If you’ve perused my course on Sex & Birth, you’ll notice that an entire module/week is devoted to intersectionality and voices from the margins right at the start of the course, so that these ideas remain with us throughout the rest of the weeks. Why is this important, you ask?
First, I want to introduce you to a very important person: Jasbina Justice, the editor of the Sex & Birth Manual.
I could not have done this work without the guidance and brilliance of Jasbina Justice. Jasbina Justice is an Intersex Femme queer person who is mixed. They are South Asian and Caribbean. They are a settler living on colonized land known as Tkaronto, Turtle Island, land of the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, Mississaugas of the New Credit, Huron-Wendat and other Indigenous peoples. They live with an invisible disability and have Complex PTSD. They have been running workshops, doing consultations, and generally working in equity and social justice for the last five years. They are a poet, writer, multimedia artist, performance artist, community educator, facilitator, former sex worker, and yoga teacher.
As a white settler, I knew I was going to need some help! It was working with Jasbina that helped me understand these 4 important reasons for the inclusion of intersectionality in this course:
#1 Intersectionality is the understanding that the totality of our person cannot be understood by merely looking at each of our identities in isolation. Rather, it is at the intersection, or where these identities meet, where unique and compounded oppression’s can be found.
The term intersectionality was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in the late 80’s when she was trying to find a way to explain black women who experienced obstacles not just because they were women and not just because they were black, but because they were both black and women. Here is a great video of Crenshaw breaking down the definition. This is important in sexuality education because…
#2 Most sex education in Canada is taught from a white, colonial, cisgendered, able-bodied, heterosexual, middle-upper class, educated, incomplete perspective.
Though about 72.5% of Canadians identify as white, this number continues to drop and dramatically changes depending on the area. In Tkaronto, specifically, more than 50% of folks belong to a visible minority (you can see the stats Canada breakdown here). In Saskatchewan, the indigenous population is predicted to increase threefold by 2045.
In 2012, 11% of Canadians had some kind of physical or mental disability that limited their day-to-day life. Sex and disabilities is often disregarded at all levels of education (elementary, highschool, undergraduate), unless someone is specifically seeking to learn about this topic.
Although the percentage of trans or intersex folks who birth is relatively small, it is all the more reason to make sure we are not lost in trainings because we are often lost in the literature and research.
When you belong to a minority group, it is easy to feel isolated and not have information that is relevant to you. This exclusion from information is dangerous to all aspects of our health, including sexual health.
#3 We live in a colonised country on stolen land.
White supremacy is real and colonisation is a historical and current ongoing process that continues to cause harm and/or death of black and indigenous communities today. For example, the sterilization of Indigenous women after birth was a common practice historically and is still happening now. See this Washington post article for details.
This happened and continues to happen because white, able-bodied, heterosexual, upper-class settlers in power go to great lengths to maintain their power by demonizing everyone who isn’t them.
We can improve overall health of our clients by understanding how sexuality is shaped by Canada’s colonial context and committing to the decolonisation of sexual health. In order to do this…
#4 We must understand our own privilege and oppression in order to notice the unconscious biases that impact our client care.
No one (that I know of) is completely privileged or completely oppressed, most people have a varying degree of both. This impacts our biases about groups we don’t belong to, which absolutely impacts the care we give to our clients whether we are consciously aware of it or not. For more reading on this topic, I highly recommend Deep Diversity: Overcoming Us vs. Them by Shakil Choudhury.
That’s why we spend a week talking about intersectionality in Canada.
By no means is this course perfect. I am still learning and continually seeking resources and community connections to improve the course.
My hope is that this course will not only contribute to your professional expertise as a doula, but also offer an opportunity to enrich your understanding of sexuality beyond first-hand experiences.
Check out more details about the course here!
Tynan Rhea is a Sexual Health Counselor living and working in Toronto. They have carefully crafted the Sex and Birth Support Person training from their education and experiences. To learn more about them find their bio here.