Sergio Gonzalez’s Ph.D. dissertation, titled “A Jotería Identity and Belonging: Pláticas of Co-Creation with Queer and Trans Latinx Graduate Students in Higher Education,” not only describes his research as a prolific scholar and noted activist, but it also represents some of his own intriguing journey.
“I am a higher ed scholar, that’s where my academic upbringing is,” Gonzalez told Diverse. “But as much as I am a higher ed scholar, I’m a Jotería scholar-activist because my academic upbringing was really informed by my lived experiences as a first-generation academic, Joto, and Latinx in higher ed.” He draws upon scholarship in critical race theory and Jotería studies in education and invites his research participants to become co-creators and to be in conversations, or pláticas, with him.
“Jotería studies is a political project and scholarly field vibrantly evolving at the intersection of Chicanx, Latinx, queer of color, and transgender studies concerned with the histories, identities, scholarly works, and artistic and activist practices of queer Chicanx and Latinx people,” according to professors Eddy Francisco Alvarez, Jr., and Jorge Estrada, writing in the Global Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History (2019).
As Gonzalez completes his graduate studies at Claremont Graduate University in California, he is preparing to defend his dissertation before departing for a faculty position this fall at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.
Gonzalez explained how his arrival to this point involves others who have collaborated with him, co-creators he calls “queertors.” One of those is Dr. Anita Tijerina Revilla, a professor in the department of Chicana/o & Latina/o studies at Cal State University, Los Angeles, who nominated Gonzalez as a rising graduate scholar.
“I am particularly impressed by the direction of his current research project,” Tijerina Revilla said in her nominating letter. “Building on the frameworks of Jotería identity and consciousness as well as the work done on sense of belonging, he is working to center the voices and experiences of queer Latinx, or Jotería, graduate students.” As a community leader, Gonzalez is on the national board of The Association for Jotería Arts, Activism, and Scholarship. “He has been an invaluable member and contributor of our queer Latinx academic and activist community,” Tijerina Revilla stated in her letter.
As a Jotería scholar Gonzalez is one of the co-authors with Tijerina Revilla on a chapter, “Brown queer feminist strategies for social transformation” in the Handbook of Latinos and Education: Theory, Research, and Practice (2021), among numerous refereed articles and chapters.
After completing his undergraduate studies at Manhattanville College in New York state, Gonzalez worked for College Track, a nonprofit college completion program in California. “It was during this process of working hands-on with the students, advocating for a lot of our undocumented students, that I realized I need to be in the school, in an institution, to break down some of these barriers,” said Gonzalez, who is also a College Track alum. So, he entered graduate school and earned two master’s degrees before beginning his Ph.D. studies.
Revilla called Gonzalez’s research “trailblazing and forward-thinking,” and she noted that “renowned scholars have remarked on his work with excitement.”
Despite the accolades, Gonzalez is realistic about the academic landscape, given the current push for anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in a growing number of states. However, he said in his job search he has been “unapologetic” about himself and his work.
Gonzalez said his immediate goal is to use his dissertation as a foundation to explore how Jotería emerges for queer and trans Latinx students in STEM fields.
He recommends that other graduate students from a similar background trying to figure out their next steps should remain authentic. “Think about what it is you’re committed to — and we all have a story to tell — so tell your story,” he said.
This is one in a series of profiles about this year’s Rising Graduate Scholars.