A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE: Notes from an Antiquated Queen
We are Jotos y Jotas!
Hello my Dhalings! I hope you are well. I also hope you have dusted off those ass-less chops, polished those a-beats and worked on your gagging reflex ‘cause it’s PRIDE MONTH and this is definitely not the time to be celibate! Oops, did I say that?
But in all seriousness and now that I got that out of the system, let me tell you that this month is a month of joy, courage, celebration, pride and lucha. Actually, every month is a month for lucha but this month is special because it commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Riots. I hope you know what I’m talking about, my dhalings; it would be ashamed not to be aware of the queer history we have come to celebrate every June for the last 46 years, and specifically why San Francisco always celebrates gay pride on the last weekend of June. If you don’t know, it’s time to goggle “Stonewall Riots” and read about such an important event because that incident is the one that started it all, hunty!
Speaking of incidents, here’s one that is very closely related to us Latina/o-Chicana/o, queers, jotas y jotos!
Did you know there is a strong national movement made up of Latina/o and Chicana/o scholars, activists, artists, and community organizers who, since 2006 have been working to reclaim the word JOTO, taking away its negative connotation and turning it into a positive, powerful, and self-affirming expression? That’s right, my dhalings! The Anglo-American community did this with the word “fag” many years ago; the African-American community did the same with the “n-word.” And now, sexy papis and sexy mamis, many queer people within our Latina/o-Chicana/o joto community are doing the same.
In 2006 a small group of queer graduate students, queer artists/activists, and university queer professors who were interested in gay studies within the Chicana/o-Latina/o community gathered to discuss the importance of starting a movement to reclaim the word “jota/o.” After some planning, in 2007, the first “Joto Conference” took place in Las Vegas, NV, hosted in part by the University of Las Vegas’ Department of Gender Studies. In this event, several queer scholars presented papers on the importance of gay issues within the Latina/o-Chicana/o community. Queer artists, activists, and community organizers were also present, showcasing their work, views, and ideas about what it means to be queer within the Latina/o-Chicana/o community. That event was very successful that soon another gathering happen and then another, and then another. By 2013 the small queer group that have started it all had grown enough that soon the people who were now involved in these gatherings, decided that it was important to actually create an association. By 2014 AJAAS was born, holding its first national conference at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, NM. The next national conference will be in October in Phoenix, AZ. AJAAS, (think Ellas!) stands for Association for Jotería Arts, Activism, and Scholarship. It is now a national organization with more than 1000 members from all over the country. According to their Facebook page, AJAAS was created with the intention to “build on the ways of being and knowing of our communities by creating a space where Jotería consciousness thrives.”
If you think that having a Latina/o-Chicana/o national queer organization as a space where “Jotería consciousness thrives,” is not enough, how about the fact that many of these queer people are now advocating to have a field of study at the university level? This field of study would be called Jotería Studies, it would be similar to the now existing “Queer Studies” field, except that this new field would concentrate on the Latina/o-Chicana/o community. In fact, many members of AJAAS, including this queen, have published a dossier explaining and exposing our purpose, our desires, and our plans to create a safe space for discussion, practice, and study, a place where we all can come together to discuss what it means to be Latina/o-Chicana/o Queer, Jotas, Jotos, Transgender, Transexual, Pansexual, Immigrants, Brown Citizens and more.
So next time someone calls you a joto/jota, maricón or puto, don’t’ get offended, don’t be ashamed. Instead, take a deep breath, smile and say, “Asi es cabrón! Do you have a pinche problem with it?” Joto pride, our Joto pride should not only be celebrated in June; it should be celebrated every day. We do that by not allowing homophobes, bullies, religious zealots, and many other pendejos step on us or offend us with derogatory terminology. So today, as many of us stand on the sidewalk or corner and support those who march on the street, remember this: “We are Jotos y Jotas! We are Many! And we are not going Away! ¡Y que viva la Jotería!