Chapter 5: Intersectionality

In the fifth chapter of this course we’re going to focus on particular intersections of gender, race, class, culture and violence with sexual and gender expansiveness. This chapter is an invitation to always consider the multidimensionality of the lives of people we work with (and our own) and to decline universal or single storied descriptions of identity and experience.  


Sekneh Hammoud-Beckett (she/her), with Jamil (he/him) and Hasan (he/him), challenge dominant understandings of being gay and coming out and introduce us to the alternative practice of inviting people in. This work also illustrates the use of outsider witness questions and definitional ceremony to foster connection across difference and to enrich and thicken subjugated stories of identity.

Azima Ila Hayati – an Invitation in to My Life: Narrative Conversations about Sexual Identity — Sekneh Hammoud-Beckett

Here is the inviting in resource Sekneh developed for practitioners to foster conversations about inviting others in.

Charles Jasper (he/him) draws on the work of Sekneh Hammoud-Beckett in conversations with a group of gay men in San Francisco. Finding a way back to spiritual traditions.

Queer Lives and Spiritual Leanings: Gay Men Talking about How We Stayed Connected, or Got Re-connected, to Spiritual Practices and Religious Values under Challenging Circumstances — Charles Jasper.

In this interview Reverend Cody Sanders (he/him) describes findings from his narrative research about LGBTQ survivors experiences of surviving theological violence. Participants in his research came mainly from christian faith backgrounds but perhaps there may be resonance for folks from other religious traditions who have experienced harmful narratives about LGBTQ identities.


This short piece ‘Who am I? Who are my people? And where do I belong?’ explores considerations of spirituality by Claire Ralfs, a white, middle-class lesbian woman living on Aboriginal land.

The following two interviews with Moneira (she/her) and Tikka Jan Wilson (she/her) richly illustrate the complexity of identity and the dynamic interactions between race, faith, culture, sexuality, gender and experience.

A woman of culture negotiative arabic and lesbian identity- an interview with Moneira  in Queer Counselling and Narrative Practice.

A glimpse of the complexity of identity by Tikka Jan Wilson in Queer Counselling and Narrative Practice

Pat Durish (she/her) invites us to consider the limitations of traditional gender-based understandings of violence and shares principles that guide her work of responding to relationship violence in the Toronto LGBTIQ community.  

Honouring Complexity: Gender, culture and violence in the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer individuals — Pat Durish in Conversations about Gender, Culture, Violence & Narrative Practice.

Finally, join Manja Visschedijk (she/her) and Gipsy Hosking (she/her) as they weave preferred stories across shifting intersections of privilege and oppression. They remind us about narrative principles which reduce the risk of being co-opted by normalising judgement and inadvertently engaging in harmful or exclusionary practices.


Reflection questions (you will probably recognise these as outsider witness enquiries):

  • What words, phrases, stories, or ideas from this chapter stood out to you?
  • Did any images come to mind? Or maybe a story, song, or passage of scripture?
  • What is it about your life or practice that had these words, phrases, stories or ideas capturing your attention?
  • What will you do differently in your practice as a result of this reflection?

This Post Has 2 Comments

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    Megan M. Matthews

    Hi, I’m Megan (say it: “MEE-gan”) Matthews, writing from greater Cleveland, Ohio, USA.

    The words from this chapter that spoke loudest to me were the words of the title of Claire Ralfs’ piece “Who am I? Who are my people? And where do I belong?” Those words, coupled with the concepts of juxtaposition and intersection and juxtaposition of the identities of “queer woman” and “woman with an incurable and chronic illness”, brought immediately to mind the Billy Joel song “I Go To Extremes”, which I have long considered a sort of theme song for my life. These are some of the reasons why:

    I am a bisexual, polyamorous woman… and I am married to a heterosexual, monogamous/monoamorous man. My bisexuality and my polyamorousness are erased by my privileged status as a woman married to a man.

    I have a rare neurological disorder which could easily kill me… but is chronic but stable most of the time. My illness is erased by its invisibility.

    I was born into a middle class family and my family now is middle-class… but I have known firsthand what it was like to live below the poverty line for years. This experience becomes erased by my current privileged socioeconomic status.

    Who am I? I am a bundle of contradictions, intersections and extremes.

    Who are my people? My people are all those who live atypical lives outside the normative framework, but who often live at the same time behind masks of normativity.

    Where do I belong? Among my people.

    What will I do differently as a result of this reflection? I will increase the frequency with which I self-disclose to the clients I serve, many of whom are also my people, to convey to them the all-important message: “I see you. I hear you. And you are not alone – because I’ve been there too.”

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    Kelsi Semeschuk

    There was so much that was interesting in Zan’s interview with Cody Sanders. Specifically, I was drawn to the following quotes:
    ‘I became calm enough to realise that I would rather jettison the teachings that I had been given about God and Christ and the holy spirit and the kingdom of God, and hold onto my faith in Christ, and if it meant that I never had a community ever again – F*** it – I would just take it, because my faith is more important, my faith is the only thing…’ (From Thomas – participant in Cody’s research)

    ‘For almost all of my participants, there were really death-dealing, violent narratives running right alongside and intertwined with narrative that were life-giving, life-sustaining, that informed their sense of self in ways that they didn’t want to let go of…’ (Cody Sanders)

    Like Zan, I found this concept of ‘theological double-speak’ so interesting, and it also made me think of the therapeutic work I’ve done with people who have experiences of childhood sexual abuse. That is, the ‘double-speak’ effects of loving the very people who are abusing you and the ‘life-giving’ effects that went right alongside that abuse (e.g., in the case where children are reliant on their parents literally to stay alive and/or when people’s sense of love for the person who abuses them is ‘life-giving’ in many ways).

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