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The Power of Intersectionality: Black LGBTQIA+ Men Reshaping the Narrative in Religious and Educational Settings

My research is centered around identity and belonging. Specifically, how Black men identifying as members of the LGBTQIA+ community navigate religious and educational settings firmly rooted in oppressive heteronormative structures. Both religious and educational institutions are built around heteronormative principles that implicitly value and presuppose heterosexuality. Within heteronormative religious and educational spaces, many are confronted with feelings of isolation and alienation.

The presence of homophobia, racism, and other forms of discrimination fosters a hostile environment that marginalizes and excludes individuals like me. The weight of societal expectations, urging conformity, and the concealment of my true self, have resulted in internal conflict, mental health challenges, and a profound sense of disconnection. Nevertheless, I have refused to allow these obstacles to define me. Instead, I have discovered resilience within myself and actively sought out supportive networks, including LGBTQIA+ student organizations, allies, and inclusive educators who have offered me a vital sense of belonging and understanding.

To confront the challenges inherent in navigating heteronormative religious and educational spaces, I have become an unwavering advocate for change. To effectively confront the challenges of navigating heteronormative religious and educational spaces, I employ specific strategies aimed at advocating for change and fostering inclusivity. By engaging in conversations and participating in social justice activism, I have dedicated my time, research, and efforts to raising awareness about LGBTQIA+ rights and advocating for equality; collaborating with stakeholders to create policies that dismantle oppressive systems and promote inclusivity; and sharing personal stories and perspectives to foster dialogues and promote understanding among my peers and educators has become practice. By humanizing the LGBTQIA+ experience and highlighting the challenges faced, I aim to break down barriers and promote empathy and acceptance. Together with my peers and educators, I actively challenge the oppressive systems that perpetuate heteronormativity.

My passion lies in creating safe and inclusive environments for myself and all others. Engaging in conversations that surround LGBTQIA+ issues, participating in social justice activism, and driving for the implementation of inclusive policies and practices have been central to my mission and research interest. By openly sharing my personal stories, experiences, and perspectives, I contribute to fostering dialogue and promoting understanding among my peers and educators. Together, we challenge the oppressive systems perpetuating heteronormativity.

Embracing my intersectional identity plays a pivotal role in my personal journey. I acknowledge and celebrate the interconnected nature of my race, religion, sexuality, and other facets of my identity. I actively contribute to a more nuanced understanding of identity within religious and educational spaces by challenging the prevalent monolithic narratives. Getting to a point where we all take immense pride in bringing our unique perspectives and insights to the forefront is critical.

My experience is not mine alone but is shared by all of us. Together, we possess the power to dismantle heteronormative systems and foster institutions of religion and education that embraces equity and inclusivity for all individuals, irrespective of their race, sexuality, or gender identity.

Charles A. Barnes II, JD is the current AACTE Holmes Scholar president and is a doctoral student in Urban and Diverse Learning Environments at Rowan University.