Oct 052010
 
Authors: Alexandra Sieh

A woman of many different identities, Mia Mingus considers intersectionality an unavoidable and important part of life.

Difficult to define, she put it quite simply.

“It’s a big fancy word for my life. For your life. For our lives,” she said.

“It’s important to recognize each other,” she emphasized, and with her own struggles as personal evidence, she said there’s a lot to consider when thinking about a person’s identity.

As the keynote speaker for this year’s GLBT History Month, Mingus spoke as an author and activist in the North Ballroom of the Lory Student Center Tuesday night, a voice coming from a background not many share.

A queer, physically disabled woman of color, Mingus was born in Korea and then adopted by a white family, and spent her early years in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. She now lives in Atlanta, Ga., having found her passion in activism in speaking about struggles others live with but rarely get to share.

Self-described as being in a “hot and heavy relationship” with her work, Mingus has been “queered” by her body and disability, but also by her experiences as a transracial, transnational adoptee and woman of color, becoming a strong activist in different communities nationally.

But as she told an audience of different races and sexual orientations, it was only when she began to tell her own story that she developed this activist voice.

A believer that one’s stories are “tools for liberation,” it was when she was “learning to understand my experiences and my story as valuable and complex,” that she found her breath.

“It let me breathe,” she said, and with that breath she stepped forward as an advocate for justice.

A challenge to the audience, Mingus encouraged those in attendance to imagine a world in which they want to live and what it would take to make that a reality.

For Brandon Cox, a student working with the Diversity and Social Justice Program on campus, it was these and other challenges that made her such an important speaker.

“She really spoke to me and raised a lot of questions I hadn’t considered before,” he said of his response to reading her blog before her speech.

An “eye-opening and mind-exploding” experience, Cox said he appreciated her focus on invisible communities, groups unnoticed or underrepresented.

Looking closer at these hidden identities, Mingus said she hopes to see each person as a “whole person,” understanding that we all carry with us “different histories of violence and trauma,” but also histories of strength and resilience.

“As we connect different systems of oppression,” she said, “we can simultaneously understand them to be intimately connected and made from the same fabric even. They’re not the same, but they come from similar roots.”

A queer woman, Mingus said that the queer part of her identity was both descriptive and political, a power that gave her and all others like her a gift.

“One of the superpowers that we bring to the table as queer people is the ability to shift and change and queer how we love each other and what that’s going to look like as we work together,” she said.

And that power was one she said she hoped to emphasize as essential to those in the GLBT community.

Queerness, she said, challenged not only the “myth of independence” but also the institution of marriage, the ownership of children and the binaries of what both a romantic and platonic relationship look like.

But it isn’t only a queer identity that can do this.

To truly succeed, she said, communities must find that common thread and work together to realize that it is the combination of identities that make their movements stronger, an idea that resonated with many in attendance.

“We’re not one identity or another,” said Emily Ambrose, an employee at the Student Leadership, Involvement and Community Engagement office. “We all have identities that intersect.”

“What impacted me most is that we can’t just focus on one community without another and be successful,” said Blair Bacon, another second year student for the Diversity and Social Justice Program.

“If people would realize that, that each movement meshes with another, then they’d all be more successful,” she said.
In the end, Mingus said, it came down to practicing solidarity with other communities.

“We can save each other’s lives and hold each other accountable,” she said.

“It’s about using our desires in ways to bring us closer to liberation. Now that is queer.”

Design Editor and Copy Chief Alexandra Sieh can be reached at news@collegina.com.

What: Mia Mingus will speak at Women at Noon on Reproductive Justice 101
Where: Aylesworth C111
When: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. today

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