Visibility through Intersectionality

Intersectionality refers to the interconnectedness of social categories such as race, gender and socioeconomic status.  It can enhance understanding an individual and the interplay among their identities.  For example, a person may identify as non-binary and self-report in an ethnic minority category.  In addition to these primary identities, there could be less salient ones such as religious or spiritual preferences and generational group.  Intersectionality was first coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw, Columbia University law professor, to describe factors contributing to the social being of African American women.  In particular, the intersection of their race and gender was purported as a significant factor.  Intersectionality became widely applied over the years and has relevance when understanding systems and structures that impact vulnerable populations such as children and persons who are wrongfully criminalized.  Consider a child who experienced adverse events such as family violence and is also subjected to impoverished conditions.  Knowing them from these circumstances will offer insights for clearer visibility.

I’ve come to know visibility through intersectionality and recognize it as a conscious approach to see the individual beyond primary or surface level identities.  This requires cultural humility by acknowledging the person and their self-described circumstances, including those that are driven by social systems. On March 31, 2023, the nation proclaimed Transgender Day of Visibility to uplift transgender communities.  It provided an occasion to see gender-expansive people ranging from children to youth and young adults to the elderly.  The day of visibility was not only instrumental for seeing people and their humanity but also to learn about institutional policies and systems affecting their well-being.  It implores us to grow in knowledge and apply a multifaceted base when assessing the person in their environment.  Cultural humility may be strengthened when we choose to release default categorizations to explain people.


Crenshaw, K. W. (2010). Close encounters of three kinds: On teaching dominance feminism and intersectionality. Tulsa L. Rev.46, 151.

Gottlieb, M. (2021). The case for a cultural humility framework in social work practice. Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work30(6), 463-4.

White House (2023). Transgender Day of Visibility. (2023).

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