Queer McGill has faced controversy recently due to Rad Sex week, which is a queer- and trans-positive series of talks, workshops, discussions, and performances on the topics of gender, sexuality, sexual health, and less conventional sexual practices. This year, the series will feature an event called “Desires: A QT*POC Exploration,” an art and discussion workshop only open to to queer and trans people of colour (POC). The event’s description, which specified, “White folks need not attend,” prompted swift and vicious backlash on social media.
Queer McGill has responded with an official statement, which The Daily has chosen to reprint here: “We chose this workshop as to enable POC to have a safe(r) space free from the presence of white folk and the history of white supremacy and immaterial colonization associated with them/us. We feel that this space is important to provide for people who don’t want the voices of white folk weighing into the conversations of POC romance. We maintain that racism is an institutionalized system of oppression in which people of color are systematically restricted. The position of privilege that white folk hold has been institutionally developed and supported in this country, making reverse racism systematically impossible. This is not to say one cannot be prejudice [sic] against white people, but the institution of racism does not apply. The use of the label ‘ally’ does not exempt people from this.”
The Daily wholeheartedly agrees with this statement, and recognizes the need for safe(r) spaces specifically for POC. As stated in its description, the event deals with very intimate and sensitive experiences related to sexual and romantic desires. Grounded in decolonization principles, it seeks to analyze and deconstruct experiences and perspectives that arise specifically from the intersection of race and queerness. In addition to the predominant place taken up by whiteness and heteronormativity in public discourse, queer POC often face race-based marginalization even in queer spaces. Further, while queer people and POC separately are not sufficiently represented, queer POC have even fewer spaces devoted specifically to them.
Creating this kind of safe environment for people to open up about their experiences and to discuss them should always be a priority. What’s more, demanding access to this space for observers who do not share a similar identity is insensitive. While some people have argued that this event should be open for educational purposes, it should never be the job of queer POC to educate others. Anyone who considers themselves an ally should respect the needs of those they are supporting over their own curiosity. It is important to have safe spaces within the McGill community, and we should strive to support them, and ensure that they continue to exist.
—The McGill Daily Editorial Board