36 Reasons Why QPOC-Only Spaces Are Very Necessary

Dear Beautiful Kittens from the Heavens,

We’ve got some things to talk about, especially since we all want to have transformative and uplifting experiences at A-Camp. At this very moment in my life, my 4th A-Camp is happening! This time though a very major event is going to be very different, like so different it’ll probably make some people uncomfortable. Discomfort can be a really good thing. It can be the impetus for legit soul-searching, question-asking, and wondering how to switch gears and be a better person.

This year at A-Camp, the QPOC panel will not be open to the general public. This time around it’s going to be called the QPOC Speakeasy. We’ll be making zines, sharing traditional cocktail recipes, raising some ruckus, and exploring ways that we can make Autostraddle be a more radical and progressive space for QPOC. The Speakeasy will only be for folks who identify as people of color or as part of a racialized group. In this respect, the Q stands for queer but we’re using that as a blanket term for all the happy weirdos. We’re also open to changing that as well. The thing about each A-Camp is that you get to try all the things in a bunch of different ways to see what works and what soothes the spirit best. But back to the Speakeasy being only for people who identify as people of color. We thought it’d be good to do some ‘splainin first, for ourselves and for all involved. The following list comes from the A-Camp staff involved in facilitating the QPOC Speakeasy (although we are not the only QPOC staff participating in it): Carmen, Whitney, Mey, Laura, Carolyn Wysinger, Dani, Fit for a Femme and me.

zine graphic by MOHAMMED FAYAZ

zine graphic by MOHAMMED FAYAZ – buy this zine asap

Reasons why a QPOC-Only space at A-Camp es muy importante:

1. I’m tired of navigating white guilt while exploring what being a QPOC means to me and others.

2. QPOC spaces shouldn’t be the only spaces that talk about systemic and casual racism, economic inequality, injustice, school-to-prison pipelines etc. please insert all the other f*cked up life things here.



3. QPOC space doesn’t always have to be focused on the relationship between white folks and “us”.

4. I’m tired of being seen as the singular representative of my race, authoritatively speaking for every other Asian on the planet.

5. I don’t know everything about race and I need space to be able to make mistakes and learn.

6. While rest of the world is working overtime to put white people at the center of every conversation, it’s okay if one thing exists that doesn’t include them.


7. I wanna be surrounded by love that reminds me of my grandma’s house.

8. Because colorism exists between us too.

9. I’m almost positive that in this space no one is gonna be casually racist about a damn thing

10. Rice, beans, chicken  and something fried with cheese and no you can’t have any.

11. Sometimes we have to get together to remember we exist in queer spaces. Most times (in queer spaces) I feel like I’m back in high school and I’m the lone black kid in my AP class.


12. Because when I post something on Facebook about being a Latina, I really don’t need to see commentary that says, “If you want to be a better Mexican, why don’t you speak Spanish instead of making stupid Facebook posts?”

13. Because I didn’t appreciate it in elementary school when all my friends looked at me like I was a freak when I used words I learned in Spanish first, like “mocos” and “chonies.”

14. I like to be reminded that Femmeness, Butchness and Androgyny don’t have to be centered around white bodies.

15. I want to say things like “white people” without someone telling me we’re in a post-racial society.


16. I like to talk about my country and my family as a cool, casual thing I’m proud of and not have it turned into a lecture on “Life in The Super South: Communist Edition.”

17. Because I feel even less alone when I talk to people in QPOC spaces about my family and we just make eye contact and they know exactly where I am in my heart and I’m right there with them in their hearts too and maybe we say some words but we just get it.

18. Because no, I don’t want to talk about where the “authentic” restaurants are in this town and I don’t want to talk about which neighborhoods are the most “dangerous.”

19. When people in this QPOC-only space ask me “where are you from?” they are asking about where I live and not what ethnicity I am and what language my grandparents speak and if I’ll speak that language for them, too.

20. The best, most honest conversations I’ve ever had about being queer, about faith, about family and love and heartbreak and about feeling alone and not being alone have been with QPOC and I feel like we need more spaces for us so there can be more conversations like this.

