This coming March, I will be speaking at a conference on Intersectional Justice in Washington State. I was honored to be invited to present at an event that includes a number of animal rights activists of color, including Aph Ko (whose Black Vegans Rock project I wrote about earlier), Sarah K. Woodcock of the Abolitionist Vegan Society, and lauren Ornelas of the Food Empowerment Project. Also, Christopher-Sebastian McJetters, a fellow member of the Black Vegans Rock advisory board, is one of the conference facilitators.
The stated goals of the conference include:
- look through the lens of animal rights at a range of social justice issues
- identify ways in which we can better collaborate between and among movements
- examine the impact of speciesism on humans, other animals, and the planet.
As intersectionality has become something of a buzzword in social justice circles, it is important to understand the roots of the term. As discussed in a post by fellow activist Ali Seiter, the term was coined in 1989 by black legal scholar Kimberle Crenshaw in her essay “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.” Crenshaw was specifically referring to the intersection of racism and sexism faced by black women.
Since then, the term “intersectionality” has been expanded to include all kinds of “isms,” including speciesism. Some feel that this expansion is appropriative, especially when misused by white abolitionist vegans. Some, including myself, have suggested using other words, such as kyriarchy, to describe intersecting oppressions beyond those specifically faced by black women. Ultimately, though, I feel that the practice of acknowledging one’s privileges, being truly inclusive of underrepresented voices, and avoiding oppression in animal rights messaging is what’s most important, whether or not the term “intersectionality” is used to describe these efforts.
My talk at the conference will be about how to make social justice events more welcoming to trans, non-binary, and intersex people. I’ll also be facilitating a workshop where we will do a “pronoun check-in” and discuss the binary assumptions inherent in gendered greetings and salutations.
I’m excited for this conference, which is the first time I’ve been invited to speak about social justice issues at an out-of-state event. (I did a presentation on cissexism and speciesism earlier this year here in the SF Bay Area.) My online activism has been getting more attention and is presenting me with more opportunities, which is rewarding for me personally. But more importantly, it is reassuring that more people are being exposed to the message that one does not have to choose between dismantling human and non-human oppression.