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A Calzón Quitado is an opportunity for Latinas in Montgomery County to have conversations about challenging sexual health topics in a supportive community space. Leading the program are the Promotoras de Salud, a group of Spanish-speaking peer educators from Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, DC (PPMW) who provide vital information to their communities about sexual and reproductive health, rights, and services. 

PPMW Bilingual Program Manager Karen Gomez Morales launched Promotoras de Salud in 2021. Three years in, the group is better positioned than ever to initiate important dialogues on intimacy, sexual health, gender roles, and bodily autonomy thanks to programs like A Calzón Quitado. “Our Promotoras,” Karen attests, “are able to hold that stage and tell people ‘this is why this matters.’”

Promotoras Carolina Toledo (left) and Milagro Rivera Flores (right) lead a conversation during a recent A Calzón Quitado session

Solidarity over shame

Translating to “without underwear,” the title “A Calzón Quitado” signifies the removal of shame when discussing sexual health. The program centers on HIV prevention and awareness, sexuality, reproductive rights, and sexual health among Latinas. 

A Calzón Quitado is directly modeled after the PPMW Spill the Tea program, which helps facilitate conversations about HIV awareness and prevention among Black women. Because both Black and Latinx people experience greater vulnerabilities to HIV transmission than other racial/ethnic groups, PPMW launched Spill the Tea and A Calzón Quitado to provide education, resources, and linkage to care for HIV prevention. 

While HIV prevention was initially the primary focus of A Calzón Quitado, Gomez Morales says the program has evolved to cover a wider range of topics, including sex, pleasure, abortion access, and reproductive rights. “It’s talking about courageous topics that are taboo and that aren’t really spoken about among women in our community,” she explains. 

The A Calzón Quitado sessions guide participants through examining their internal biases and beliefs concerning sex, pleasure, and their own bodies. Participants build a sense of community while learning about themselves and sexual health.

For Gomez Morales, discussing pleasure is a pivotal first step towards improved sexual health. “If we cannot confidently talk about pleasure,” she says, “sometimes it can be hard for us to advocate for our own health care” because pleasure is also connected with bodily autonomy and self-empowerment. 

Gomez Morales explains that many women come to A Calzón Quitado without “the power to know their body, the power to advocate for themselves.” This can be due to a range of factors, from financial dependence on partners to self-blame and internalized shame about their bodies. During sessions, Promotoras guide participants through conversations addressing these power dynamics, helping them embrace their own autonomy, reduce shame around their bodies, and find solidarity in one another.

Promotoras Ana Avila (left) and Hilda Moreno (right) dialogue with participants during a recent A Calzón Quitado session

Openness and trust

Given the nature of A Calzón Quitado discussions, Promotoras play a crucial role in establishing a dynamic of openness and trust among participants. They are already peers, neighbors, and friends to those they’re teaching, and, through the Promotoras program, they receive additional sexual and reproductive health training to inform their work. 

The comfort and relatability between Promotoras and A Calzón Quitado participants ensures an atmosphere of camaraderie and conversation among friends. During each session’s guided discussion, Promotoras share their own experiences with the group, and encourage participants to do the same. 

“I can go and teach, but if we have Promotoras teaching, that’s an instant ‘I can relate to you,’” Gomez Morales notes. Still, she is always available to respond to any questions about HIV or PrEP/PEP (medicines that prevent HIV) that the Promotoras might not yet know how to answer

A Calzón Quitado resource table, fully stocked with helpful information on sexual health services and other community resources

Tackling stigma through research

On February 12th, Gomez Morales and PPMW Promotoras facilitated a session on abortion access, helping participants gain more knowledge and understanding of their reproductive rights. This session benefited from the Promotoras’ own experience in working with community members over the past two years as well as research into what kinds of communication around abortion community members find most accessible. 

That research included insights from PPMW partner La Clínica del Pueblo, a culturally competent, bilingual community health center based in Washington, DC. La Clínica del Pueblo emphasizes that "all women and people with the capacity to gestate have the right to make informed and autonomous decisions about their bodies and reproductive health." As a co-recipient of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) Latino Community Investment Grant, La Clínica del Pueblo has shared educational resources and information with PPMW addressing cultural barriers regarding the right to choose.

This effort aimed to destigmatize and enhance the conversation about it among local Latine immigrant communities. La Clínica approached this topic from a sexual and reproductive rights and health literacy perspective. This knowledge is informing PPMW's ongoing work to better connect Spanish-speaking communities in our region to reproductive health services.

Also informing the session was a focus group on how to most effectively communicate information about abortion access to local Spanish-speaking communities, funded through an Equitable Access to Abortion in Montgomery County grant awarded to PPMW.

At the core of this work are community connections made possible by the Promotoras as trusted, engaged community health educators. “The Promotoras have really been able to get folks talking,” Gomez Morales says. “That connection is everything.”

An English language A Calzón Quitado session is being held on Tuesday, March 19, 5:30 — 7:30 p.m

The next A Calzón Quitado session in Spanish is on Friday, March 22, 4 — 6 p.m. To register, click here.



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