21. Because according to this article on politicalblindspot dot com, “self-described white Americans believe they have “replaced blacks” as the primary victims of racial discrimination in contemporary America.”


22. Real talk, studying racism in an academic setting provides non-POC people with a disillusioned faux-authority on racism which has no place and holds absolutely zero weight in a QPOC space. (Check yo self b4 you wreck yo self.)

23. Co-signing ally as an identity  while nothing concrete in your life connects you to any social justice work is infuriating.

24. Some say the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice, I say the darker the flesh then the deeper the roots. Basically because Tupac.

25. We need to to define community within ourselves, and not through others.

watch this web series

watch this web series

26. It is essential in life to find queers of color you connect with, not just to find the only other queer of color in the room.

27. Because you feel a little less invisible.

28. Our political histories, creative legacies, and personal narratives are constantly being absorbed, dissolved, and white-washed by the dominant power structure. We don’t know who our heroines are and we can change that right now by being in intentional community with each other.


29. It’s super refreshing to NOT have to break down concepts of racism or privilege, or explain your community experiences or the power dynamics which impact your life, when you’re trying to talk about something even more complex or even bigger

30. Because we exist!

31. Because the world is not a QPOC-only space.

32. To foster collaboration and creativity among each other and conversations about race and ethnicity without walking on eggshells or navigating someone’s privilege.

33. Listening to rap music with no guilt or explanation required and/or for more lively dancing.

34. I refuse to provide non-QTPOC people with access to terminology and code-switching reserved for my QTPOC community, hunty.

35. The only way to fight the racism WITHIN the queer community is to build QPOC-only spaces and show that we are here and offer examples of the way we are marginalized in this community.

36. We deserve a sacred space where we can be and celebrate our authentic selves.

Lopez, Our Lady of Controversy 2008OLC

Got more reasons, please add them! If you’re a confused or hurt ally-in-training, reach out to your non-QPOC leaders/mentors and ask them how they navigate shit like this. We can all come together and have a very intentional kiki later. But for now, QPOC gaybies, we are here for you with open arms and beating hearts para siempre.

Gabrielle Rivera is an awesomely queer Bronx bred, writer, spoken word artist and director. Her short stories and poems have been published in various anthologies such as the Lambda Award winning Portland Queer: Tales from the Rose City and The Best of Panic! En Vivo from the East Village. Her short film "Spanish Girls are Beautiful" follows a group of young Latina and Caucasian girls who like girls as they hook up, smoke up and try to figure sh*t out. She also freelances for Autostraddle.com while working in the film and television industry. Gabrielle is currently working on her first novel while bouncing around NYC performing spoken word and trying to stick it to the man.

gabby has written 102 articles for us.


  1. Up-thread I mentioned starting a group as a potential forum for the kinds of questions white readers have been posting in this comments section, to serve as a place to redirect those conversations in the future in hopes of making the comments more of a safe place for QTPOC. Considering how much this thread already got hijacked, I figure it’s better to post this as a separate comment so that more people might see it.

    Here’s the link to a group I just created.

    Honestly, though, I’m not sure the best way to make said forum useful without plastering comments about it in the threads below future QTPOC articles, which seems like hijacking in and of itself. I’m debating sending a message to the AS crew to see if they have any official thoughts. (Hey, mods, if you’re still monitoring this: maybe a footnote like the ones you guys put at the bottom of posts about bi issues? telling people what kinds of comments would be better-appreciated elsewhere, and providing links to relevant groups?)

    Please join the group if you’re at all interested, so maybe we can figure out something productive.

  2. I’m sorry this list had to be written at all. Have a great time!

    I’m a borderliner (my family is mixed, I’m white-passing, sometimes racialized,’get’ some things, had to learn some things, still learning other things, blah blah etc). The great people at http://queerwoc.tumblr.com, in a now-deleted conversation, put it something like this (paraphrased as I remember it): If the idea of a qpoc-only space feels like it MIGHT be exclusionary, or prompts us to talk about aspects of our families/appearance/roots we don’t talk about on a daily basis, and/or raises questions about whether we ‘qualify’ at all, then the answer is that it’s probably not the space for us. . . that doesn’t mean we can’t make spaces like .

