A safe space for students

Students focus on the relationship between race and sexuality.

Jamya Day (left) and Elias Gonzalez are members of Queer People of Color, a group represented at Lavender Graduation. | KATHRYN STELLATO TTN FILE PHOTO

Elías Gonzalez, the president of the club Queer People of Color, said he strives to provide a healing space for a very specific group on Main Campus.

“[As a member], QPOC is your best friend,” the junior media studies and production major said.

Gonzalez said he noticed that in other student organizations at Temple, students often have to choose between discussing their racial identity and sexual orientation.

“You don’t have to choose one or the other,” Gonzalez said. “Members learn how their queer identity and racial identity intermingle.”

Jamya Day, a junior actuarial science major and the group’s treasurer, said the members of QPOC value the extra dimension of discussion based on how race ties into the challenges of being queer.

“You don’t have to compromise identities to be in QPOC,” Gonzalez added.

In meetings every other Wednesday, the group discusses topics relevant to both queer people and people of color, like consent, self-love and self-care.

QPOC also collaborates with other student organizations, like the Asociación de Estudiantes Latinos and Students for Justice in Palestine. QPOC held a program with AdEL called “Beyond the Color Lines,” which focused on “dismantling the stigma of colorism” in communities where shades of skin vary within a single race, Gonzalez said.

The stigma refers to the idea that lighter-skinned people, despite being the same race as darker-skinned people, are more appealing. This event raised awareness about how colorism isn’t just found within one racial group.

QPOC also collaborated with SJP in a two­-part series. The first part of the series was called “What’s Going on in Palestine” and the second part was called “Queer Resistance from Philadelphia to Palestine.” The second part of the collaboration related the trials of a queer person of color to the trials of Palestinian people resisting against Israeli powers.

Earlier this month, the group visited the William Way LGBT Community Center, at 1315 Spruce St., for a screening and discussion of the documentary titled, “Holler If You Hear Me: Black and Gay in the Church.”

QPOC’s meetings often provide a forum for what Gonzalez calls “productive venting.” Minority groups often get caught in a cycle of victimization, Gonzalez said, and QPOC strives to avoid that.

“We want to bring more education and empowerment,” he said.

Day said she encourages discussion during meetings that often makes members feel uneasy—oftentimes, uncomfortable discussions can inspire growth, she said.

“If you aren’t comfortable with a topic of discussion, stay uncomfortable,” she said. “That’s how you learn to become comfortable.”

“Your voice has complete validity,” Gonzalez said. “It matters.”

Language can be limiting, Gonzalez said. Oftentimes, new members aren’t yet sure how to label themselves, either by race or sexual orientation. QPOC doesn’t ask members to label themselves during meetings.

“We want people to stop telling them who they are,” he said. “A person’s identity isn’t going to be the forefront of anything. You are what you tell us. QPOC doesn’t assume.”

“You’re just part of the family.”

By refraining from labeling members, QPOC also strives to establish a more comfortable setting for members who aren’t queer or people of color—who Gonzalez said are equally welcome at QPOC’s biweekly meetings.

Gonzalez said QPOC’s meetings are always a “learning experience,” and the presence of straight members doesn’t take away from the safe space.

“The space we create is one for anyone, as long as they’re willing to learn about the experience of a queer person of color,” Day added.

“We transform people through love,” Gonzalez said. “In other groups, there’s love and there’s transformation, but there’s no transformation through love.”

Paula Davis can be reached at paula.davis@temple.edu.


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