The EUD attended a webinar hosted by the WFD on the 18th of November. The event was titled ‘Intersectionality: Learning about our diverse Deaf communities’, and aimed to discuss, raise awareness, and reflect on how to tackle the multiple forms of discrimination faced by deaf people due to their intersectional identities. Speakers from all around the globe were featured, from India, South Africa, and Chile, to Sweden, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The WFD also used this opportunity to launch its statement on intersectionality.
Its President, Joseph Murray, conducted the opening address emphasising that intersectionality is an integral part of the WFD’s 2020–2030 strategic plan and the goal of its work in partnership with various organisations. Dr Murray referred in his talk to the phrase ‘equality for all people’, highlighting the different identities that require equality, including deaf identities as well as intersecting identities.
Abigail Gorman, a member of the WFD Expert Group on Human Rights, presented the statement on intersectionality and explained that the word was coined by a black lawyer by the name of Kimberly Crenshaw in 1989. Mrs Gorman referred to the Section 2 of the WFD charter on sign language, which recognises that deaf communities have a unique intersectionality of rights derived from belonging to multiple linguistic and cultural groups. The statement also includes a call for more data about different people’s lived experiences and understanding the intersecting areas that impact their daily lives.
Two young content creators and activists spoke next, namely Lydia Gratis from Ireland and Romel Belcher from Sweden. Ms Gratis explained that some people may have a misconception of what intersectionality is, as they sign it in a form that appears to signify ‘layer upon layer’. Instead, she said, intersectionality is a merging of several identities into one identity. Meanwhile, Mr Belcher raised the point that the deaf community tend to focus on being deaf and part of the deaf community, which sometimes means that the power dynamics around being a black person are neglected. Both speakers stated that seeing intersectional identities represented at the top level of NADs and other deaf organisations will help ensure that intersecting perspectives are included.
The final speaker was Najma Johnson, the Executive Director at DAWN (the Deaf Abused Women Network), a Washington DC-based organisation. They aim to promote healthy relationships and reduce abuse in the deaf community. Johnson emphasised the link between colonisation and intersectionality, as racism and discrimination operate within our society and in parallel in the deaf community. They argue that just as hearing communities marginalise their disabled people, the deaf community does it to other minorities. Najma Johnson concluded their speech by asking participants to recognise the impact of colonisation and its effects on intersectionality.
In conclusion, many speakers spoke about the need for more reflection on diversity among the representatives across the NADs and deaf organisations, to ensure more accurate and comprehensive representation. To make the leadership diverse, inclusive, reflective of mainstream society, certain members of the deaf community should be considered when it comes to campaigning. The EUD is committed to promoting intersectional identities and will set up a working group focusing on intersectionality in 2022. The group’s aim will be to mainstream intersectional perspectives in the EUD’s policy work and other activities and those of its member organisations.