Where LGBT Equality and Women’s Equality Intersect

One word that was emblazoned across protest signs at Women’s Marches around the U.S. this week was “intersectionality.”  For those unfamiliar with the term, the website GeekFeminism.wikia.com defines it as:

“A concept often used in critical theories to describe the ways in which oppressive institutions (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another.”

In the coming months (and maybe years) ahead, this term is going to be key to working for LGBTQ equality.   Last Saturday’s Women’s Marches were a testament to the fact there is a new awareness growing in the progressive consciousness that we cannot only be focused on single issues, because, in fact, so many of the issues of oppressed populations intersect with each other.   Oppression is oppression.

While “intersectionality” may be a new term in our language, it is certainly not a new concept. Oppressions have always been connected to each other.  In naming this connection with the term “intersectionality,” we are made more aware of these connections.

As Catholics who work for LGBT equality in the church, we have an important call to work intersectionally with those Catholics who work for women’s equality in the Church.  Justice demands that we do so, but so does the fact that discrimination against LGBT people is intimately connected with discrimination against women.

For example, so much of the religious prohibitions against male homosexuality have to do with the mistaken belief that gay men are putting themselves in the position of women.  Why is this bad?  Because, in this anti-gay type of thinking, being a woman is an inferior status.  So, a gay man is seen as foregoing his “natural” superior position to become more like a woman.

Similarly, lesbian women are denigrated because they are seen as not “naturally” subordinating themselves to men.  They are seen as being rebellious by not acquiescing to men, which is seen as the “natural” role for a woman.

It cannot be overstated how much homophobia and transphobia are based in the more general prejudice of sexism.

On the positive side, feminism has contributed greatly to the LGBT movement, particularly in the Catholic Church.  Feminist theology about the importance of basing sexual morality on the quality of interpersonal relationships, instead of on sexual activity has paved the way for a new Catholic sexual ethic which could approve of same-gender relationships.

More basically, feminist theory has presented new understandings of gender and gender roles which are liberating for all people, whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or heterosexual. Feminist ideas provide new ways for understanding our sexuality and our place in society which are liberating and loving.

More concretely, at least in the U.S. (and I imagine in many other nations, too), it is Catholic nuns who have been among the most outspoken and forthright opponents of homophobia and transphobia in the Church.

Helping to liberate Catholic women also helps to liberate Catholic LGBT people.

On this past Sunday, the Bondings 2.0‘s post suggested that we all make a resolution to “Oppose racism, sexism, homophobia, antisemitism, Islamophobia, and all forms of exclusion.” That’s a tall order, of course, and we must be alert to all forms of oppression.

But, as Catholics who seek LGBT justice, we must be particularly opposed to the second-class status that women have in our Church.   We need to be vigilant against sexism, in all its forms, including the ban on ordination to the priesthood.  Our quest for justice must be a quest for justice for all.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, January 24, 2017


6 replies
  1. Tim MacGeorge
    Tim MacGeorge says:

    Thanks for this helpful and informative post. I was not familiar with the use of this term — intersectionality — in this way. Because there is a connection between oppression’s many manifestations, it makes sense that those who experience one form or another work together and support one another whenever possible. The worlds of politics and community organizing are very familiar with the coalition building that is necessary for change to come about. Coalitions do themselves harm when their focus is on points of difference rather than on those areas where they intersect. We saw a bit if this over the weekend when a pro-life women’s group (New Wave Feminists) was removed as a sponsor of the D.C. March. We see the US bishops do this all the time — albeit selectively — when the choose not to partner with others on Issue A because they hold a different position on Issue B. I’ve had some recent experiences — and we see this on social media frequently — that sadly remind me that LGBTQ persons can be just as discriminatory or as insensitive or even hateful as anyone else. To modify your last line, we must always remember that injustice for one is injustice for all.

  2. Don Siegal
    Don Siegal says:


    Last Sunday, the expanded teaching portion of the catechesis for our RCIA dismissal was an interactive discussion of sin in Our Lives. When the discussion turned to social sin (AKA institutional sin) the interaction became much more lively. I was pleased with the participation of our group.

    My source materials asked this poignant question, “Why does social sin prevail?” The response was, “Because we fail to name social evils and seek to correct them.”

    Frank, your profound essay answers that question in an even better way. We can’t attack one issue in isolation because they are in intimate relationship with other -isms. While intersectionality is a complex way to look at equality; it is the way to do so in a workable comprehensive way.

  3. Mary E Hunt
    Mary E Hunt says:

    This is helpful, Frank. I think we can’t overemphasize enough how deeply linked these issues are. I think we are making progress even in Catholic circles as the contradictions become increasingly obvious. Best, MEH


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] to practice intersectional solidarity (for more information on what intersectionality is click here). The problem today, she wrote, was “this enduring sense that the church’s treatment of women […]

  2. […] extent, a unified cause. Bondings 2.0’s Editor Francis DeBernardo, explored this point in a post this past January. The participants from each movement can learn from one another, and support one […]

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