I wasn’t always a feminist, let alone one with intersectional awareness and a politicised pride in my Blackness. When I first dove hungrily into feminism, starved as I was of any meaningful understanding of my life, it was the work of radical feminists such as Andrea Dworkin and Germaine Greer that I devoured. I feasted on their anger for it spoke to me deeply but their messages didn’t nourish me. I choked on the poison of their narrow reflections. Where was the representation of my life as a Black, mixed-race lesbian? Where was I to find solace and solidarity and an understanding of my existence and the oppressions unique to my position at the intersection of woman, lesbian and Black?
The feminist community at large currently has a basic understanding of what intersectionality means, in no small part due to the internet and the rise of online feminist activism. However, only those of us who have known the fear of slipping through the cracks can properly articulate the relief that this theory holds. When I was younger and coming to terms with my sexuality I was convinced that I couldn’t be gay. I thought that lesbianism was a white woman’s game. I didn’t know of any Black lesbians; Audre had not yet become my Lorde. Intersectionality gives us the framework to understand the multiplicity of lived experience. It gave me insight into why my womanhood felt so different from that of my white friends and allowed me to understand the implications of being the Other on a structural level. I was able to understand that maybe some of my experiences hadn’t been shaped wholly by my actions but by forces of hierarchy way outside of my control.
What does it mean to me, a permanently angry brown dyke, when mainstream feminism fights for the right to be ‘sexy’ and unthreatening to men and urges us to quell our fury? It persuades us to be passive, pale dolls and to dress our struggle for liberation in quiet positivity, suspenders and sex tips. Black women, such as myself, don’t have the luxury of the pacifism and politeness found in today’s white feminism. We must use violence, both physically and in the vehemence of our words, because we are more desperate.