Dr. Kimberle Crenshaw is credited as the person who coined the term intersectionality. But what does it mean in real life? To delve deeper into this probing question, I interviewed Khaaliq Crowder, who identifies as Black, plus-sized, Queer, and neurodiverse.
He said that there have been times when he has been the only Queer person in heterosexual rooms, the only Black person in White rooms, the only plus sized person in rooms full of skinny people, and the only neurodiverse person in a room full of neurotypical people. Because of this, Crowder noted, his brain "is sometimes a remote." In other words, it switches between identities as you would switch through the channels on a TV.
"It's a lot," he acknowledged. "I just don’t fit into one identity. I’m of many identities, and some days I’m more one identity than the other." This sentiment ties into code switching, which is "the practice of shifting the languages you use or the way you express yourself in your conversations," according to NPR.
Crowder's code switching began at a young age, he noted. As he was trying to understand the world, the world was simultaneously trying to understand him and people like him. Crowder shared a personal anecdote about these experiences.
He said, "I remember when I was younger, [my brother] would take me to summer camp – I went to summer day camp, and he had a purse. I didn’t realize that he, you know…some things you kind of see as normal until you go into the world and people make you realize, ‘Oh, that’s not supposed to happen’."
Today, there are androgynous male celebrities like Young Thug, Jaden Smith, and A$AP Rocky, but things were different when Crowder was growing up. It was 2004, and a man wearing a purse was a huge taboo, he noted. Because of this, Crowder was bullied at summer camp. Yet, times have changed, and not just in terms of homo- and transphobia.
He later added that he wishes he had seen someone like Lizzo growing up. "She’s kind of somebody I wish was around when I was in middle school," he stated. "Especially when I was younger, being plus sized was the worst."
Regarding the hate she's given, Crowder mentioned, "We live in a country where we feel like it’s okay to kind of comment on people’s bodies." On Twitter, this was seen in real time. A few weeks back, one user asked someone else, "How are you a fat trainer?"
The tone-deaf post insinuated that being fat negated being a trainer because you’re supposed to be skinny if you’re healthy. Really, that is the narrative that has been spread for a long time. On NPR’s “Short Wave” podcast, author and sociology professor Sabrina Strings said, “We can think about a new way of allowing people to have a positive relationship to their bodies and to cultivate health within themself and their communities that does not rely on fat stigma.” In other words, we can reimagine conversations about health that do not perpetuate fatphobia.
Yet, Lizzo is not just degraded for defying societal standards on what an acceptable body is. She is also degraded because she is a brown skinned Black woman making pop music when the predominating face of pop are White men and women, Crowder said.
Crowder mentioned Lizzo's foremothers such as Missy Elliot and Jill Scott but noted, "They sang about sex, but they didn’t take off their clothes." As Lizzo proudly walks in the nude, she is redefining how women, especially Black plus-sized women, should behave.
Really, Lizzo rebels against respectability politics, which has been a recent topic of conversation on social media following comedienne Mo'Nique's controversial video shaming women for wearing bonnets and pajamas in an airport (see above).
For The Grio, Shanna Pinnock wrote that these respectability politics are "deeply entrenched in white supremacy and whitewashing" and that so-called "Aunties" of Black culture expect younger Black women to fit into "stifling expectations we never asked for."
Really. there is a generational divide when it comes to respectability politics. Crowder said, "It’s kind of weird being my age because I remember when certain things were taboo, but we’re also the generation that’s destigmatizing a lot of things."
Part of destigmatization is education, which is not only learning but also un-learning. For people like Mo'Nique, it's letting go of internalized anti-Blackness and fatphobia. For others, it is learning more about queerness and all of its unique facets. For Crowder, it's about self love.
"I’m just unapologetically myself," he asserted. ~ℝ