  3. I am just an ally, but I fully support this. While I want to be an advocate for people of color and the queer community (I vote, write letters to editors and politicians, I march, I teach social justice in my multicultural literature class), no one wants me around when queer people of color get together. I *absolutely* support your right NOT to have to include me in every conversation, explain things to me, “thank” me for my support.

    You be you without having to worry about or consider me in this one space. I wish I could do more to make more safe spaces for your ilk.

  4. Totally agree with the list itself. But interested as to why the event turned into one with alcohol? I’ve never been to A-Camp so I don’t know how this works but I’m guessing that it started out just a regular panel or caucus of some sort? As a QPOC myself, who is struggling with sobriety, I’m disappointed that this is how it turned out because it means shutting out sober QPOC and QPOC under 21. If this is truly a space trying to be radical and progressive, you’re already missing some folks…

    • I’m asking this in all seriousness and not at all trying to be an asshole. Most of A-Camp could double for Spring Break in Cabo. Booze is kinda our thing. People drink in every workshop. Why is the Speakeasy being held to a different standard? I understand that sobriety is a thing in our community,but this feels like a bit of a stretch.If simply being around alcohol is a struggle,then all of camp would be a struggle. To have the expectation that this space would be dry is odd,and a bit unrealistic.

      Also,if you’re underage,you simply drink soda. Not having a drink in hand does not exclude you from conversation.

  5. 19… because no white person has ever asked where you’re from without it meaning your example. Same with 2. I am a QPOC (who loathes the term POC) but pretty white passing- family is mixed Eastern European/Kazakh/South American and feel out of place in both white and POC queer spaces because of my skin. I never mind explaining my background because if it means I can educate someone about my family’s home background and rich culture and they previously didn’t have any knowledge, I have made one person a little smarter. And as far as the ally one, that reeks of Tumblr SJW talk. how many people are truly involved day in/out in physical activism? like, actual work? not just “existing” or blogging. sigh. I’d love to go to ACAMP and support further QPOC spaces but we as a queer community have a way to go.

  6. I hope the moderators have a kiki and address their role in shaping this thread towards the monolithic voice it developed in the middle. The commenters involved in the thread’s misunderstandings and disagreements stepped it up and re-connected with each other over the words exchanged. I hope the moderators do the same.

    • ~Yeah, clearly ‘raising walls and causing more division between humanity’ is not the fault of racists, but the fault of people DEFENDING themselves from racism. How could people of color feeling freer to talk without being subject to white gaze be a positive thing? Not like you could’ve spared a second to listen to all the people here talking about how important this is to them.~

  7. Late to the game here but I would add for the white folks with hurt feelings, just because there are quite a few negative visceral emotional responses: don’t confuse the ‘exclusion’ of QPOC taking the rare occasion of communing together without you with the experience of being excluded from space because you’re queer or trans etc.
    Not being included does not always equal being marginalized even if our instinct is to make that connection. Sometimes being denied access to a space, before we reflect about the wider implications (in this case, of white privilege and the needs of QPOC to take the space they need) reminds us of the time we were asked to leave the washroom by a transphobic cis lady, or not invited to a partner’s family dinner because her parents are homophobic. That’s discriminatory and hurtful and leaves scars. Sometimes it leads us to project past pain onto a situation like this which isn’t the same.
    I do my very best to learn about race issues and offer solidarity without assuming the mantle of ‘white ally’. I have learned by now to honour POC friends who are generous enough to critique me when I say clueless shit despite my best intentions. I can see that there are levels of empathy and identification that POC friends get from each other that I can’t touch. On a human level, who would I be to want to deny them such an enriching environment by inserting myself into such conversations and changing their dynamic? And why wouldn’t they be pissed at having alleged friends resist them doing such a simple thing? Supporting QPOC’s basic entitlement to their own space is one of the most obvious things white A campers can do to help make the camp at large a safe space. That’s just the beginning.

