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Friday, Sep 29, 2023

Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPOC) creates intersectional affinity space for students

Photo from QTPOC movie night (they watched Spirited Away)
Photo from QTPOC movie night (they watched Spirited Away)

A speed-friending event hosted by Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPOC) filled Crossroads Cafe with laughter on Oct. 22. More than 20 students spent their Saturday afternoon together chatting and getting to know new friends — a large turnout for the small group.

“It was a small event. People built many intimate connections, and that’s what we want,” club treasurer Jocelyn Cedeño ’23 said.

The speed-friending event was one of the several programs developed by QTPOC’s (pronounced “Cutie-POC” by its members) current board members, many of whom took over leadership roles during the pandemic and hope to revive the group after inactivity during the pandemic.

Due to the pandemic and several members studying abroad, the club was not very active until new members came in this year Cedeño said.

Since the past year, QTPOC has hosted several talks, queer-themed movie nights and dinners aimed at uplifting the voices of queer and transgender students of color. Now, for many members, it has become a safe space for them to open up about their marginalized identities and build tight bonds.

As one of QTPOC’s two events coordinators, Angeles Arroyo ’23 collects event ideas from every group member. An inclusive and welcoming atmosphere is her priority.

“The idea is to make new friends and it doesn’t have to be a lot of work, while we also want to have serious conversations when there are no other spaces [to do that],” Arroyo said.

The group’s mission is to create a community on campus for intersectional identities. They felt that other affinity organizations often only focus on one dimension of one’s identity — such as race, gender or sexuality — but fail to see these dimensions as interconnected.

Communications and Advertising Manager Jarlenys Mendez ’23 recalled joining another queer affinity organization on campus but feeling uncomfortable as a person of color in the predominantly white group. “But QTPOC is intentionally bringing as many people under that umbrella term as possible,” Mendez said.

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Jarlenys and Gen at the movie night (they made cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate for everyone)

For QTPOC president Isabela Bahadorzadeh ’23, the group’s intimacy also makes it stand out among the various cultural affinity organizations on campus. Even though only a small number of people attend their events, those who do develop close connections beyond the weekly meetups.

“Big orgs are amazing, but it’s nicer to have intimate connections,” Bahadorzadeh said.

While hoping to remain close-knit, QTPOC is also recruiting more first-year students as the current board members are in their senior year. Genesis Rodriguez ’23 believes that Middlebury’s increasingly diverse student population means the QTPOC community can benefit more people.

“It’s such a rewarding opportunity to push it into the radar of underclassmen at this crucial time,” Rodriguez said.

Bahadorzadeh added that in the spring semester, QTPOC is planning several joint events with other student organizations. They plan to host dim sum events in collaboration with Asian Students in Action (ASIA) and pottery sessions for QTPOC members with the pottery club.

The members believe that with young blood and collaboration with other organizations, QTPOC’s new year will be busy and promising. But according to club leaders, more work needs to be done by the college community to support the intercultural groups on campus.

“Our time here is relatively short. Our experiences are defined by staff members we identify with, and they stay here for long periods of time. [They are] not only overworked but also having to put in more emotionally. For QTPOC spaces to thrive, we need staff and faculty of these identities who also thrive here,” Rodriguez said.

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