Celebrating Intersectional Identity: Three Women Share Their Experiences

Kumari Pacheco, 18
Kumari Pacheco, 18

Q: Do you consider yourself to be a member of multiple underrepresented groups?

Pacheco: I am Afro-Latina. The “Afro” pertains to my African-American heritage, my mother’s side, while “Latina” ties me to Central America.— specifically Mexico — where my father was born. I’ve been using this term to describe my ethnicity since sixth grade. It usually confuses people, but I always refer to myself this way. Generally speaking, I am a person of color and a woman.

JorJa Angel Brown, 22
JorJa Angel Brown, 22

Brown: I have the experiences of being a biracial Asian American person, and I experience being a person of color, and at the same time I also experience my womanhood and my sexual identity.— I am bisexual. I see what it means to be a woman in the world through the intersection of my queerness and transgender status. People could see each of those things as separate factions, but they come together to create my [individual] experience.

Connell: I identify as a black woman, which is already an intersection, and I’m also queer.

Q: When were you first introduced to the concept of intersectionality? How did the concept make you feel initially?

Emma Connell, 18
Emma Connell, 18

Connell: I was introduced to it through reading Feminism is for Everybody and Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism by bell hooks, during an independent project for a critical sociology class my sophomore year of high school. I was really excited to learn about it because it made a lot of sense to me.

Pacheco: The first time I heard the word “intersectionality” and truly understood it was at the (Jan. 21, 2017) Women’s March in D.C. Practically everyone who spoke that day used the word, and gradually, as I looked around and noticed how the people in the crowd contrasted and complemented each other in terms of gender, sexuality, race. I came to understand what the word really meant.

Brown: I first started learning about it in an academic way when I was a senior in high school. It was in a theater class and we were writing a musical together. The teacher wanted us to talk about our identities and social issues we faced and things like family and culture, upbringing and environment, things that related to our socioeconomic status and our experiences with racism, our experiences with misogyny … living in a patriarchal society.

Q: Looking back, when were you first introduced to the concept of intersectionality through experience? In other words, how did your intersectional status affect you growing up?

Pacheco: As a kid, I wasn’t allowed to watch Disney princess movies where the princesses were white. Similarly, all my dolls were of color, not necessarily black, but none of them were white. I wasn’t overly bothered by this. I hated Barbies and watched movies like Balto and Bolt, but I didn’t understand the reason behind this decision. Much later, my mother explained to me that she hadn’t wanted me to grow up with white women as my idols.

Connell: I don’t think I thought about it when I was a kid. In middle school I started getting push-back from white kids and black kids. White kids being like, “You’re too black, you’re not actually white,” and then black kids being like, “You’re not black enough to sit here.” 

Brown: I was pretty popular in school, but everyone saw me as a very sexual person, and I was not, but people were always talking about it. People always felt entitled to grab or grope my body. … It was a pretty regular part of my experience whether it was boys or girls. I think that comes from my queerness or my gender nonconformity.

Pacheco is a graduate of Bryant Writers Workshop and Fort Greene Youth Writers Program in New York, currently finishing her gap year and applying to colleges. After studying acting at the University of Illinois in Chicago, Brown is currently a professional actress and dog walker in New York City. Connell is a freshman at Columbia College in Chicago working on her bachelor’s degree in photography with a minor in Cultural Studies. ν

Ginger O’Donnell is a senior staff writer for DiversityIS. This article ran in our Spring 2019 issue.