“I think there is still a lot to be done in terms of representation and embodying diversity in UW-Madison’s overtly heteronormative environment.” – QTPOC’s founder on the university’s needed effort in creating more spaces for queer and trans students of color.
“For Afro-Latinx, queer individuals like me, we can often feel like we are a minority within a minority.” When asking undergraduate pre-med student Yanci Almonte Vargas about his experience on campus, it was clear that being a queer person of color can be very alienating experience. The undergraduate went on to say, “Ethnically, I feel like I often can’t relate to a lot of students on campus as they don’t share my same cultural background. On top of that, I feel like I cannot always express my sexual or gender identity on most spaces on campus.”
Historically, queer folk have been repeatedly overlooked in the fight for BIPOC rights. Such erasure has sparked movements such as “Black Trans People Matter” in an effort to include queer and transgender individuals when fighting for racial equality. Similarly, we continue to witness the marginalization of BIPOC representation in queer and trans spaces. It is a mutually neglectful relationship that has oppressed the QTPOC community for decades.
This has inevitably led to the underrepresentation of queer people of color, those of which who have been historically underrepresented in higher education. “On a campus that is a predominantly white, cishet (cisgender and heterosexual) institution, it can sometimes be difficult to find such a community of people that are like me.” With such a difficulty in finding an inclusive space, it is difficult for Vargas, and so many other students, to call this place home.
“It is often hard to navigate the campus due to how many limited spaces exist for the QTPOC community,” he said. “It’s also difficult to connect with some students because sometimes it feels like I don’t fit in one specific box.” It’s students like Yanci that truly make college a unique experience, transforming it into a melting pot of different races, sexualities and gender. It is an intersection of people from all over the world.
I also sat with the president of the new organization on campus, Queer and Trans People of Color, an international student, who has chosen to remain anonymous. They mentioned that, “Back home, people are not very welcoming of my sexuality. It has been extremely liberating being in the US, a place where I can express my identity more visibly without having to worry about being in danger.”
However, the current junior went on to voice some concerns they had.
“Although it has been very liberating to be able to express my sexuality, being a part of a predominantly white, cishet institution can sometimes be alienating. For that reason, I came up with Queer and Trans People of Color at UW-Madison: a student organization that aims to invite and celebrate students’ complex identities into one inclusive, supportive space. QTPOC is my safe space! It is the first student organization on campus dedicated to unifying and celebrating the QTPOC community at UW-Madison.”
Currently, QTPOC is one of the only organizations where queer and trans students of color can get together with people that look like them, talk like them and also share similar experiences that they can all gather around as a community. It’s a place where students can interact and make friends with other students from all kinds of races, sexual orientations and backgrounds.
In terms of future plans, the president shared some words about upcoming events and organizational vision: “We had our first event on December 2. I hope for our group to be extremely visible on campus and recognized by campus leaders. This would truly solidify and validate the identities of the QTPOC community on campus, which has historically been invisible and marginalized, especially at UW-Madison.”
The emergence of this organization has marked the much needed appreciation and celebration for queer and trans people of color, a community that has faced some of the harshest hurdles, yet received the least amount of recognition for it. QTPOC is testament that you can be queer, a person of color, religious, and be whatever you want to be. This organization is paving the way for more such recognition on campus, and pushing to end the marginalization of such historically persecuted people.
To learn more about Queer and Trans People of Color at UW-Madison, please visit https://lgbt.wisc.edu/identity-community/qtpoc/#overview and any further inquiries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.