For December, Yara Hussein, Queen’s student currently completing her second year as a biochemistry major with a minor in global development, shares with us the unique perspective that the intersection of her identities has awarded her
d-20: a dice used in the game of Dungeons and Dragons and is unique due to its 20-sided nature rather than the traditional 6-sided dice. Used to depict the multiple social identities of people. Note: one can have more or less than 20 sides to their own d-20.
Intersectionality: a framework that conceptualizes a person, group of people, or social problems as affected by a number of discriminations and disadvantages. It takes into account an individual’s identities and experiences in order to understand the complexity of prejudices they face (Crenshaw, 1989).
The d-20 as The Person
Growing up in the west, I’ve had many unique experiences that have shaped my growth and my vision of the world. Being a Muslim, neurodivergent, immigrant woman of colour awarded me a unique perspective in navigating daily life in a white-centric environment. And despite my own diverse nature, I often found myself forced into a corner with how I present my various identities.
At times, I may be seen as just a woman, with only one of my inequalities at the forefront. However, my other identities as a Muslim, Egyptian immigrant, coming from a lower-middle class household demonstrate how these forms of oppression operate together, and the consequent lived experience is not just the sum of its parts.
It nearly always felt random, as though I was rolling some dice. Never did those around me think to ask, “what do You identify as? how do you want us to see you?” Rather, it was as if all intersectional people are given a d- 20 dice with their identities on each face. Pick what you’ll be accepted for today and discard all else.
And while this may be a bleak and negative view of the d- 20, the dice itself did nothing wrong. Instead of being forced to roll the dice and pick a mask to wear, I instead choose to carry my d- 20 with me wherever I go, in all its multi-faceted glory, as a reminder that I don’t have to choose. That I shouldn’t be expected to choose. And that my dice is mine to hold and to roll as I please, but never to be used to subdue any sides of my identity.
As I learn to holistically love these sides of my identity and the ways they intersect, I have learnt that our identities don’t independently exist. We must fully celebrate every part of who we are in every space. The communities we belong to must also fully celebrate every part of who we are regardless of their main targeted group.
The d-20 as The World
Another way we can understand the d-20 is by relating it to the world and communities at large. An inherent example that demonstrates the urgency of understanding and implementing intersectional understandings in all forms of social justice work would be the one-sidedness of whiteness in feminist theory and how it endangers women of colour. Feminism is not feminism if it excludes the voices of Black women, Indigenous women, and women of colour. Feminism is not feminism if it doesn’t see, support, and advocate for every side/dimension of the d-20 dice.
What communities can take from this is that by recognizing and supporting each side of an individual’s d-20 dice, we can better understand the various discriminations and oppressions an individual may face and then better advocate holistically for every side of their d-20.
Understanding intersectionality is vital in combatting the interwoven prejudices that marginalized peoples face in their daily lives. Often, when intersectional individuals are in a single community of their identity, they feel that they must leave the rest of their identities at the door as those parts of them may not be welcomed.
Evidently, by ensuring that every individual’s d-20 is seen, heard, and represented, we can continue learning about one another and understand how we can advocate for those individuals whose identities intersect diverse communities. The d-20 intersectional framework will only strengthen us when combating oppressive lawmakers and policies as we realize our multifaceted dice are what connect us in the game of life.
- Crenshaw, Kimberlé. (2016). “The Urgency of Intersectionality”. TEDWomen2016. https://www.ted.com/talks/kimberle_crenshaw_the_urgency_of_intersectionality?referrer=playlist-talks_to_help_you_understand_s%20