Intersectionality is a term coined by American civil rights advocate Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw to describe overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination. Intersectionality is the idea that multiple identities intersect to create a whole that is different from the component identities. These identities that can intersect include gender, race, social class, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, age, mental disability, physical disability, mental illness, and physical illness as well as other forms of identity. These aspects of identity are not "unitary, mutually exclusive entities, but rather...reciprocally constructing phenomena." The theory proposes that individuals think of each element or trait of a person as inextricably linked with all of the other elements in order to fully understand one's identity.
This framework, it is argued, can be used to understand how systemic injustice and social inequality occur on a multidimensional basis. Intersectionality holds that the classical conceptualizations of oppression within society—such as racism, sexism, classism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia and belief-based bigotry—do not act independently of each other. Instead, these forms of oppression interrelate, creating a system of oppression that reflects the "intersection" of multiple forms of discrimination.
Under this hypothesis, intersectional identities usually are not addressed or mapped out in normal social discourses and often come with their own set of oppression, domination, and discrimination. Because laws and policies usually only address one form of marginalized identity but not the intersection of multiple oppressed identities, intersectional identities often go overlooked. Since these identities are overlooked, there is a lack of resources needed to combat the discrimination, and the oppression is cyclically perpetuated.