Reclaiming a Term to Name Their Truth: A Recap from the 2023 National Latinx Conference on HIV, HCV, and SUD

Submitted on Jun 30, 2023


Marissa Gonzalez and others standing by a LATINX sign.

By Marissa Gonzalez

Lee en español

The 2023 National Latinx Conference on HIV, Hepatitis C (HCV), and Substance Use Disorder (SUD) – also known as NaLa – took place in New Orleans, Louisiana, May 11 – 13, 2023. Two members of The Well Project's community advisory board were on the ground, connecting with community members and sharing materials in Spanish and English at The Well Project's exhibit booth. Read on for one of their perspectives from this important community gathering.

The "Three Brown Jotos Podcast" general session, on day two of the National Latinx Conference, was streamed live which was how my attendance began. Having no idea what "jotos" stood for, I aimlessly listened as the moderator introduced one Joto at a time. Each one shared their stories about life and how they came to the points in their life of where they are today, and having done two recorded seasons of their podcast.

About 20 minutes into the conversation, I was able to make my way into the general space to listen live, just before Alejandro shared his personal story and testimony. He shared his story on working in the HIV field, of being in a relationship and how that relationship led to his HIV diagnosis. It was such a powerful and emotional moment; it always is when someone shares their personal truth with HIV, no matter how small or large the room.

Having worked in the field for so long, Alejandro expressed how he felt like a fraud. He left working in HIV and essentially isolated himself to process and manage the diagnosis on his own. Many can relate to this lived experience, which is why sharing our truths is important, so that others can see they are not alone.

Shortly after the session ended, I ran into two of the Jotos and was able to have a private and intimate conversation. Alejandro and I hugged, and I thanked him for sharing his experience, for sharing his truth. I congratulated them on the upcoming new season of their podcast; we joked about the start-up days of podcasting and my having used the same platform they did back then, and what a process it was.

Being of Puerto Rican descent, I had no idea what jotos meant, and Mexican dialect is very different, so I inquired. They shared how "joto" has always been a derogatory term in their culture and it was how individuals of queer experience were identified – or, more so, insulted. Naming their podcast was their way of taking back the power of not only the word, but their identities.

"Three Brown Jotos Podcast Live" general session was an important reminder of what occurred some 40+ years ago when HIV took hold of communities. It was a reminder of why sharing our truths is important. But above all, it was a reminder that when society tries to invoke a negative reaction to one's experience, it is ultimately up to the individual on how they choose to respond to those negative views, what their truth will be, and how they choose to show up in the face of such adversities.

More from the 2023 National Latinx Conference on HIV, HCV, and SUD

Another Year of Connecting and Learning: A Recap from the 2023 National Latinx Conference on HIV, HCV, and SUD by Samantha Rose Montemayor

NaLa in NOLA 2023 by Marissa Gonzalez on A Girl Like Me


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