Living In The Crossroads of Intersectionality -Mia Heredia

As a society, we have gotten admirable about our discussions regarding intersectionality. Whether this be discussing white gay folks from low-income backgrounds or non-binary peers of color with disabilities, we have acknowledged that our attention should be on the whole person, with no exceptions. However, talking about intersectionality and living in the crossroads of the various levels of inequality are two very different experiences, and I’d love to talk about my experience with living in the crossroads. To be transparent, this crossroads is as smooth as the {street name}, littered with potholes and craters of all sizes that I must navigate on a day-to-day basis. Being a queer AfroLatina means four different roads create this intersection full of hardships – hardships created by those who laid an inequitable foundation and convinced everyone that it should be left as such. These roads aren’t named after my identities because being a queer Black Puerto Rican woman in and of itself is difficult, but rather, due to the intentional othering and ostracizing reserved for my identities. I’ll use this time with you to give a peek into my day to day, as I don’t feel that the reality of this is spoken enough about.   

Let’s start with being a woman. This road is littered with potholes in the shape of statistically higher rates of abuse and violence, quick societal dismissal and/or assumptions, and misogyny. As if this doesn’t keep me busy enough, on either side are lines of people with a variety of backgrounds, yelling expectations at me. There’s never a moment of silence on this road, because I never smile enough, I swear too much, I’m not submissive enough, and everyone is scream-whispering about why I haven’t popped out a baby yet.  I went through my personal phase of plucking and smiling and nodding and giggling until my very soul hurt. I tune them out nowadays, as I will always be a disappointment on a road I was forced to travel on.  

Next is being Black, and always remember to capitalize the B. Not doing so undermines the craters that the Black community continues to have to climb out of on this road, craters that double as early graves and chalk outlines, stereotyping, health issues caused by racism, and over sexualization. The people lined around this road look the other way as I push myself up and watch as new craters are being created to keep me farther down the road. If I’m not being treated like a commodity, then I’m in an object to debate around on popular social media platforms. On most days on this road, I’m anything as long as it isn’t human or deserving of respect and recognition. When I speak up about this road, I get shushed by those loitering around it, and I silently watch as they engage in privileges that would put me in positions of danger, criticism, or criminal custody. I tread slowly and intentionally on this road, as I have no choice in being here and desire to capture the safest experiences I can.   

Being on the road that outlines my experience as a queer person consists of a sea of people that part when I walk past, whispering and sneering in nothing louder than whispers. Specifically, as a demisexual panromantic person, I must navigate around these individuals, along with the piles of tar that spell out words like “predator”, “sinner”, “confused”, or “prude”. I’m sometimes familiar with the faces in the crowd, as they walk on a similar but more socially accepted road. The others on this road want to save me, ask me evasive questions about my sexual activity, and wonder out loud how a woman as pretty as me could end up “like this”. I used to find myself crying on this road while attempting to wash off the tar that I imagined to be on my skin, but now I laugh more times than not. It’s peculiar how those on this road who know less about me whisper the loudest about knowing the most.  

I’m speaking about being Latina last, as this road’s conditions are informed by other identities one holds. There is no doubt in my mind that this road would look different if I had a lighter complexion, could speak fluent Spanish, and played into some of the stereotypes meant to assimilate Latinx folks. However, that is not reality for me, and thus, this road is lined with two things: mirrors reminding me of what I am not and people attempting to gaslight me out of my identity. The potholes on this road are smaller and more frequent, and I find myself falling over myself as I attempt to explain my lack of religious affiliation, my lack of bodily shape that these people expect of me as an AfroLatina, and my hesitation in telling people my government name (as my imperfect pronunciation has been met with more laughs than encouragement). Still, I continue my weekly goals on Duolingo and earn cultural dances at my leisure on this road – I’m not going anything, and unfortunately, neither is this road.   

I want to end this conversation by emphasizing a couple of points. Firstly, this is not the experience of everyone who identifies the same way as me. This is not an attempt to speak for every queer AfroLatina out there, but rather, give you an example of what can be. Secondly, I hope that sharing my experience in the crossroads was helpful and informative, as this is not the only crossroads that exists, and I encourage you to familiarize yourself with other forms of oppression and how that impacts a person’s day to day. I talked about these roads separately with the hope that you overlap the forms of oppression in the middle, and how they might interact and enable each other. And lastly – what I would argue is the most important point – being a queer AfroLatina is, and will always be, lit. With every challenge in the crossroads is a community full of culture, love, acceptance ad resiliency. While being a marginalized person is not easy, I would not trade the communities I belong to for anything in the world. If I learned anything in my experience (and what I hoped I taught you in this conversation) is that those roads don’t define me, regardless of how they impact me. I define what a queer Afro Latina means for me, looks like for me, feels like for me. What they – the ones who crafted these roads and work to keep them intact – won’t get the satisfaction of seeing me speak of the foundation they created as normal, fair, or remotely okay. While I hope this conversation showed you what my experience has been, I equally hope it showed what choosing yourself against the odds looks like.