what “is alive in us”. When we focus on clarifying what is being observed, felt, needed, and wanted, rather than on diagnosing and judging, we discover the depth of our own compassion. Through its emphasis on deep listening—to ourselves as well as others—NVC fosters respect, attentiveness and empathy, and engenders a mutual desire to give from the heart. The form is simple, yet powerfully transformative.

Founded on consciousness, language, communication skills, and use of power that enable us to remain human, even under trying conditions, Nonviolent Communication contains nothing new: all that has been integrated into NVC has been known for centuries. The intent is to remind us about what we already know—about how we humans were meant to relate to one another—and to assist us in living in a way that concretely manifests this knowledge.

The use of NVC does not require that the persons with whom we are communicating be literate in NVC or even motivated to relate to us compassionately. If we stay with the principles of NVC, with the sole intention to give and receive compassionately, and do everything we can to let others know this is our only motive, they will join us in the process and eventually we will be able to respond compassionately to one another. While this may not happen quickly, it is our experience that compassion inevitably blossoms when we stay true to the principles and process of Nonviolent Communication.
NVC is a clear and effective model for communicating in a way that is cooperative conscious, and compassionate.
adapted from:
Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life
by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.
Published by PuddleDancer Press, available from CNVC
See also:
The Spiritual Basis of Nonviolent Communication
English or Las Bases Espirituales de la Comunicación No Violenta español

Source URL for Needs List:

Human Needs

Autonomy Choosing Dreams, Goals, Values
  • Choosing plans for fulfilling one?s dreams, goals, values
  • Liberty
  • Freedom
  • Independence
  • Choice
  • Individuality
  • Self empowerment
  • Solitude
Celebration of Life
  • Celebrate the creation of life and dreams fulfilled
  • Celebrate losses: loved ones, dreams (mourning)
  • Aliveness
  • Intensity
  • Stimulation
  • Excitement
  • Passion
  • Pleasure
  • Delight
  • Humor
  • Mourning
  • Communion
  • Authenticity
  • Creativity
  • Dreams
  • Growth
  • Meaning
  • Purpose
  • Self respect
  • Self worth
  • Values
  • Vision
  • Acceptance
  • Affection
  • Appreciation
  • Being heard / seen
  • Belonging
  • Closeness / Intimacy
  • Communication
  • Community / Sharing
  • Cooperation
  • Connection
  • Consideration
  • Contribution to Life
  • Emotional safety / freedom
  • Empathy
  • Equality / Fairness
  • Friendship / Companionship
  • Honesty
  • Love
  • Predictability / Consistency
  • Reassurance
  • Respect
  • Stability / Reliability
  • Support
  • Trust
  • Understanding
Physical Nurturance
  • Air
  • Bonding
  • Comfort
  • Nourisment
  • Movement, Exercise
  • Physical affection
  • Rest
  • Safety
  • Sexual Expression
  • Shelter
  • Sunlight
  • Tenderness
  • Touch
  • Water
  • Fun
  • Laughter
  • Relaxation
  • Stimulation
  • Clarity
  • To understand
  • Comprehension
  • Information
  • Consciousness
  • Thinking
  • Reflection
  • Discrimination
Spiritual Communion
  • Awareness / Being
  • Beauty
  • Giving
  • Grace
  • Gratitude
  • Harmony
  • Inspiration
  • Mastery
  • Order
  • Peace
  • Serving
Source URL:
Basic Human Feelings
When Our Needs are Fulfilled:
  • Adventurous
  • Affectionate
  • Alert
  • Alive
  • Amorous
  • Appreciative
  • Amazed
  • Amused
  • Aroused
  • Astonished
  • Astounded
  • Awake
  • Awed
  • Blissful
  • Buoyant
  • Calm
  • Cheerful
  • Comfortable
  • Confident
  • Content
  • Curious
  • Dazzled
  • Delighted
  • Eager
  • Ecstatic
  • Ebullient
  • Elated
  • Enchanted
  • Encouraged
  • Energetic
  • Engrossed
  • Enlivened
  • Enthralled
  • Enthusiastic
  • Excited
  • Exhilarated
  • Expansive
  • Exuberant
  • Fascinated
  • Fondness
  • Fulfilled
  • Giddy
  • Glad
  • Gleeful
  • Glorious
  • Grateful
  • Grief
  • Happy
  • Hopeful
  • Humbled
  • Inspired
  • Intrigued
  • Invigorated
  • Joyous
  • Jubilant
  • Liberated
  • Moved
  • Optimistic
  • Overwhelmed
  • Passionate
  • Peaceful
  • Perky
  • Pleased
  • Proud
  • Puzzled
  • Quiet
  • Radiant
  • Rapturous
  • Rejuvenated
  • Relaxed
  • Relieved
  • Refreshed
  • Rested
  • Restored
  • Safe
  • Satisfied
  • Secure
  • Serene
  • Shocked
  • Spacious
  • Spellbound
  • Startled
  • Stimulated
  • Stunned
  • Surprised
  • Tender
  • Thankful
  • Thrilled
  • Tranquil
  • Touched
  • Upbeat
  • Uplifted
  • Warm
  •  Zestful
Basic Human Feelings
When Our Needs are Not Fulfilled:
  • Afraid
  • Aggravated
  • Agitation
  • Aloof
  • Angry
  • Animosity
  • Annoyance
  • Anxious
  • Apathetic
  • Appalled
  • Apprehensive
  • Aroused
  • Ashamed
  • Awful
  • Bad
  • Bewildered
  • Bitter
  • Blah
  • Blue
  • Bored
  • Chagrined
  • Cold
  • Concerned
  • Confused
  • Cool
  • Contrite
  • Cross
  • Depressed
  • Despair
  • Despondent
  • Detached
  • Disappointed
  • Disconnected
  • Discouraged
  • Disenchanted
  • Disgruntled
  • Disgusted
  • Disheartened
  • Disinterested
  • Dismayed
  • Displeased
  • Distressed
  • Disturbed
  • Dread
  • Dull
  • Edgy
  • Embarrassed
  • Enraged
  • Envious
  • Exasperated
  • Exhausted
  • Fatigued
  • Fearful
  • Forlorn
  • Frightened
  • Frustrated
  • Furious
  • Gloomy
  • Guilty
  • Hate
  • Heavy
  • Horrified
  • Horrible
  • Hot
  • Humdrum
  • Hurt
  • Impatient
  • Incensed
  • Indifferent
  • Infuriated
  • Inquisitive
  • Insecure
  • Intense
  • Irate
  • Irked
  • Irritated
  • Jealous
  • Jittery
  • Lazy
  • Lethargic
  • Listless
  • Lonely
  • Mad
  • Mean
  • Melancholy
  • Miserable
  • Mopey
  • Morose
  • Nervous
  • Overwhelmed
  • Pain
  • Panicky
  • Passive
  • Perplexed
  • Puzzled
  • Rancorous
  • Regretful
  • Reluctant
  • Remorseful
  • Repelled
  • Resentful
  • Restless
  • Sad
  • Scared
  • Shocked
  • Skeptical
  • Sleepy
  • Sorrowful
  • Spent
  • Spiritless
  • Startled
  • Surprised
  • Suspicious
  • Terrified
  • Tired
  • Troubled
  • Uncomfortable
  • Uneasy
  • Unglued
  • Unhappy
  • Unsteady
  • Upset
  • Uptight
  • Vengeful
  • Vexed
  • Weary
  • Woeful
  • Worried