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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Davis

Understanding Power, Privilege and Intersectionality as Queer People

Updated: Apr 7, 2023

Power and privilege can operate on personal, interpersonal, cultural, and institutional levels and gives advantages, favours, and benefits to members of dominant groups at the expense of members of target groups. Some of these groups who benefit from power and privilege include:

  • White people

  • Able-bodied people

  • Heterosexuals

  • Males

  • Christians

  • Middle or owning class people

  • Middle-aged people

  • English-speaking people

Power and Privilege is characteristically invisible to people who have it. People in dominant groups often believe they have earned their power and privileges they enjoy or that everyone could have access to power and if only they worked to earn them. Unlike targets of oppression, people in dominant groups are frequently unaware they are members of the dominant group due to power and privilege of being able to see themselves as persons rather than stereotypes.

As queer people we are often positioned in the oppressive group due to our sexual orientation or gender identity with limited access to systemic power and privileges. However, there are many aspects of our identify that we can embody in order to be our authentic selves. This encompasses acknowledging the importance of intersectionality interpersonally and intrapersonally.

What is intersectionality?

Intersectionality is a framework for understanding how aspects of a person's social and political identities combine to create different modes of discrimination and privilege.   Intersectionality identifies multiple factors of advantage and disadvantage. Examples of these factors include gender, sex, race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, religion, disability, weight, physical appearance, and height. These intersecting and overlapping social identities may be both empowering and oppressing.

Barriers to embracing intersectionality

Systemically, there are a number of barriers to accepting and embracing our intersectionality. Some of these include:

  • Institutional Power: The ability or official authority to decide what is best for others. The ability to decide who will have access to resources and exercise control over others.

  • Prejudice: A judgment or opinion that is formed on insufficient grounds before facts are known or in disregard of facts that contradict it. Prejudices are learned and can be unlearned.

  • Stereotype: An exaggerated or distorted belief that attributes characteristics to members of a particular group and refusing to acknowledge differences among members of the group.

  • Oppression: The combination of prejudice and institutional power which creates a system that discriminates against some groups. Targets of oppression are members of social identity groups that are disenfranchised, exploited, and victimised in a variety of ways by agents of oppression and the agent’s systems or institutions.

  • Racism: Racism is a system in which one’s race maintains supremacy over another race through a set of attitudes, behaviours, social structures, and institutional power.

  • Internalised Oppression: The process whereby people in the target group make oppression internal and personal by coming to believe that the lies, prejudices, and stereotypes about them are true. It can also be projected outward as fear, criticism and distrust of members of one’s target group.

How to celebrate intersectionality as queer people

Acceptance and self-compassion are key when celebrating our intersectionality as queer people. If we learn to love ourselves and the various aspects of our identity, we can better navigate the oppressive systems of power and privilege.

Additionally, for non-queer people, being an ally can be impactful in supporting queer people to dismantle oppression. Some of the ways to be a supportive ally are:

  • Educate oneself about oppression

  • Learn from and listen to people who are targets of oppression

  • Examine and challenge one’s own prejudices, stereotypes, and assumptions

  • Work through feelings of guilt, shame and defensiveness to understand what is beneath them and what needs to be healed

  • Learn and practice the skills of challenging oppressive remarks, behaviours, policies and institutional structures

  • Act collaboratively with members of the target group to dismantle oppression

If you are seeking mental health support, therapy or coaching please contact me to arrange a consultation. I provide counselling, psychotherapy and coaching online and face to face in South London.

Understanding the complexities of privilege and power dynamics is crucial in creating a safe space for the queer community, especially when it comes to coming out and disclosing one's queer identity. Check out my blog on 'Coming Out' and Disclosing Queer Identity to learn how these factors intersect and impact the experiences of queer individuals, and how we can all work towards creating a more inclusive and accepting world.

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