Pride by Design – Taylour Upton on Intersectionality and #beinghere
Blog.009 | Sarah Woynicz
Taylour Upton is a Designer II at Cooper Carry in Atlanta, Georgia, having joined in 2021. Taylour received her Master’s in Architecture from the University of Cincinnati (DAAP), following her Bachelor’s of Science in Architecture from The Ohio State University, with a minor in Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies. At the beginning of the month, Taylour was a panelist in “Navigating Queer Identity in the Workplace”, hosted by Georgia Tech’s AIAS leadership. During that panel discussion, Taylour spoke about intersectionality and how navigating her identity has been less about “coming out” as it has been about “being here”. In her interview with Pride by Design, Taylour speaks more to this, how her thesis and academic studies continue to influence her work and professional leadership, and how these continue to evolve.
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SW: During the Georgia Tech AIAS panel, you began to speak about intersectionality and how understanding multiple different identities has been an interest and focus of yours. Can you take us back to that moment and tell us more about intersectionality - both the meaning it has for you and where your interest first developed?
TU: This first started with my minor from The (yes, THE) Ohio State University. During my undergraduate career, I was also pursuing a minor in Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS). I took at least one course in WGSS each year and remember writing a paper focused on intersectionality that I received a “B-“ or “C” on. I remember being both surprised and having my interest sparked in intersectionality as an emphasis on my education from that point on. To that point, I honestly was not familiar with intersectionality other than that I was living it every day.
This interest led to me further exploring and emphasizing intersectionality for my master’s thesis at the University of Cincinnati, titled The Un-site: by Black Women, for Black Women, which focuses on racial and gender factors that come into different individuals' identities. It has not been until present day that that focus has shifted more towards also including sexuality and how that is incorporated into people as people. It is something that is essential that needs to be addressed, but I am also still learning (ha), always learning.
Can you share any avenues that you have recently had the opportunity to explore and continue learning?
Through participation, EQiA, speaking on the Pride by Design and Georgia Tech panel, and in CC+ (Cooper Carry’s equity, diversity, and inclusion group), I have had the opportunity to explore and address issues of sexuality and sexual orientation. I feel really fortunate to work for a firm that has support for the LGBTQIA+ community. This has taken a more explicit position for me in the workplace because there is not really one overarching umbrella or organization. It is more firm-based and grassroots committee-based. I have always known I was not straight, but it was never a main, explicit focus in my pursuits towards #designequity. Being a Black woman in architecture was always most visible. But then bring in a queer woman of color and these realizations have really started to come to light for me. I would like to explore further what is going on in other places and locations—how to access and support others, discussions with AIA and NOMA boards, and how these conversations and actions are branching out beyond metro-Atlanta.
What does visibility mean to you?
Visibility is such an umbrella term. It is not as much about visibility as it is about the words that make up visibility - agency, multi-faceted intersectionality, being here.
Agency - whoa, yes. Say more about that.
Agency goes back to advocacy —advocacy within advocacy. I feel liberated to express my sexual orientation and experiences how I deem appropriate and comfortable for myself. Someone else might feel differently. Agency, for me, is that freedom and ability to decide—the freeing ability to be yourself. Experience, identity, even timing is different for everyone. I am subtle and chill about most things, seeing things fall into place naturally.
What would a more equitable future for LGBTQIA+ people look like.. in architecture?
Eventually, my hope is for it to just be an equitable future. I would hope that we do not have to address these issues, and that is something applicable, whether it is racial disparities, gender inequity, advocating for those with diverse abilities. I holistically want us to reach a point that these no longer have obstacles. Do I think we will see that in our lifetime? Probably not. But the goal is still to make sure things are different for those who come after us. The profession has come quite a ways from before, with a lot more to do. I am confident that it will continue to improve and look forward to continuing to offer insight, be present, and learn.
"Visibility is such an umbrella term. It is not as much about visibility as it is about the words that make up visibility - agency, multi-faceted intersectionality, being here."