Queer Latinx people deserve to have their voices heard, according to Impulse Group Houston Vice President Dr. Jonatan Gioia.
Gioia, a gay Argentinian man, is spearheading the LGBTQ organization’s #Juntos, a queer Latinx festival—the first of its kind in Houston—which takes place this week in various locations across the city from Tuesday through Saturday, October 15–19.
Note: Houston’s first transgender Latinx festival, organized by the Organización Latinas de Trans en Texas (OLTT) occurred in May 2019.
“Houston has a large Latinx population,” Gioia says, “and queer Latinx people make up an important part of that. We want to let more people know that we exist, because representation matters.”
Impulse Group Houston, a chapter of the international organization Impulse United, is dedicated to promoting healthy lifestyles for LGBTQ people through its community events and campaigns. Gioia says that the one-year-old chapter’s racial and ethnic diversity inspired a week-long event dedicated to queer Latinx people.
“Our leadership believes that Impulse Group should be a voice for Houston’s diverse populations, and that we should be intentional when building bridges between communities of color,” Gioia says. “In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we thought ‘what better way to reflect diversity than to put together not just one queer Latinx event, but an entire queer Latinx festival?’”
In addition to paying homage to Hispanic Heritage Month, Gioia says it’s no accident that #Juntos beings on October 15, which is National Latinx AIDS Awareness Day.
Elia Chino, founder of Fundación Latinoamericana de Acción Social (FLAS), a local organization for immigrants affected by or at risk for HIV/AIDS, believes #Juntos will shine a light on the unique challenges LGBTQ Latinx people face.
“Events like these help raise awareness and are an antidote to the stigma that has perpetuated massive disparities in HIV diagnoses in the Latinx community,” Chino says. “The face of HIV/AIDS is no longer white and urban—in fact, Latinx men who have sex with men saw a 24 percent increase in new HIV diagnoses from 2005 to 2015, while white men saw an 18 percent decline.”
Nearly half of new HIV diagnoses in the U.S. come from the South, where geography keeps many from getting the preventive care and treatment they need, according to FLAS. “Fortunately, more and more people across the country are paying attention to these problems and bringing new solutions to our community,” Chino says, adding that pharmaceutical companies like Gilead Sciences are funding programs to help Latinx people in Texas access culturally competent healthcare. “We need more opportunities to come together, learn from one another, and lift up new solutions to end the epidemic.”
#Juntos will feature three events: a Latinx edition of D-RAW featuring drag artist Barbaracoa at Ripcord on October 15, a queer Lotería with OLTT at Casa Anandrea on October 16, and Tú Sí Sabes Quererme (a poetry, music, and art showcase) at Out of the Closet thrift store on October 19.
Gioia says he hopes #Juntos will be the first of many queer Latinx festivals in Houston.
“Impulse Group aims to give back to our community by being pioneers of something that can last,” Gioia says. “This year’s queer Latinx festival will amplify queer Latinx people in intimate settings. Maybe next year the festival will do this on a larger scale. For now, I just hope that at least one person leaves with a different perspective on Houston’s diverse communities.”
#Juntos is free, and all events are open to the public. In order to showcase art at Tú Sí Sabes Quererme, email Gioia at [email protected].
What: #Juntos, Impulse Group Houston’s Queer Latinx Festival
When: Tuesday, Oct. 15–Saturday, Oct. 19
Where: Ripcord (715 Fairview St.), Casa Anandrea (3339 Arbor St.), Out of the Closet (1435 Westheimer Rd.)