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CENTRAL VOICE interview

Explanation of 'queering racial justice'

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Everyone’s lived experience is different,” says Keisha McToy, Manager of Operations, Alder Health Services.

Keisha McToy is a Harrisburg native. She is Manager of Operations for Alder Health Services, the only LGBT focused health center in a 120-mile radius of Harrisburg. She has been with the agency for over three years, Keisha lives in Lower Paxton Township with her wife and child.

Central Voice: What exactly does ‘queering racial justice’ mean?
Keisha McToy: Acknowledging the intersectionality of being a member of the LGBT community while also being a person of color and making sure that discussions and advocacy around race and racism is part of the LBGT equality movement.

CV: What is ‘Intersectionality’?
KM: The term coined by Kimberle Williams Crenshaw means “the complex and cumulative manner in which the effects of different forms of discrimination combine, overlap or intersect.” Different forms of discrimination cannot be examined separately from one another since they are all interconnected.

CV: Is it automatic that a white lesbian will naturally understand a black lesbian? Will a college educated black man automatically understand his Latinx waiter at brunch?
KM: It is not about a natural or automatic understanding because everyone’s lived experience is different. One black lesbian may not understand another black lesbian but the point is to try to learn from others’ unique experiences and realize the challenges they may face as a result of those experiences.

CV: Does a shared ‘non-heterosexual’ sexuality automatically mean we come ready-made with empathy for our queer environment?
KM: Not at all. Again, we have all had different lived experiences and therefore have different levels of privilege. Unless we make an intentional effort to learn from those who do not have the same privilege we do, we likely have some of the same biases that those outside our queer community do.

CV: If people from as many categories of Identity Politics as we can name came together to solve the problem of hunger in their community, is that a legitimate way of using their resources to solve a problem all groups have?

KM: Absolutely. Anytime many different subsets of people can come together for one cause, it is a tremendous accomplishment.

CV: Is that a better use of resources than debating who’s the hungriest?
KM: Of course, it is. Time spent debating who is the hungriest could be the difference between life and death for someone.

CV: f an individual comes from a privileged background (and recognizing that ‘privilege' is a relative term, i.e. I went to a state university, someone else went to Yale), do they have to apologize for being born into a family of means?
KM: There is absolutely no reason to apologize for your privilege. We all have some or another form of privilege. The key is to acknowledge that privilege and the power that it gives you and, in turn, use it to elevate those who do not share your privilege and subsequent power.

CV: If a person with more of something – money, education, a car, an extra room – helps someone with less, is that a legitimate way for a person of ‘privilege’ to help someone less fortunate?
KM: If that is what the person needs. We must ask what the needs of that person who is less fortunate are. We meet them where they are as much as we can. If you give someone a car and they don’t have money to put gas in it, what was the point? If you give someone a sofa or a bed and they have no home in which to place it, it defeats the purpose.