Intersectionalities in Psychology: Intersections of Race, Sexual Orientation, and Gender

Intersectionalities in Psychology: Intersections of Race, Sexual Orientation, and Gender

Hello, my name is Kiet Huynh and I’m graduate
student in the University of Miami Counseling Psychology Ph.D. program. This webinar is presented by myself and Khashayar
Farhadi Langroudi, a clinical psychology doctoral Candidate at the American School of Professional
Psychology of Argosy University in San Francisco. We are members of the Committee on Sexual
Orientation and Gender Diversity. This webinar is part of a series presented
by the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students, or APAGS, Committee
on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity. APAGS aspires to offer the highest quality
graduate training experience for the next generation of scientific innovators, expert
practitioners, and visionary leaders in psychology. With these webinars, we hope to address general
areas of interest to graduate students in the field of psychology related to sexual
orientation and gender identity. This webinar will focus on Intersectionalities
in Psychology specifically the intersections of race, sexual orientation, and gender. This presentation has three key objectives. First, to provide information on the history
and emergence of intersectionality in Psychology. Second, to provide background on the Significance
of Intersectionalities and why it can be important to employ this particular framework. We will explore the implication of intersectionality
theory on psychological research, the therapeutic relationship, in the policy arena, and last
but not least, on public health. And third, to guide discussion and shed light
on lived experiences of people who identify with these intersectional identities. Intersectionality can be viewed as a theory,
a framework, or a method. The early emergence of intersectionality in
psychology was rooted in the Feminist movement and theories. Especially when it comes to the topic of race,
gender, and sexuality, it’s worth mentioning that it actually stems from the experiences
of women of color, particularly persons like Kimberle Crenshaw, Bell Hooks, and Patricia
Collins, who felt mainstream feminism was too homogenous. Intersectionality has been used as an approach
to social activism examples of these movements are the women’s rights movement, or go into
more specific examples such as the Occupy Wall street Movement in which that many women
of colors were frontiers of the movement, there was also the intersectionality of race,
socioeconomic status, and gender. Intersectionality as an approach has been
used to explore multiple marginalized identities. Current views of intersectionality emphasize
the intersection of all identities, and each intersection of identity is associated with
both privilege and oppression. An intersectionality lens helps researchers
become aware of the variety of intersections between forms of diversity that interact within
each person. Therefore, the researcher becomes more aware
of the diverse range of experiences of gender and other social identities. It guides the researcher to develop a framework
for studying identity. In this way, intersectionality is most commonly
used as a framework or a lens through which to view topics of research and theory. As a psychological theory, intersectionality
provides specific explanations about different intersecting identities which differently
shape experiences and behaviors and some believe that intersectionality might be able to predicting
human behavior. As an approach, intersectionality has been
used to advocate for social activism. The great example of a scholarly social advocate
in intersectionality is Kimberle Crenshaw. She is the first and arguably still most significant
contributor to intersectionality as a theory. Examination of the literature reveals that
researchers use intersectionality theory to gain a more nuanced understanding of important
health and social issues. What follows are just a few examples of scientists
who have employed the intersectional framework for their research. Azmitia, Syed, & Radmacher (2010) examined
longitudinal data from a sample of emerging adults to show how the study of identity formation
is enriched by examining the intersection of multiple identities, such as sexuality,
social class, ethnicity and immigration status. Meyer (2012) explored anti-queer violence
in a qualitative study with 47 Black, Latino/Latina, and White participants. Meyer found that anti-queer violence is experienced
differently across race, ethnicity and gender. For instance, lesbians of color coped with
anti-queer discrimination through emphasizing autonomy and self-sufficiency, whereas Black
and Latino gay men coped by drawing on emotional and physical strength. Sevelius (2013) used qualitative data from
22 transgender women of color in San Francisco to show how gender identity impacts sexual
risk behavior and body modification practices. Finally, Veenstra (2013) analyzed data from
a nationally representative sample of more than 90,000 Canadians to show that cardiovascular
health disparities are best understood with an intersectional framework because these
inequalities occur beyond single categories of race, gender, class, and sexual orientation. These authors found that hypertension was
predicted to be higher in Black men, women with less education than a high school diploma,
wealthy South Asian women and bisexual participants, compared to poor Black men, women with college
degrees, and poor South Asian women and men. Researchers have used the intersectionality
framework for both qualitative and quantitative research. For quantitative analysis, commonly researchers
