For today's guest post, we get to hear from Michiko Bown-Kai (they/them), who is one of Generous Space's newest staff members. Michiko writes below about intersectionality and how that term provides insight into their life and work with GS.
At the end of the 1980’s, scholar Kimberle Crenshaw coined the term intersectionality to help explain the ways in which race and gender played a role in African American women’s experiences of oppression. While race and gender may appear to be separate categories, the term addressed a need for people to name the ways in which gender and race were not distinct from one another but in a complex and interconnected conversation.
I want to uplift Crenshaw because too often conversations about intersectionality erase the fact that it was a black woman who coined the term and because in some spaces, intersectionality has become a well-loved buzzword that doesn’t always invite the deep analysis it deserves.
As someone who is non-binary and mixed race, the term intersectionality speaks to me own real, every day life experiences. In hopes that my story may help this term come to life for you, I want to offer you some of the following examples of the ways in which my queerness and race are interconnecting aspects of who I am.
As someone who is often treated as “racially ambiguous” my name is a meaningful and direct connection to my Japanese heritage. While many trans people change their name as part of their transition, I struggle with the idea of letting go of a name that has had such a great impact on how I connect with my culture and my family.
As someone who is non-binary, I navigate the world where people’s grasp of gender presentation is based on Whiteness. Not only am I trying to figure out the complexities of understanding and expressing my masculinity as a non-binary person; I’m also living in a world where asian men are seen as “less manly” than white men.
As an openly queer and non-binary person of colour I have to work hard to resist tokenism within LGBTQ+ communities. Even when organizations try to get it right, it often means a predominantly white organization (in leadership and/or membership) is inviting me to be a guest presenter or join a panel once most of the planning has already been done. I have to wonder if I am being invited to speak for the right reasons and often feel the pressure to be speaking not only about my own experience, but bringing to the table many overlooked or erased voices.
These are only a few of the many examples of how and why intersectionality is important for all of us seeking to create generous space and welcoming communities and I hope that it inspires you to be curious about how much more there is to learn from LGBTQ+ who are Black, Indigenous, and/or people of colour (BIPOC).
Part of my work over the past couple of months has been getting to know the BIPOC folk in the Toronto area of the Generous Space community. It is an enormous privilege to be able to hear stories that are so diverse and interesting. Despite the many differences, the importance of being able to make space to have race be part of the conversation in LGBTQ+ communities is a theme that rings true throughout.
Yours in Christ,
Michiko Bown-Kai is an ordinand with The United Church of Canada who is passionate about social justice and creative expression. Michiko studied Social Justice and Peace Studies and Political Science at the University of Western Ontario before attending Emmanuel College for their Master of Divinity program. Over the past decade Michiko has engaged in ministry in many forms: as a Sunday School coordinator, program coordination at The United Church’s General Council Office, a youth group leader, and most recently as an intern minister at East End United Regional Ministry. Michiko is always excited to learn more about cultures, languages, and nature. You can often find Michiko biking around the city, highland dancing, or befriending as many dogs as possible. Michiko currently lives in and writes from Toronto (dish with one spoon covenant, the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples and is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples).