One of the most important words in recent years to enter the vocabulary of change-makers is “intersectionality.” It’s basically naming the reality that there is no such thing as a single issue of injustice disconnected from other injustices.

For instance, marriage equality is inherently tied into issues of immigration,
immigration is directly tied into issue of class, class issues are directly
tied into race issues, race issues include a lot of gender issues, the list
goes on. All the “-isms” are constantly working hand in hand, yet most of our
country’s activism and religious social movements have worked on injustice as
if they are separate from one another. We tackle gay rights or gender issues or
poverty separately. This typically results in the most privileged group within
each “issue” to get their needs met first. If we are talking about lgbtq issues
and we don’t work directly from the acknowledgement that race, class, gender,
etc are inherently intertwined, we’re going to end up working primarily for the
white, cis, middle to upper class, male queers. Traditionally, that’s how it’s
worked in civil rights, in feminist movements, and in the lgbtq movement. It is
evident today.

I am so thrilled about DOMA’s eradication. It’s a huge step for all of us. Let me
repeat that lest I sound otherwise – I am so thrilled about this huge step for
queers and for America as a whole. I truly am. I am most excited about its
effect on binational queer couples who will now be able to gain citizenship
because of their marriage rights but it is a win for all queers and the doors
it opens for our future as a movement.

However, the eradication of DOMA is certainly the result of our movement focusing on the
needs of the most privileged within our community. With the exception of
binational queer couples (who have gotten very little attention in the fight
for marriage equality), marriage equality is a privileged issue. Queer people
of color, trans folks, queers living in poverty, and young lgbtq people who are
not so privileged are dealing with more life altering matters of equality like
housing discrimination, homelessness, suicide, violence, and poverty. I
genuinely celebrate this important time but it fits within the traditional
pattern of the privileged having their needs met first. This is how it always goes,
but does it have to?

Intersectionality asks us to look at the intersecting identities we each hold – where do I hold
privilege even within my community that is marginalized and how might I be
overlooking the needs of those more marginalized than I?

The night before the news about DOMA was released, I spent my time shoulder to shoulder
in the Texas capitol with thousands of folks fighting for the rights of our
bodies and especially for the rights of women and trans men in rural areas. As
a queer woman, killing that bill meant more to me than the decision to come
regarding DOMA because it was intersectional – it had potential life or death
effects on not only the most privileged but also the most marginalized – poor
women and trans men, primarily people of color, living in rural TX as well as
those who experience sexual violence. This was an intersectional issue yet that
is not how we will discuss it.

The next day, the news shares about the SCOTUS
decision as a gay rights win and the TX event as a “women’s issues” win – the
two would never be discussed together. Of course, we cannot talk about
everything at once so there are times and spaces that require us to separate
things, but that should be with the understanding that they are all running
together all the time. What happened in TX is an LGBTQ issue because it
includes lesbians, queers, trans men, and gender queers. It is an LGBTQ issue
because the same powers used to revoke access to choice in TX is the same sort
of power being used to keep LGBTQ folks on the margins.

I wonder what would happen if we talked less about “rights” and “issues” and more about
the vision of the Kindom in our tradition.
The Kindom, a place where true
equality – not just for the privileged of the marginalized but for all –
reigns. The Kindom is a place where there is no dominance, no hierarchy, no
question that we are all inherently tied to one another. In the Kindom there is
room for intersectionality – the expansive vision that Jesus offered to us time
and time again doesn’t overlook the needs of anyone.

What if we called for justice primarily because
in the Kindom there is no injustice and we are called to bring the Kindom to
earth. There would be no sacrificing women of color for the uplifiting of white
women in a sexist world. Questions of bodily autonomy and access to abortion
would matter as much to cis gay men as marriage equality. When we talk about immigration issues we
would inherently include conversations about heterosexism effecting queer
immigrants. Anything less would mean we were no longer talking about or working
for the Kindom.

The Kindom does not allow us to leave the most marginalized of
a marginalized group in the dust as we promise to “return” for them when the
most privileged have their needs met.
It also does not allow us to care about
an “issue” that affects our community while we ignore injustices that face
another. The “issues” and “rights” conversation has let us off the hook far too
long. As we continue to celebrate the eradication of DOMA, as we continue to
grieve the SCOTUS decision on voting rights, and as we prepare in TX to defend
our bodily autonomy for another week, may we all be guided first and foremost
by the vision given to us not by activists or lawyers or nonprofits but by
Christ – a vision that will not let us rest until we find our freedom not in
our own individual rights but in the lives of one another.

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M Barclay

M Barlcay serves as Reconciling Ministries Network’s Director of Communications. A life-long Methodist seeking ordination as a deacon, M originally hails from Florida where they worked for the Wesley Foundation and received a BA in Communications. While later attending seminary at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, they worked as a hospital chaplain and volunteered with local advocacy organizations. Since, they have served as Justice Associate and Youth Director at University UMC in Austin, Texas and as Faith Network Coordinator at Texas Freedom Network. M has experience organizing around issues of gender, sexuality, housing, and reproductive rights and is passionate about ministries and theology in the intersections of faith and society. M is a non-binary trans person and uses they/them pronouns.
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