immersion + intersectionality = a new way of educating ourselves about each other

What is ImmerSection?

ImmerSection is a meeting of two concepts: Immersion and intersectionality.

Immersion refers to learning something, usually cultural norms or a language, by being completely surrounded by it rather than explicitly instructed about it. The term is encountered in contexts such as hiring or clinician referrals in which someone might state, for instance, that a clinician with lived experience is preferred, but a clinician heavily immersed in the community would also be considered. 

Intersectionality is an analytical framework for understanding how aspects of a person's social and political identities combine to create different modes of discrimination and privilege. The term was conceptualized and coined by Dr. Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw in 1989. [wikipedia]

But what is ImmerSection?

ImmerSection is a project designed to be a free and easy way to greatly enhance cultural responsiveness for  clinicians, educators, and really anyone who encounters humans, through Intersectional Immersion-Informed Practices.

Ideally, anyone who works with humans who are culturally different from them in terms of disability, neurotype, sexual orientation, gender identity, class, race, ethnicity, religion, language, nation of origin, family constellation, or major life experience needs to be seeking regular paid consultation and training from people with these lived experience. 

This means that any non-autistic professional working with autistic folks needs to be paying for training, supervision, and consultation from autistic clinicians and other autistic adults. Anyone working with people affected by adoption or foster care who does not share this lived experience needs to be paying for these services from people who have been in foster care, been adopted, and/or lost children to this system. White professionals need to be paying for trainings and consultation from Black, Indigenous, and other people of color.

Additionally, someone who portrays themself as having competence in any particular experience should be surrounded on a regular basis by people who share this experience and are not their clients/customers/students. They need to have the experience of having socialized and worked on equal footing with people of a particular experience, not only the experience of having had power over them. 

Since the reality of education and social services in the United States is that educators and providers are often barely paid a living wage and programs often lack budget for appropriate trainings and consultation (and may be headed by administrators who are focused on legal and financial aspects rather than human aspects), it is not always possible for professionals to receive appropriate training. This is where the internet comes in.

With the prevalence of social media at this time, there is no excuse anymore to not seek out voices of lived experience

While professionals should ideally be seeking paid consultation from those with lived experience, this is not always possible for the reasons outlined above. Some professionals may have already established mutual relationships with close friends and loved ones in which these experiences are freely shared, and which it might be appropriate to at times seek unpaid expertise in the context of the relationship. What is not appropriate is for professionals to suddenly realize they are lacking in education on a topic, and turn to an acquaintance to request unpaid labor. 

The beauty of social media is that people of nearly every lived experience are already speaking frankly, in public, in ways that can be accessed for free. (Some individuals who share their expertise also use Patreon, Venmo, or other means of compensating them for content; please support as you are able.) This means that anyone seeking lived experience can seek out individuals discussing that topic and can silently listen and learn, and surround ourselves with these voices without interjecting ourselves into spaces or discussions that are not ours, and without requesting unpaid labor or subjecting marginalized people to our errors and misconceptions.

ImmerSection exists to serve three purposes:

1) Basic education for professionals regarding the importance of needing to constantly surround ourselves by the voices of lived experience. This will eventually include offerings such as more detailed standards of practice and formal trainings in the ImmerSection approach. The platform will eventually offer those with lived experience a simple means of providing accredited continuing education trainings (accomplished through ImmerSection applying for credits and providing an appropriately credentialed co-presenter). 

2) A directory of individuals with lived experience who are available for trainings, paid consultation, supervision, as well as direct healthcare, education, or other services. 

3) Curated feeds and directories of social media accounts and forums where various lived experience is shared. 

The primary aim will initially be to provide a completely free service that guides professionals toward voices of lived experience and amplifies the voices of those who are traditionally not centered in professional circles. Rather than grappling with the ethics of potentially soliciting an unpaid advisory board or other unpaid contributors solicited specifically to provide us with content, the initial focus will be on directing professionals to content that is already being offered freely, with encouragement to support those folks financially if their sites offer paid content, professional services, or a "tip jar" model. Many advocates of lived experience are devoting considerable time to sharing their expertise and stories, and much of this information is not reaching us folks in power who continue to perpetuate these systems and dynamics. Should the project eventually evolve to include paid content, a paid advisory board will be a priority. At this time, all services of ImmerSection are completely free, the advisory board operates on a barter system, and consists solely of individuals who have contacted the project and offered to assist. 

Is this just more privileged folks doing DEI work?

In a sense, yes, but with what we hope is an important difference: Rather than a business model in which someone who is privileged in most ways profits off of concepts they have learned from folks of various marginalized identities, this is a completely free model in which largely privileged folks volunteer our time to curate directories of lived-experience folks who are already choosing to share information freely (and with encouragement to hire these folks for trainings and consultation, rather than hiring DEI consultants who have not lived the experiences around which professionals seek training).

The only time ImmerSection will charge for any services is 1) when an offering requires overhead beyond volunteer labor, such as offering CEU credits and 2) when the service consists either of entirely original ImmerSection content or is a partnership in which a person of lived experience is being fairly compensated for their labor and expertise.