  8. Wow, so I am amazed at the ignorance displayed in most of these posts. People are commenting on how the tone was aggressive or something, but was it really? Wasn’t it the truth? IMHO when they said we don’t want white people in this, cus this’ll happen and it’s not about that, they weren’t trying to marginalise or say that all white people do this just that WHITE PEOPLE IN A QPOC SPACE MAKE IT ABOUT THEIR EDUCATION AND UNDERSTANDING INSTEAD OF WHAT THE ACTUAL POINT IS. The problems of the Qpoc community are independent of white people for christs sake, so why should they be in there? Okay think back to the L word when Tina decided to throw a mixer for her gay and straight friends. Se how that turned out? Yeah, it’s educational for straight folk, and yeah it’s needed but Gay folks need purely gay spaces too. So they don’t feel like they have to curb their words or explain everything. Everyone hanging around at the diner, or in a casual party? Completely different from Tina’s party. In Tina’s party there’s just this.. thing that doesn’t make it a truly open space. So this article wasn’t meant to offend anyone, just take a step back from your hurt, and truly try to understand what it’s like to have to cater your own journey of self understanding and community to some other group that wants you to be the spokesperson for an entire race. Oh wait, we should all know how that feels. White Queermos I say this with love and respect in my heart, but this is not your space, truly whether or not you mean it to, you may not be “one of those” for lack of a better term, but simply being there .. (again for lack of a better term) pollutes what is trying to be done. Maybe some other time.

  9. The reason this event needs to happen is the same reason that queer women (cis and trans*) seek out queer-only spaces, even if they have access to women’s only spaces (“for all women!”) where the women who are not queer say they want to learn and be allies, that I should educate and not exclude, etc. When I seek out queer-only spaces, I am not attempting to exclude non-queer people, I am simply tired of constantly feeling like my voice is not heard even though I am shouting, or my experiences are not represented, or that it is my job to represent all queers in this room. For all the queer non-POCs who are hurt by this article, maybe thinking about it from this perspective brings about some understanding?

  10. it’s so simple, y’all: you cannot claim to be an ally to qtpoc if you insist upon challenging qtpoc who are clearly telling you what they want and need for themselves. being an ally involves listening and involves letting a thing not be about you for a second. the very act of arguing with qpoc about what’s in their best interest is a betrayal of any allyship you claim to embody. period the end.

  11. [Sorry this comes later in the week, but I’ve been busy lately]
    I’d like to apologize for some of the weirdly bad miscommunication that I’ve been part of in this thread. I managed to somehow appear like I was saying things I’d never intended to say and then was equally bad at explaining what I was trying to talk about, then it devolved into a downright argument. I am sorry about that. I think my part of the miscommunication revolved around me writing way to late at night, and in an emotional place where I honestly felt like Autostraddle was becoming a toxic place for me. I’ve calmed down a bit since then, with the help of the couple of people who reminded me that the hostility I was feeling wasn’t necessarily directed at me (which I’d forgotten for a while). Now that I’m thinking a bit more clearly, I’d like to talk about some of the misinterpretations and my miscommunication of what I was trying to say:

    I did not intend to ever appear as though I do not believe in White Privilege or racism. I believe both these things exist in US society. They are at this point largely unconsciously accepted and you can in fact say racist things, or be interpreted as being racists regardless of whether you intended to say something hurtful, ignorant, and based on skin color or ethnicity. I feel like most white people try to not be intentionally racist, but I can’t speak for other people’s experience with the prevalence of that. My argument here was only that I don’t think the use of “White Supremacy” as a synonym for “White Privilege” is a good use of white supremacy. I believe that white supremacy has a significant and different depth of history and use that prevents it from ever being used neutrally. White supremacy is an ideology that some fairly evil people still hold, and it involves organizations like the KKK which still actually exist even if they no longer hold nearly as much power. Making the word a neutral relative of white privilege ignores the continued existence of people who really do believe that white people are supreme and *should* be more important. White privilege describes the fact that white people still *are* favored by the current system, whether or not anyone necessarily believes it should be that way.

