With each label comes its own slew of stereotypes, and for some, donning multiple labels means dealing with multiple stigmas.
For LGBT individuals, the discrimination can go beyond that which comes with being an out LGBT person; some must also deal with racism or “whitewashing” in the LGBT community.
“There are a lot of overarching factors that can affect multiple groups — be it race, social class, gender, sexual preferences,” said Patty Stokes, a professor of women’s and gender studies. “And sometimes it can create difficulties for those who fit into multiple boxes.”
These intersecting factors are something that are less of a sociological concept and more a part of many peoples’ realities, said Ryant Taylor, an African-American sophomore studying creative writing who identifies as gay.
“Both factors have changed my life because I have to be aware of the ways that the world can try to discriminate against you and make you think that you cannot make it,” Taylor said. “In being a part of the LGBT community, I’ve learned that through so much of life, you have to depend on yourself and the love that you can give.”
While these factors can be difficult to overcome, being a part of multiple groups can help those who fall into different categories understand the “matrix of discrimination,” said Lacey Rogers, an Athens resident.
“I think being a member of both communities really gives me a well-rounded perspective on how sexual orientation and race as identity factors intersect and sometimes compete or conflict with one another,” Rogers said. “I acknowledge both my identity as biracial and pansexual, and am able to see why both identities are important individually, but also must be causes fought.”
Sometimes even trying to fight these stigmas can cause barriers and rifts in the different communities, Rogers said.
“I think that because historically the African-American and LGBTA communities have been discriminated against by greater society, sometimes this is turned around and used within the community to create additional barriers,” Rogers said. “What should be holding us together is sometimes what keeps us apart when one group decides their ‘cause’ is priority over the other.”
To try and aid these discrepancies, groups like SHADES, an organization for the multicultural LGBTA community, were formed. Discussing stories and working with the group can help those in the community bond, Rogers said.
“I feel like my identity certainly connects me with a greater range of people than those who do not identify as a racial minority, as well as someone who may be considered to have a ‘deviant’ sexual orientation,” Rogers said. “Asking questions is the only way to be educated on these matters and the more we know about the needs of both communities, the better we can live in a more equal world.”
Despite struggles and hardships, Taylor said the adversity he has overcome has made him a much stronger person.
“I’ve learned that life is hard and that people try to discriminate against you for so much, but I’ve also learned through that struggle that there is beauty,” he said. “There are amazing people out there with fine hearts and open minds that are willing to sit down and just talk to you.”