Privilege, Intersectionality, and Immigration: A Deep Reflection

As some of you are aware, I am planning to leave the US by June 2025. I might leave as soon as August 2023 depending on circumstances.

I want to start out by acknowledging my deep privilege that I can even choose to immigrate. I am disabled, but I can work. Immigration is infamously ableist and openly will exclude people based on disability, especially if they cannot work. Some people cannot immigrate because their children are disabled or their spouse is disabled or them themselves are disabled. I cannot immigrate to some countries because I am autistic, but because my multiple disabilities are cheap and easy to accommodate, I do have some options.

I also want to acknowledge my privilege as an English speaking US Citizen. This privilege cannot be overstated. The US has special things in place for US Citizens to immigrate easier. US passports allows you to go to many places visa-free. US citizens are scrutinized less than most other immigrants. US citizens are seen as “more desirable” because the country is rich, part of the Global North, and the entire immigration system is built on a metric ton of white supremacy. I also want to acknowledge the privilege of English being a language that I speak (even though I learned ASL before I learned to speak English, I have forgotten most of ASL and think primarily in English). Many many places cater to English speakers, especially those with certain accents. There are entire industries built on this privilege and one of the most obvious examples is Teaching English as a Foreign Language or TEFL. The industry explicitly likes people who speak English as a native language from certain countries. That makes immensely easier for individuals who have a degree and a certification to teach to immigrate this way to the exclusion of everyone else as just one example. Before moving on to some of my other privileges, I want to again acknowledge that this privilege cannot be overstated.

I also have thinness as a privilege, though it is caused by a disability (thank you overactive metabolism). This is important because many immigration systems require medical exams. I will be given an easier time because of my weight. I will have no issue finding seats that I can fit in, doors I can go through easily, or other barriers those that aren’t thin face. I will be assumed to be healthier than I actually am because my weight is seen as desirable. That is no small privilege considering the ableism in immigration.

I can also speak. Many immigration systems exclude nonspeaking individuals, even those that are highly skilled. I mention this specifically because I was nonspeaking until age 6. If I stayed nonspeaking, I would have very limited options for immigration and most would have been temporary. Also, I am a citizen, so I am not coming in as a refugee, fleeing from active danger, or having to worry about being deported to an unknown place. That’s another huge privilege.

However, this analysis is not complete without acknowledging some of my marginalizations. For starters, I am disabled and nonbinary, which eliminates quite a bit of countries that would be safe for me to even immigrate to. I am also asexual, which gets mistaken for being gay or a lesbian often. Anywhere that has large amount of homophobia is not safe for me. I am also a darker skin individual. Anywhere I go, I will have to navigate colorism, though some places are worse than others. Some places are not objectively worse, but just different in terms of how this colorism manifests. For example, some places may see me as a US citizen first and then take into account other aspects of my identity. Other places may mistake me as an African migrant, throw a metric ton of xenophobia at me, apologize for the xenophobia (but not actually disavow the xenophobia), and then acknowledge me correctly.

Another major consideration I have not discussed is that I am currently waiting to see if I get into a PhD program for Quantitative Psychology. I am fortunate that I have a master’s degree and that immigrating via academia is an option. I specified my field because it has a lengthy history of excluding Black and Indigenous people. When I googled nonbinary people who work in this field, it was exclusively white and Asian people. I could very well be the 1st nonbinary Black person in the entire field.

Let me emphasize this again: I could be a 1st. I’ve heard of people being 1sts before, but I never imagined that to be me. Even if I’m not the first, I could be the first nonbinary Black immigrant in Canada for Quantitative Psychology, first openly nonbinary Black professor in Quantitative Psychology, etc.

And this is due to the mixture of privilege and marginalization. That is no small thing to think about. Being potentially a 1st has hit me with a ton of emotions. How will I handle visibility? How do I navigate the inherent tokenism in being a 1st since I will also be an only for a bit? How do I pave the way for future people like me to feel accepted and welcomed?

It’s all so much. Thank you Reader for reading to the very end.

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