    Likewise, I never ever intended to appear to invoke the angry black woman trope in any way shape or form. I am deeply sorry if I appeared to be doing so. When I was talking about the perceived hostility I’ve felt on this website towards white people and general (and therefore me in specific), I was never intending to appear as though I thought that QPOC or the writers of any of these comments actually believe that all white people are racist little shits. I have a fairly deep understanding that words and their implications do not always line up exactly with what people intend to say (case in point, how I didn’t manage to explain my basic understanding of what communication is). I do not assume that just because *I* feel like someone’s words imply that all white people are racist therefore that person deeply feels like all white people are racist. I certainly do not believe that every person of color in the world or even ever person of color on this site believe that all white people are racist.

    When I was talking about hostility or ugliness (in defense of Emily D, where people were cruel to her in response to an honest feeling), I’m talking about my perceptions of these things. I wasn’t assuming that anyone intended to be hostile necessarily, just that I felt like they were being hostile, or that their words implied a hostility. I was never trying to say that this hostility was deep enough to the point where I thought some of you actually believe all white people are racist assholes. I did not think that.

    But I do feel like I should try one last time to explain what I was reacting to. I was reacting to what @livethequestion calls reactive anger. The type of anger that tries to overcorrect, and instead of correcting it assumes people were intending to say the worst possible interpretation of what they wrote and then insults that person with both the tone and content of their reaction. This kind of thing was best exemplified by what happened to @livethequestion who is not even white, and who said something that didn’t automatically mean that she (hypothetically white) wanted to tokenize people by collecting minority friends and making herself a “rainbow family”. Even if livethequestion had been white, maybe the hypothetical white girl simply knew that not knowing any minority people is the fastest way to be accidentally racist and wanted to make minority friends. Or maybe the hypothetical white girl just made a mistake in speaking or thinking, and would have been horrified if the implications of her words were explained to her calmly. Unfortunately, the most verbally violent responses on this thread were responses to livethequestion who does not identify as white, and the moderators have removed them so I can’t talk about what they did specifically that came off as unnecessarily hostile and quick to assume the worst.

    Unfortunately since those responses *have* been removed, the easiest to find example of what felt like unnecessary hostility towards white people in general comes from this article. (I’d like to remind you that even when I felt like this was directed at me, I was aware this is an impression I have of the implications of what’s being said, and was not necessarily the author’s intentional meaning).
    “34. I refuse to provide non-QTPOC people with access to terminology and code-switching reserved for my QTPOC community, hunty.”
    Now, we can all (I hope) agree that no one outside of your communities has any sort of right to know your codes or how you switch them to single the racist or dangerous assholes out to the other people in your community. I respect that. You have absolutely no obligation to tell me, and I will respect that lack of obligation by not asking to know unless you want to tell me.

    That said, the phrasing of this clearly ends with some kind of direct insult which I have no way of knowing how bad the insult is. I can only assume that it’s pretty bad. And it’s in direct address to the white readers of the article. That makes me feel like I’m being treated (and I’m being serious here) like some sort of evil racist spy whose only purpose in potentially wanting to attend QPOC spaces would be to steal those codes and reveal them to all the other racist white people. It seems to assume that white allies who know the code switching would never keep that knowledge mostly to themselves, but use it to know when they’re way over the line and correct themselves. It implies that whatever hunty means it’s being used to apply to anyone who might want to listen honestly to what POC go through and come out of it knowing how to be a little bit of a better person. That seems pretty hostile to me. Again, I’d use a different example, but some of them have been deleted so we can’t discuss them, or are more diffuse like comments that just in general sound like they’re supposed to apply negatively to all white people.

    Regardless of whether the atmosphere was intentional or not, this kind of tone collected through several articles, and a bunch of incidental things like stuff about why white people only like Macklemore rather than some other rapper because something about Eminem (I don’t really listen to much music, but the tone was definitely about how Macklemore was crap and white people like him b/c they’re white). That sort of tone only got worse through the reactionary anger that happened in this comments thread. There was a specific damned if you do, damned if you don’t kind of thing where the commentators would get really angry if you put yourself out on a limb by admitting that you didn’t know enough, but then they’d get really angry if you tried to ask a question instead of just not answering. So when I said that I was afraid to ask what the meme-pic about Macklemore was supposed to be about, I was being very honest. I really was afraid of asking a simple and relatively factual question about the article because I saw so much reactive anger and I knew that if I asked, I’d probably get torn to shreds for being a supposedly racist asshole. This feeling may not have been entirely fair to the people commenting on Autostraddle, but it was a real one.

