The Latino, the Latina, and the Latinx

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

If you can’t tell by my profile picture or my previous articles regarding race, I am a white person. And by white, I don’t mean white Latina person- I mean white, colonizing European, my-ancestors-probably-owned-slaves, my-ancestors-were-probably-part-of-the-KKK, Caucasian American. So, you can imagine my confusion on the whole “Latinx” debacle that’s been going on for the past few days.

Latinx, for those of you who are either living under a rock or aren’t “woke” people, is supposedly the gender-neutral in contrast to Latino and Latina. Due to the Spanish language only having two genders in it (male and female), many people, particularly non-binary people, feel excluded when describing themselves. Thus, in the early 2000s, the term “Latinx” was coined as has become more widely used ever since, especially in the 2010s. There have been other terms for a gender-neutral term such as “Latino/a”, “Latine” and “Latin@”, but Latinx has become the most popular term.

Now, making gender-neutral terms for normally gendered words is not a new phenomenon. Terms like “Mx.”, “folx”, “heroix”, and many more have become more prominent in our lexicon as are gender-neutral pronouns like “xe”, “ze”, and the fan-favorite “singular they”. Hell, even Sweden had introduced the gender-neutral pronoun “hen” in 2012. So, it’s safe to say that our society has become much more relaxed and open when it comes to gender-neutral terms in our languages, and I personally think that’s a good thing. Language has been evolving ever since it was a thing, right? It’s natural that for our language to evolve to become gender-neutral and great to see it becoming more inclusive of other people.

My take on this, however (and this is either the autism or the whiteness speaking), is this- how the hell am I supposed to pronounce “Latinx”? Spanish, a Romance language, is noted for the lack of difficulty when it comes to more Germanic languages like English, German, and even another Romance language- French (and the less I go on about Celtic languages like Irish and Welsh, the better). Its vowels really only have one way to pronounce them, so, concerning the letter “x” in place of the letters “a” and “o”, what would the pronunciation be? In Spanish, the letter “x” is pronounced “eh-kees”. Therefore, would the pronunciation of “Latinx” be “La-ti-eh-kees”?

In addition to this, the Spanish language is incredibly gender-based. “El ojo” (meaning “the eye”) is considered masculine, and “La cara” (meaning “the face”) is considered feminine. There are very few exceptions to this case (“la mano”, “la modela”, and “el idioma”), and there are even some nouns that are both masculine and feminine (“la dote”, “el calor”, and “la testuz”). So, looking at those words, “Latinx” shouldn’t be any issue at all, right? Well, notice how the words I’ve listed end in a vowel sound while “Latinx” doesn’t. Again with the Spanish pronunciation of the letter “x”, it’s pretty hard to pronounce despite Spanish vowels being generally easy to pronounce. The term “Latin@” also has the same issue despite not being used as much.

Another issue people seem to have with the word “Latinx” is that some people consider it offensive. According to the Pew Research, only three percent of Hispanic people in the United States use “Latinx” to describe themselves although close to a quarter have heard of the term (with people ages 18–29 being the most common at 42%). So if the term has become so widespread, why have so little people heard of it, and why do most people not use it? Well, some people consider the term “Latinx” to be normalization of the colonialism in Latin American countries. According to Daily Dot, the term “Latinx” may lead to the erasure of indigenous identities and emphasizes lighter-skinned mestizos, which has always been an issue when it comes to colonialization. Motecuzoma P. Sanchez of llero.net claims that the term is Eurocentrism and internal colonialism since Latin was the original language of the Romans who invaded Spain, who, in turn, invaded and colonized much of Latin America.

There’s also the matter of choosing between many other terms for describing oneself. Latino, Latina, Hispanic, and Chicano are among the popular (and more widespread) terms to describe those of Hispanic/Latino descent like Latinx. And despite the term “Latinx” existing as a more gender-neutral and inclusive term, it’s ironically stirred up controversy due that very fact. Ruby Corado, a transgender activist, prefers to call herself “Latina” rather than “Latinx”. “I grew up fighting for my gender to be recognized as Latina,” she said, “That’s something that’s not going to change, but [Latinx] is something I’m adapting to as I’m doing work with millennials.”

But despite the drama around the term “Latinx”, some people find it a suitable term to use. “It is a term that disrupts the gender binary as well as some of our language and culture,” Mark Travis Rivera, an activist and choreographer, said, “I love that the word disrupts the culture, to allow space for trans friends, sisters, brothers, and all of our families to feel included.” Daisy Hernandez, author of A Cup of Water Under My Bed, claimed, “I need to hear it, see it, sound it out for a while. I do think that it is incredibly important to experiment with language as we change as a country. So it (“Latinx”) does make sense, because our community is changing. We are talking about gender issues, we are talking about LGBT issues, and we are looking for terms that explain and help us understand our experience in this country.”

So, what is the solution to this problem? Do we let the term die out, do we stick to strictly “Latino” or “Latina” or “Hispanic”, do we create a new term, do we use other, less-known terms, or do we let the human language evolve and just let things flow? I personally don’t know the answer, but I do think it’s up to the individual to identify whatever they want to identify as. After all, it’s none of my business to dictate someone else’s identity. So, if someone prefers to call themselves “Latinx”, I think we should let them. Maybe the term doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, but as long as it’s not hurting anyone, I say just let it exist. What’s the harm in that?

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Emily Alexandra

Emily Alexandra

Just some autistic person wanting to write and write. I also like to draw and have a cat and dog that are my life. I publish on 8th, 18th, and 28th every month.