Intersectionality and the Tensions Between Service Provision and Political Organizing within Los Angeles’ Black LGBT Movement
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Intersectionality provides a framework that analyzes how various salient identities simultaneously interact to produce social phenomena rather than more predominant monolithic approaches that treat an identity as though it exists in a vacuum. Black LGBT (BLGBT) people have a unique lived experience, facing issues such as widespread invisibility, queer-phobia, and disproportionate HIV/AIDS rates. Problems like HIV/AIDS within the BLGBT community coupled with queer-phobia and invisibility magnify challenges in ameliorating suffering, perpetuating the problem. There is a major debate over the best way to address the diverse needs of BLGBTs, where service provision and organizing are pitted against one another in mutually exclusive, dichotomous categories. On one end, service providers argue that suffering needs to be immediately addressed, while the staunch organizer claims that services distract from the true solution- garnering support for systemic change. The scarcity of financial resources and human labor, especially within a doubly marginalized community, creates inter-organizational competition, which can increase tensions. As my research finishes, I have come to three major conclusions. First, there are no truly apolitical actions; rather services and organizing fall on a spectrum. Even something as seemingly benign as a safe space foments a political consciousness around a marginalized identity. Second, while organizing is indeed the way to accomplish structural change, both are needed in a balance as they address different needs. Lastly, while differing methods and/or funding competition can strain inter-organizational relations, leadership on both sides ultimately support one another, acknowledging that they seek the same end goal.