You can’t really know where you are going until you know where you’ve been
Kimberlé Crenshaw’s (1989) concept of intersectionality has been entering my purview as the conversations about gender, race and systemic discrimination have become a part of the narrative, especially in the last couple of years. She uses the term to describe “… how certain aspects of who you are will increase your access to the good things or your exposure to the bad things in life.” It provides me with rich context to understand my own experiences and the interwoven complexities of my story.
Trauma therapists will often create a “trauma timeline” with a client which is a snapshot of traumatic experiences a person has had throughout their life. The creation of this timeline suggests that it is a linear process but my trauma timeline feels more like a dreaded roundabout that we all love (to hate). Enter in intersectionality. I have lived a complex trauma story, and I am becoming increasingly aware of the many intersections that are alive and engrained.
I have experienced childhood trauma.
I have experienced gender-based trauma.
I have experienced relational trauma.
I have experienced racialized trauma.
At the moment these realizations feel like a heavy weight, constricting my ability to breathe. All of these traumatic experiences understood singularly are difficult for a person to go through, but I am now realizing the indelible mark that each of these experiences has created in weaving together the complex traumas I have experienced. I am mourning the pieces taken from me in these intersections of my life. And like the roundabout, it feels like I am stuck in the circle and cannot easily navigate the exiting. Looping back to the deeper layers as I process and integrate my life’s journey.
It also allows me to have compassion for myself and others who have experienced intersectional traumas, and the ensuing complexities on the healing path. It provides the opportunity to deepen the conversations about trauma which at the moment is all a buzz in mental health arenas.
Trauma isn’t one thing, one experience, one narrative. It is the sorrowful, deep tapestry of pain, loss, and despair.
AND it is the stories of survival, healing, and thriving.
To be truly “trauma-informed” we must pay attention to the complexities and depth of a person’s experience. We must create space for the intersections to become acknowledged and seen. We must show patience and grace in allowing people to share their experiences.
When the tides inevitably change and intersectionality becomes passè that’s when the REAL work begins. We must be willing to dig deeper and see who is left standing, who is really listening, and who REALLY wants to change. If things are going to ultimately change for the better we must commit to the long game and roll up our sleeves to really make a difference.
Otherwise, my friends, it is just another traumatizing experience.