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Students discuss intersectionality between race, gender, sexuality

| Friday, November 15, 2019

With the aim of creating a space for vulnerable dialogue regarding questions of gender, race and sexual orientation, a number of groups on campus came together Thursday night to sponsor the second “Let’s Talk About Race” discussion in Geddes coffee house.

In order to facilitate small group discussion, organizers prepared a set of questions to serve as launching points for discourse relating to the intersectional nature of gender, race and sexual orientation.

Senior Kenzie Isaac, who was part of the event’s planning committee, said the discussion was shaped in light of StaND Against Hate Week, which served to combat hate in all of its forms.

“How does your racial identity inform your gender and sexual expressions? How are gender and sexuality in dialogue with each other in your personal life? And how does your racial and ethnic identities underlie this dialogue if at all? These questions can be incredibly difficult to answer even when you’re approaching the question with your own personal narrative,” Isaac said.

While the questions were complex and nuanced, Isaac urged people to understand that there were no correct answers.

“We are simply providing a setting for your story to remain visible, validated and celebrated,” Isaac said. “We know that speaking on multiple [aspects] of your identities at once can be challenging and incite feelings of vulnerability especially because we are so used to navigating spaces where some of our identities are in direct contention with one another, compelling us to choose which ones to minimize and which ones to elevate, but this is not one of those spaces.”

Senior Sydney Porter, who also helped plan the event, said she was happy to see a number of new people who did not attend the last Let’s Talk About Race iteration.

“It’s good to know that we’re getting more and more people each time to show up and just talk about these conversations,” Porter said.

In regards to her discussion group, Porter said she gained insight as to the cultural influences surrounding questions about identity.

“At my table I had a lot of international students, and that gave me a whole different perspective on how your society or the way you grow up can influence your race, you sexual identity and your gender identity,” Porter said.

Throughout the night, Isaac said she also felt the need to check her own biases at times.

“It just goes to show that even the students who initiated this out of passion have so much work to do and we are not approaching this space claiming that we are the authorities on how to navigate these conversations, so we are students and teachers in this space and in the Notre Dame context at large,” she said.

Senior Vaishali Nayak, who attended the discussion, said she appreciated the opportunity for these conversations on campus.

“‘Let’s Talk About Race’ provides a space for us to talk about things that we all go through but we don’t take the time to reflect on … spaces like these let you talk about topics, let you think about topics in a more reflective light which can advise how you live your life with your friends and other relationships,” Nayak said. “Through reflective discussion on myself and others, I live my life better.”

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About Serena Zacharias

Serena is a member of the class of 2021 majoring in Neuroscience and Behavior and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She hails from the great cheese state of Wisconsin and is a former ND News Editor for The Observer.

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