Intersectionality is an identity concept that acknowledges the multidimensionality and complexity of people’s lives. This concept theorizes that the social oppression experienced by individuals emerges from an intersection of different oppressive identities and social inequalities instead of singular sidelined identities (Rai et al. 2). Rai et al. propose that institutions, systems, and social actors often enact and reinforce various experiences of marginalization, oppression, and discrimination which have negative psychological, social, and behavioral effects on individuals (2). Nevertheless, such experiences do not exist on their own.
Rather, they intersect and interact with other forms of social identities to create life experiences that adversely affect the involved victims (Castillo‐Lavergne et al. 1117). Thus, this essay seeks to employ the framework of intersectionality to discuss identity categories and how they have intersected to shape my life experiences, especially in the health care field. These identity categories include class, gender, age, and ethnicity, and are discussed in detail as follows.
Class is one of the identity categories in which socioeconomic status has intensely affected my experience regarding healthcare access. Particularly, poverty is the most prevalent intersectional adversity as its effect manifests in our social standing in the community we live in. Scott et al. state that it is crucial to note that structural and individual levels are the driving forces of socioeconomic inequalities (2). In this case, being poor comes with an intensified double stigma of having a health condition, and one cannot afford medication. At the same time, a wealthy person still earns respect despite having the same health condition.
For instance, in my interaction with people from lower-class backgrounds, I have experienced how society treats the wealthy with respect whereas those coming from lower-income families are shamed and disrespected based on their disease. Having a disease like diabetes, Scott et al. assert that it is often difficult for a person from lower economic background to afford health services and buy the required medicines (15). Eventually, this economic condition limits the management and proper treatment of the disease leading to the victim living in self-denial and feeling more stigma.
Consequently, it becomes more difficult for poor people to accept themselves and their existing health condition because of struggling to survive and buying medicine for treatment. However, for wealthy people, their survival does not require many struggles as they can easily buy whatever medicines are prescribed regardless of the price. Moreover, it is easier for them to develop self-acceptance because they are well informed about their sickness (Rai et al. 7). Additionally, while health insurance has heightened access to free health services and subsidized medication, I strongly feel that this health care program has not yet improved marginalization experiences among the poor. Despite the insurance coverage, lower-class individuals struggle to access treatment services and afford specialized care that the insurance does not cover.
Gender is another identity category where gender role deviations, norms, and perceptions surrounding gender have affected my experiences. Essentially, gender identity affects men as society has set expectations in which men are required to be strong compared to women who are pitied or tolerated (Rai et al. 8). As a man, I understand that one is expected to be a family head and become an economic provider. However, when a man has a health condition and cannot work, he becomes a liability to the family and society. Mostly, in health-related experiences, discrimination is common especially among HIV people, and more stringent, in men who are harshly treated due to the prevalent gender and social norms (Rai et al. 7).
Consequently, I view men as facing double stigmatization because society automatically considers them as either promiscuous or having bad behavior. In my experience, society can term an HIV-positive man as irresponsible and hold the notion that being a man, one should make better and informed choices. Furthermore, Rai et al. state that men with HIV are biologically known to be susceptible to negative effects, including the risk of losing jobs and higher chances of breaking their families (7). When faced with such labeling, men end up with shame, losing hope, and feeling lonely in life due to their health condition and gender identity in a society where they are required to live up to the set expectations.
Age has also added to my intersectionality experience as society views people living with various health conditions such as diabetes. Herein, diabetic individuals, especially older people, get blamed for bringing the condition to themselves due to their irresponsible dietary choices (Rai et al. 8). For instance, when people know that an older person has diabetes, they would most likely say that it is a common condition for middle-aged people and that they have eaten too much.
However, society has a mixed and varied perception of younger people as it either ridicules them, does not believe them, feels sorry, or blames their parents for allowing their health condition. Also, while older people get blamed for their conditions and receive empathy, younger individuals, on the other hand, receive sympathy and concern (Rai et al. 8). Subsequently, younger people find it easier to reintegrate into normal life as they become optimistic about having a bright future, whereas older people find themselves isolated from society.
Besides, as a Japanese American, I understand that ethnic identity brings experiences of inequality and oppression, which label a certain group of people and marginalize them. This type of marginalization occurs mostly through cultural devaluation; a mechanism that socially excludes people in invisible and silent ways that however have profound effects on those that are excluded. As Castillo‐Lavergne et al. note, ethnicity usually intersects with socioeconomic status resulting in discrimination which normally happens due to cultural practices and norms that define the social position of a person in the society (1120).
Accordingly, ethnic differentials have a negative impact on service provision, particularly in public health services where prejudice toward minorities affects the quality of these essential services. An example is the unequal distribution of doctors and essential medical services to areas of ethnic minorities. This inequality is a result of the perception that the minority holds cultural beliefs and religious differences that are not welcoming, and physicians might feel uneasy working in such settings (Castillo‐Lavergne et al. 1122). Thus, it is undeniable that ethnic minority people experience failed health services that minimally address their medical needs.
Conclusively, intersectional experiences play a major role in devaluing and discrediting individuals with marginalized identities. These exclusionary institutional policies and social norms intersect with oppressions that correspond to a person’s identity, eventually shaping life experiences. This discussion has highlighted that socioeconomic status and gender identity form the most common inequalities that shape life experiences. The intersection of gender oppression and poverty with discrimination worsens the experiences of individuals trying to access health care services due to devaluation and subjugation.
Castillo‐Lavergne, Claudia M., and Mesmin Destin. “How the Intersections of Ethnic and Socioeconomic Identities are Associated with Well‐being during College.” Journal of Social Issues, vol. 75, no. 4, 2019, pp. 1116—1138. Web.
Rai, S.S., Peters, R.M.H., Syurina, E.V. et al. Intersectionality and Health-related Stigma: Insights from Experiences of People Living with Stigmatized Health Conditions in Indonesia. Int J Equity Health, vol. 19, no. 206, 2020, pp. 1-15. Web.
Scott A, Chambers D, Goyder E, and O’Cathain A. Socioeconomic Inequalities in Mortality, Morbidity and Diabetes Management for Adults with Type 1 Diabetes: A systematic review. PLoS One, vol. 12, no. 5, 2017. Web.