News / Winnipeg

#Pride30: Queer People of Colour a voice for marginalized LGBTQ

'We hear these voices, we amplify them as much as possible, we stand with those people, and let them know they're not alone.'

Catie Pescitelli (R) and CJ Matombe, original members of Queer People of Colour (QPOC) in Winnipeg Manitoba, May 28, 2017.

Lyle Stafford / Metro Order this photo

Catie Pescitelli (R) and CJ Matombe, original members of Queer People of Colour (QPOC) in Winnipeg Manitoba, May 28, 2017.

Metro sat down with CJ Matombe, a trans Winnipegger who co-founded Queer People of Colour (QPOC), a voice for the marginalized LGBTQ community.

Why did you get involved in QPOC?

For so many reasons. The first thing that always comes to my mind when I get asked this question is a quote I stumbled upon years ago. It's something like "be the person you needed when you were younger." That's why I joined QPOC Winnipeg in a heartbeat. 

What are a few of your favourite memories with QPOC?

My favourite moments were when we (QPOC members) got together at the very beginning. We would all come together, around a bottle of wine, delicious meals, we would share our experiences, and talk about how we want to make things better and safer for marginalized people in our community. It was raw, painful, vulnerable, and also healing in a strange way. That's how the idea of forming QPOC Winnipeg began.

I also love it when we give talks at schools or when we facilitate workshops and people come up to us at the end, and ask us what they can do to be better allies. That's one of the best feelings in the world.

Can you tell me about your role in the low-cost binders initiative you're a part of? [Binders are garments trans or non-binary people use to bind their breasts]

The low cost binder initiative is (fellow QPOC member) Nix and I's little baby. I'm really proud of it. We wanted to be able to provide free binders for POC who may not have the financial resources to purchase binders and because of that, would resort to unsafe and harmful binding practices. Nix and I run the whole thing, from the first point of contact with the individual to getting them the well-fitted binder they need. We run this program in partnership with Sunshine House, which is an incredible organization to work with. They are so helpful, accommodating, and as dedicated as we are.

Is there anything you want members of the community to know about QPOC that they might not know?

I can't think of anything. We are very clear and transparent in terms of our actions and core values. There is no game, no pretence, and we don't joke around. The existence of QPOC stems from the lack of representation and support of the marginalized people in the queer community in this city. The same people whose voices get easily silenced, forgotten, and excluded for the comfort of the majority. We hear these voices, we amplify them as much as possible, we stand with those people, and let them know they're not alone.

What’s your favourite Pride moment?

Our first Colour Me Queer party during Pride 2014. A bunch of people of colour that I had never seen at other bars before came to our party and danced like there was no tomorrow. It was a fantastic moment.

Why was Pride important 30 years ago?

Because after so much oppression, discrimination, marginalization, and violence, it was crucial that members of the LGBTTQIA* start the fight to have access to basic human rights and stop the injustice.

Why is Pride still important now?

It's still important today because there is still so much more work to be done. I mean, to this day, there is still a lot of oppression, discrimination, and violence mostly directed at people of colour, Indigenous people, Trans and non-binary folks, and sex workers as well. Sure, we have come a long way over the last 30 years and most of us have acquired a lot of privilege, but that doesn't mean the work is over and that we get to forget about those who don't have the same rights/privilege that we do. We owe it to ourselves and to those who fought for our rights to show up and fight for all the individuals who haven't quite reached that point yet.  

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