have used the regression framework with interaction effects to explore intersectional identities. For instance, racial or ethnic identity and
gender may be included in the model as an interaction term to predict a certain health
outcome to determine whether differences exist between individuals with several combinations
of those identities (for example, do Asian males differ from Native American females
on that particular health outcome). A more recent statistical method for examining
intersectional identities include the Bayesian approach that provides more power for complex
analyses. As intersectional theory and research develops,
more tools are emerging for investigators to explore this phenomenon. An alternative approach is to conduct qualitative
intersectionality research which generally involves interviews to explore the nuanced
experiences of individuals who have multiple marginalized identities. It is important to mention that there are
challenges of using intersectionality as a framework for research, especially in terms
of quantitative research where statistical methods are often additive in nature (e.g.
regression) which runs counterintuitive to work. In her highly influential article on the methodological
challenges of intersectionality research, Bowleg (2008) makes the claim that inequality
and social identities such as ethnicity, sexual orientation, and sex or gender must be viewed
in an interactive rather than an additive fashion. She cites her research with Black lesbians
to argue that the additive effect of being Black, lesbian, and woman fails to accurately
reflect the unique experiences of being a Black lesbian woman. The emergence of intersectionality theory
has brought with it new tools to measure intersecting identities and the stress associated with
embodying these identities. Examples of such tools are the LGBT People
of Color Microaggresions Scale by Balsam et al. (2011) and the Dual Identity Distress
Scale by Keaton & Corsbie-Massay (2012). The LGBT People of Color Microaggressions
Scale: measures the unique micoaggressions experienced by those with both racial or ethnic
and LGBT identities. The measure includes subscales regarding:
(1) Racism in LGBT communities; (2) Heterosexism in Racial and Ethnic Minority Communities;
and (3) Racism in Dating and Close Relationships. Alternatively, The Dual Identity Distress
scale includes questions with both open-ended and Likert responses to assess internal and
external stigma associated with the combined dual identities. This measure contains 3 subscales: (1) Identification
with the dual identity, (2) Negative Affect when considering the dual identity, and (3)
Public Discrimination against the dual identity. It is essential to take intersectional identities
into account when conducting therapy due to the many ways that unique intersectional experiences
impact the therapeutic relationship and process. For example, there is a body of research that
demonstrates that ethnic minorities have been misdiagnosed, or have been diagnosed based
on mainstream cultural norms rather than client-specific appropriate psychosocial criteria specifically
in context of mental healthcare. We also know that most contemporary societies
continue to operate within a patriarchal system that undervalues women and gender-nonconforming
people. An example of this phenomenal is the past
diagnosis of Homosexuality in DSM III, current DSM regarding the gender dysphoria as psychological
disorder and also likelihood of women being diagnoses by histrionic personality disorder
in the past. A variety of psychological approaches have
been implemented to explore these characteristic and to provide a better understanding of intersectionality
within individuals. Examples of these approaches include Acceptance
and Commitment Therapy and compassion focused based psychotherapy; these try to promote
valued, vital living for individuals with intersectional identities. Next we will consider the significance of
Intersectionality in policy. Broadly speaking, intersectionality informs
policy by suggesting that people have different levels of access to justice and fairness in
policy decisions that affect them in their communities, professional lives, and within
defined political borders such as states and nations. Policy that is informed by an intersectionality
lens is centered on the notions of equity and social justice. These policies understand that people cannot
be reduced to single categories of identity. For example, a woman may also be cis or trans,
disabled or able bodied, and on and on, such that a policy affecting women must consider
numerous intersections, identities, systems, and sources of power and oppression that operate
in women’s lives. Intersectionality work at the level of professional
policy is possible for psychology graduate students. APAGS has two committees: The Committee on
the Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Diversity, or CARED, and the Committee on Sexual Orientation
and Gender Diversity. These committees provide services to psychology
graduate students and professionals with intersecting identities. Examples of projects produced by these committees
include webinars, blog posts, and a resource guide about a range of topics related to sexual
orientation, and gender diversity. There are also other subcommittees within
the different divisions in APA that reflect an intersectional approach to policy in the
field of psychology. For example, the Committee on Racial and Ethnic
Diversity within Division 44, various committees on race and sexuality within Division 35,
the Committee on Sexuality within Division 45, and the International LGBT Psychology
Network. Outside of APA, this author is familiar with
the Association for Contextual Behavioral Sciences, or ACBS, which supports and promotes
