‘Intersections’ explores relationships between race, gender, and sexuality

Nov. 9, 2010, 2:02 a.m.

A Monday lunch discussion on “Immigration as a Queer Issue” marked the beginning of “Intersections,” a series of events this week sponsored by Stanford Students for Queer Liberation. “Intersections,” currently in its first year, is being billed as “a week of exploring and celebrating the intersections of race, gender and queer sexuality.”

The week of events aims to highlight the connectedness of these issues, said Alok Vaid-Menon ’13, co-president of Stanford Students for Queer Liberation, previously known as the Emma Goldman Society.

'Intersections' explores relationships between race, gender, and sexuality
Juba Kalamka performs on Monday night at "Homohop." The event was a part of "Intersections," a week that explores the connections between race, gender, and queer sexuality. (JIN ZHU/Staff Photographer)

“Most gay rights organizing doesn’t bring up race,” Vaid-Menon said. “We’re trying to dispel the notion that racial justice and gay rights are separate causes. You can’t fight for one without talking about the other.”

The event aims to “bring a lot of people into the room, into the audience, that might not interact otherwise,” said Holly Fetter ’13, co-president of Stanford Students for Queer Liberation.

“Intersections” will include a discussion on indigenous queer identity, a panel of local transgender-identified activists of color and an open forum for discussion, among other events. The weeklong series is co-sponsored by 24 other student groups, Fetter said.

As a few dozen students sat attentively Monday in El Centro Chicano, Neil Grungras, founder and executive director of the Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration (ORAM), and Chris Barnett of Out4Immigration spoke about their work to help LGBT individuals escape persecution.

“We are one big family…we need to start taking responsibility for one another,” Grungras said.

The ORAM, founded in 2008, advocates for refugees fleeing sexual and gender-based persecution worldwide.

Grungras stressed that the biggest obstacle for LGBT refugees is finding protection. Many LGBT refugees become stuck in hiding in countries of transit because they face difficulty in coming to the United States.

Seventy-five countries criminalize same-sex relations, of which seven apply the death penalty, Grungras said. The process of coming out and seeking a safe haven can be both extremely frightening and deeply shaming, he added.

“Things are improving because we’re talking about the issue,” Grungras said.

When asked about his work advocating for refugees, a community often aided by the Catholic Church, Grungras spoke about “finding a common ground to alleviate suffering,” rather than cutting ties with the Church by pushing too hard for language concerning same-sex marriage.

Grungras said his emphasis to the Catholic community is “we just want a home,” and refugees should be granted this right without regard to sexual orientation.

Eric Griffis ’12 and Imani Franklin ’12 were two students in attendance.

“It’s really important to emphasize that these issues don’t fit into strict categories,” Griffis said after the discussion.

Franklin expressed her desire to find a way to reach out to different people with these events.

“I hope students outside of the queer community and communities interested in immigration were present,” Franklin said.

“I hope we weren’t speaking too much to the choir,” she added.

Michael Picasso ’12 commented on the goal of the week and why he thinks integration of different topics is important.

“As a queer person of color, it’s very important to talk about how mainstream issues are affecting queer people differently…and how queer issues affect queer people of color differently.”

Fermin Mendoza ’11 said the event was “very reaffirming” for him as an immigrant and queer person and reflected on his identity as a queer immigrant in a Catholic family.

“It’s hard being stuck in both worlds,” he said. “This is inspiring me to build bridges between both communities.”

“Intersections” includes lunchtime and evening events Tuesday through Friday and will culminate in a vogue dance performance and panel by local dancers from the House of Revlon Friday at 7 p.m. in the A3C ballroom. An unannounced, direct action event will also take place on Monday, Nov. 15.

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