In defining Asian American, we often begin with common experiences– physical colonization, economic imperialism, discriminatory immigration policies, overlap of cultural values like strong familial obligations, racialization as the foreign/exotic, etc. (leave a comment if any of those sound interesting)– and then move towards the mind boggling diversity of experiences within the community.
In unraveling this diversity of experiences, it’s helpful to talk about something called intersectionality. Intersectionality is when multiple parts of a person’s or community’s identity combine to create a new experience. For example, the experience of Asian American women is not just a combination of the experiences of Asian American men and nonAsian American women. The experiences of Asian American women are unique to Asian American women, even though they do have similarities. To take this one step further, the experiences of queer Asian American women are more complicated than taking the experiences of Asian American women and tacking on some lesbian issues, or taking LGBTQ issues and expecting Asian American women to fit into them.
Identity is more than a collage or spreadsheet of movable parts. Intersectionality means that identity is like a very complicated color wheel, where every new combination creates a new complicated shade of issues.