    Again, I am very sorry that I managed to imply such horrible things about my beliefs. I really never intended to appear like I was using the angry black woman trope. I do not think POC and their anger diminishes their complaint. POC have a right to be angry. Racism and white privilege are really F’ed up things. I do however believe that a lot of people stop listening when they feel like they’ve been insulted too much and then things turn into an argument where no one really comes away having learned anything or been convinced. My belief that conversation is more effective, and less wasteful, than anger is mostly why I asked for people to be more polite. It was never because I intended to get someone to shut up. And I apologize if it ever seemed like that’s what I wanted.

    • Of course YOU think you’re entitled to harp about a situation where some people of color and white allies fucked up with @livethequestion, in order to trivialize the way you came on this thread and engaged in BLATANTLY RACIST, narcissistic, self-centered, and frankly sociopathic white behavior! Look, you keep trying to pretend that EVERYONE ELSE has the problem, when it’s YOU and white people LIKE YOU have a problem. Why in the blue fuck do moderators allow racist, derailing, and sadistic behavior like yours to persist in relation to the the topic of racism? Don’t we have enough to go through already!?!

  12. So, white people who feel disgruntled about this post, listen up: if you are a white anti-racist ally, then the #1 thing to do is to listen to qtpoc when they tell you what they need/want, who they are, what their lived experiences are, and what is important to them.

    When you challenge a qtpoc’s assertion of their needs or the words they choose to explain those needs, you are doing a thing that is inherently NOT allyship, because it is not trusting or listening, it is re-centering yourself in a conversation which is trying its very hardest for once to not be about you. It’s not unusual to feel knee-jerk defensiveness, or to feel like “hey, that’s not true about me!” — but those are personal feelings for you to deal with and investigate on your own. This post isn’t about us white people or our feelings.

    What I find interesting about the white defensiveness regarding QTPOC thoughts in this post is that we don’t see that same defensiveness when us queers write about straight people in a similar way — and if a straight person did come on here to get upset about being generalized, we’d be pretty fucking defensive. Honestly, this also has some parallels to the recent thread criticizing us for rampant misandry — and the way Rachel eloquently broke down the problem with that attitude could easily apply here.

    Some of these comments sound to me like “Not All White People!” which is just about as annoying as “Not All Men!” I didn’t feel defensive or angry when I read this post — well, that’s a lie. I did feel angry. I felt angry at the white supremacy that appropriates, colonizes, legalizes discrimination and makes life so fucking hard for QTPOC. I felt energized by the possibility of a stronger QTPOC community within Autostraddle, and I felt really excited that this closed space was being created and hopeful that it would be a happy and productive space for the humans who wrote this — a group of really patient and dedicated people who put their hearts/souls into this entire community every day, producing work that is consumed by a majority white audience.

    QPOC-only spaces don’t in any way make non-qpoc/white people spaces less valid… and the truth is that most queer spaces, albeit unintentionally, do end up being all-white or white-dominated. But any queer who has experienced a queer-only space knows the strength one can garner from those spaces, and I see no reason to be anything less than excited for another marginalized group within that group to experience that for themselves, and I am confident it will make our community as a whole much stronger.

    This was one of the first QTPOC panels at camp I didn’t attend, b/c i am so white i glow in the dark and therefore it was not for me, but the panel facilitators left up the words and pictures they’d assembled during their speakeasy on the cafeteria wall for all of us to see, and also have gathered ideas for us on how to make AS better for QTPOC people, which I think is pretty rad! I’m really glad that it happened and that a facebook group for POC A-Campers has also launched (there already were groups for people of various gender identities/presentations, so). I believe this is a really, really, really, really good thing, and I hope those of you on this thread who disagree can come around and realize that soon, too. LISTEN is the thing. Listen.

  13. this was super informative and very important thank you

    my fellow white women who have a problem with this (see multiple comments above): would you not agree that having a female-identifying only safe space (yes excluding men-HOW DISCRIMINATORY!) is important?

    though race and gender are in no way identical issues, the idea is the same

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