an intersectional framework. In ACBS, a diversity committee promotes and
provides outreach to international members who are from developing nations, including
those who identify with intersecting identities such as pansexual Iranians. At the national level, there are a number
of intersectional policies getting widespread attention. A good example is the Canadian government
recently deciding to grant asylum for LGBT Syrian refugees. Their new policy recognizes the importance
of supporting a group that faces unique discrimination resulting from their combined racial and sexual
minority identities. Does having multiple minority identities result
in worsened health? The answer to this question varies by the
type of identities, the type of health outcomes, and the associated strengths from having multiple
minority identities. For some health outcomes, Certain identities
can serve as protective factors whereas these same identities can serve as risk factors
for other health outcomes dependent on context. For example, we know that racial discrimination
toward Latino/a persons shapes negative health outcomes across the board (e.g. Lee & Ahn,
2011). Alternatively, we also know that familialism
connected to Latino/a cultural identity can boost social support and serve as a protective
factor against negative health outcomes (e.g. Campos et al., 2008). Identifying as Latino/a can, and often does,
serve as both a protective factor and a risk factor depending on other contextual elements
such as connectedness to Latino/a cultural norms, skin color, income level, English ability,
and citizenship status. Similar results are found with LGBT research
in which discrimination is linked with negative health outcomes, but we also see patterns
of community connectedness and resilience among LGBT folks who support one another as
a result of their shared minority identities. Intersectional analyses allow researchers
to examine how context shapes identities and the impacts of these identities on health
outcomes in more nuanced ways. Rather than just talking about health disparities
among Latino/a populations, we can look at how Latino/a identity relates to both risk
factors and protective factors, and how these factors are inextricably tied to other intersecting
identities which are likely also contextual in nature. You have heard our voices throughout the webinar,
and now we would like to put faces to these voices! Also, in addition to presenting the theory,
research, and practice on intersectionality work, we believe it is important to speak
on lived experiences as individuals with multiple intersecting identities.>I am a first generation gay Vietnamese-American
male. My preferred pronouns are “he” and “him”. To me, having intersecting identities means
frequently navigating my role through different communities. For instance, the LGBT community, I think
about how I belong as someone who is Asian-American. In the Asian-American community, I think about
what it means to be a gay man. Because of my identities, I have had to deal
with both racial and sexual orientation discrimination, but my identities have also provided me with
the privilege to adopt the strength and resiliency from both communities.>I am a non-Binary Pansexual
Middle Eastern with a masculine presentation, which means I generally ‘pass’ as a heterosexual
male in society. However, what I feel and the ways I process
the world around me relate to how I personally identify, rather than how I am perceived by
society. My preferred pronouns are “them” and “they”. Reflecting on my experiences, it is necessary
for me not only to advocate for myself, but to advocate for others who do not fit within
limited current social norms, and I try to embody that principal in everyday life — as
emphatically and conspicuously as is possible. Intersectionality is an exciting field that
continues to develop and change as scientists, practitioners, and policy makers continue
to do this work. Here are some questions meant to spark further
discussion on the topic of intersectionality. What might be some arguments against utilizing
an intersectional framework? What other identities are important to consider
when examining intersectionality? How can having multiple minority identities
be a source of strength or resiliency? Considering the potentially large number of
identities a single individual can embody, how many levels of intersecting identities
is useful or practical to examine? The following resources offer information
and support regarding the intersection of ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. Here are the references we used in our presentation. Download, distribution, and educational use
of these materials is encouraged, provided authorship is credited. Thank you for listening to this webinar from
the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students’ Committee on Sexual Orientation
and Gender Diversity. Please visit our website at There you can get our social media and email
information to leave us feedback and suggestions. You can also view additional training resources
and learn about ways to get involved in APAGS.

2 thoughts on “Intersectionalities in Psychology: Intersections of Race, Sexual Orientation, and Gender

  1. You are promoting a theory of infinite fractal nature, that, if true, means that no norming will ever occur, and if it does, it must immediately be described as oppressive if the norm lies in the majority. It also promotes that race and sex actually do matter, and have great impact on the outcome of an equitable playing field, thus we must establish a government body to equalize the variability based on sex and color…

    wholly shit, this is a fucked up theory.

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