My first meeting with the QPOC-IT discussion group was certainly a positive experience. The setting was welcoming and intimate; everyone there had similar intentions of accessing a safe space in order to discuss issues important to them, network, and form friendships. Since this was our first meeting, the facilitator began by asking us, “‘what does the term ‘“person/people of colour’” mean to you’?” The answers were varied, bringing up both negative and positive definitions of the words. Based on the rich conversation that ensued, it’s safe to say that it’s a loaded term.
POC can be used as a safety blanket to enclose all people of colour when people are unsure what to label someone as, this way avoiding an awkward corrections. “‘This label is something mainly seen in the western world,”’ mentions a group member, “a citizen from any African country would not describe themselves as a person of colour necessarily”.” The term seems to perpetuate a racist binary between those who are “‘of colour’” and those who are white when employed to group all non-white persons together. This homogenization of people of colour leads to the erasure of differences between cultures and people, making separate struggles seem meaningless.
With this being said, the term can have a positive connotation too, when used to create a sense of community. It can be regarded as an act of solidarity between queer people of colour, as our communities often do not accept us due to homophobia and clashes between generations and classes.
In light of this, the facilitator asked another question:.
“How can we support each other, in this new found community of queer, coloured folk?”
Support is essential for us, as there are other systems of oppression are at work within the queer community. Many of us feel as though the gay community is largely a white community where queer QPOC’s needs are not always validated.
The fetishization of people of colour, in which people of colour are considered sexual objects for exploitation, is too real to some of us and the lack of understanding people have of personal oppression makes it hard for people of colour to even want to date within the gay community. Some people of colour feel that these gaps in understanding disallow for the kind of connection achieved through dating someone else of colour; sometimes it’s easier to be with someone you can relate to, who can validate your experiences as they have experienced them too.
Support is an ongoing need that will continue to be addressed and no doubt discussed again in the future. We have only scratched the surface of the topics QPOC-IT and its members want to discuss as we continue to meet. Intersectionality, fighting oppressions not as individual issues but as a unit, was brought up as a future topic. If you think this is a group that interests you, we welcome anyone to come participate or observe our interesting talks!
The group runs on the last Tuesday of every month. Follow @PTSottawa on Twitter for reminders and updates.