Over the past couple of years, the term “Latinx” has gained momentum in online communities and I believe the term will become even more common in the future. For now, it is rarely used in everyday speech and it certainly has not entered into mainstream conversations. When I say “Latinx” (pronounced lah-teen-ex) outside of the internet, I often get confused looks and questions to repeat the word and clarify what it means. But these interactions do not deter me from continuing to use it because I believe this word has real value.
Others don’t see the value. In fact, the more “Latinx” is used, the more opposition it seems to get from the Latinx people themselves. That is because we are widely diverse group of people with origins in dozens of different countries, each with unique cultures, customs, and traditions. There are also differences on the individual level because we’re all human. So it goes without saying that we’re not going to agree on everything because we are not a monolith. Some even question the need for such a broad umbrella term that is inherently flawed. This is a valid concern, and one that should be raised for all pan-ethnic terms.
But I genuinely believe there is value in saying “Latinx” for three reasons: because it is feminist, it includes people or marginalized identities, and can be used to embrace indigeneity.
- It is a feminist term because it challenges the sexist aspects of the Spanish language. For example, if a cisgender man enters a group of a dozen Latinas, the group is suddenly referred to as “Latinos.” One can argue that that’s just how Spanish works. But at some point, we have to examine that Spanish is grounded in sexist ideals that prioritize masculinity.
- “Latinxs” includes transgender, genderqueer, agender, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming people. These marginalized identities should not be ignored or erased in our language.
- For some, the “x” is an homage to indigenous ancestry, much in the same way that writing “Chicano/a” with an X (Xicano/a & further, Xicanx) is a nod to indigenous languages such as Nahuatl.
To be clear, I firmly believe that everyone should self-identify however they wish. I identify as Latino because I am a cisgender man, so I have no issue using the masculine form of the word and certainly will not object to being called Latinx by someone else. In my attempts to bring awareness to the term Latinx, my goal has never been to convince people to personally identify as Latinx. I only want people to be more inclusive in the language they use. In my case, I have deliberately shifted away from using the term “Latinos” when referring to a large group of people with roots or ancestry in Latin America. Instead, I find that the term “Latinxs” is a better alternative because its scope encompasses more/all Latinx identities and experiences. Similarly, when I am speaking in general about Latino/Latina/Latinx issues, I always say “Latinx” because it is the most neutral and inclusive of the terms.
My hard and fast rules are: if you’re speaking in general or about a large group of people, use “Latinxs.” If you are referring to a specific individual, use their preferred identifier. If you do not know it, use “Latinx.” The goal should be to bring the term to mainstream use, and the more people see/read/hear it, the quicker they will become used to it!
I am quite aware that this term is mostly used in the United States. In Latin American countries, it is less common but it is still being used. If Spanish-only speakers, people whose first language was Spanish, or people currently living in Latin America reject the term, I respect that. But there are millions of Latinxs in the U.S. alone and many of us will continue to use it because language has always evolved and changed, so it makes perfect sense to me that the language around something as complex and multifaceted as identity should evolve as well.
So, that’s what I have to say about the term “Latinx.” But what do other, more intelligent people have to say on the matter? Well, I asked around myself! Below, I’ve gathered the responses of several authors who collaborated with me during Latinx Heritage Month and a couple I reached out to simply because I just had to include them in this post.
First, I asked for their thoughts or opinions on the term Latinx. In a separate question, I ask them to self-identify. Their responses confirmed a pattern I noticed some time ago. Many people still identify as Latino/Latina/Hispanic or more specific terms, but are generally accepting and welcoming of inclusive terms such as Latinx. At least in the United States, where the term is most popular. This is very encouraging!
What is your opinion on the term “Latinx”?
It took me some time to warm up to the term Latinx but I came around eventually. I had been in the habit of using the term Latin@ but I was actually intrigued by the use of the letter “x” as it is used in my name. As a gay man who has had many trans friends along the way, I appreciate that Latinx encompasses all genders and gender identities and is all inclusive. I get that some people have issues with new words or how the meaning of certain words change throughout the years but, as an artist, getting stuck in the past is not ideal.
I don’t use it. I understand why Latinos born in the United States might use it, since they utilize English regularly and English allows for non-gendered words, but in Spanish everything has a gender (the table, the cat, the window) so it makes no sense as a native Spanish speaker for me to utilize it.
I think it’s great. I know people are not sure how to pronounce it right off the bat! But Spanish is a language which has adapted and changed so much over the centuries here in the Americas, incorporating words, grammar and pronunciation of indigenous languages, picking up English words it seems natural it would change to acknowledge gender identity, gender variance. We create language to express ideas about the world around us, so it’s time for Latinx.
I’m supportive of the use of the term Latinx. I think it’s an inclusive word that will move our culture forward.
I interpret “Latinx” as an identity marker that acknowledges the indigenous roots of peoples colonized by Spain. It also neatly sidesteps the gender expectations planted by that colonization.
One of my first jobs was working as an editorial assistant at Latina magazine. It was their first issue and I was so happy to be part of such a groundbreaking moment. Back then, it was empowering to use the term Latina and I wanted more than anything to be associated with a magazine by that name. The term Hispanic never truly encompassed what I was. The word is associated with Spain. I’m not from Spain. My parents are from Puerto Rico and I was born in New York. Latina/o was what I’ve used but lately I’ve been using the Latinx term when I write because it’s more inclusive. I’m happy to see the slight shift. Why not celebrate and include everyone?
I am so drawn to the “x” at the end of “Latinx” and “Chicanx” because that little “x” destabilizes oppressive binaries. A common misperception made about (Latinx/Chicanx) identity is that it is universal, static, fixed. No room for variation. Identity, thankfully, is much more fluid—there is not one way to be Latinx or Chicanx because if there was, I would have failed and failed miserably. That “x” is so powerful because it signifies that identities are constantly undergoing construction, that identity is a construct.
I like the term LatinX because, as somebody who also speaks and reads in English, any way to move beyond a binary concept of gender in thought, words, and action is a welcome development. For a long time I used the term latin@, but the arroba “@” is such an eyesore on a superficial level.
How do you identify and why?
I identify as Latina, but I refer to my community as Latinx; I’m a girl, so “Latina” speaks to me, but I like Latinx as an inclusive term for all gender identities and expressions.
I grew up with the Hispanic label in South Texas but have adopted Latin@ since moving to Iowa. I like how the @ complicates gender expectations: male or female or both or neither or somewhere in between? I would like to use Latinx, but because I don’t know much of my family history beyond a few generations, I don’t feel entitled to (re)claim an indigenous identity.
I have always self defined as Hispanic/Chicano. I don’t like to push any term, though, on others, and have been guilty of that Cardinal Sin where one assumes a LatinX is MexicanX just because 75% of my friends are!
I live in a country where “Mexican” is pejorative, unless paired with food. I identify as Mexican-American to push back against the pervasive negative images we face as well as to make visible who we are.
Out of the three, I identify with Latinx. But I’d say I was mixed, Puerto Rican, or Nuyorican and black. Latinidad is big, the diaspora is massive and varied as different generations try to wade through the terminology for different situations. Latinxs aren’t a monolith, we come from so many different places, and each generation has a different experience, and that does need to be acknowledged as we try to help each other out and listen to each other. But at other times it is important to stand together, because we do have shared experiences.
I identify with Hispanic and Latina. Hispanic because I do recognize Spanish ancestry. Latina because I’m cisgender, and I’m from Ecuador. I recognize that in the United State we are stronger together.
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