Now a college student and youth leader with the Jacksonville Area Sexual Minority Youth Network, a Florida-based LGBTQ advocacy group, she argues that for youths to express their whole selves, they have to embrace multiple, complex dimensions of their identities. “Intersectionality is not invisible, and it’s not something that should be overlooked,” she says.
A new report on school-based organizing, “Power in Partnerships” — published by civil rights groups the Advancement Project, the Equality Federation Institute and the Gay-Straight Alliance Network — examines the nexus between the criminal justice system and gender, sexual and racial identity and describes how Davinnié and her peers are transcending social barriers by organizing across them.
The report found that LGBTQ, or gender-nonconforming, youths, particularly those of color, can end up victims of bullying or discrimination not just by their peers but also by school staffers who work for a system that expects and enforces conformity and crushes self-expression. Socioeconomic inequality and a lack of public resources to fund a comprehensive and supportive educational environment also play big parts. Being branded as a criminal or a pervert every day at school compounds the internal struggle to define the nascent identities of these kids; often they seek escape the only way they can, by walking out of the classroom.
What’s more, black and Latino LGBTQ students typically experience far more violence and discrimination compared with their white peers, and since communities of color tend to be targets of law enforcement in underserved areas, even simple expressions of their identity — wearing a dress to class, for instance — might raise some eyebrows in a white, affluent high school but could push a trans teen of color into an arrest or even suspension from an underfunded school in a poor, heavily policed neighborhood. In this hostile and racially and economically stratified social climate, students likely see their education not as a resource for self-development but as an instrument of repression. And if they resist these rules and act defiant, that becomes a pretext for still more punishment.