The Value In Saying “Latinx”

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.

  1. 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. 
  2. “Latinxs” includes transgender, genderqueer, agender, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming people. These marginalized identities should not be ignored or erased in our language. 
  3. 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.

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So, that’s what 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”?

 

Emanuel Xavier

author-picIt 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.

 

Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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.

 

Tristan J. Tarwater

tristanI 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. 

 

 

Sabrina Sol

I’m supportive of the use of the term Latinx. I think it’s an inclusive word that will move our culture forward. 

 

Lisa M. Bradley

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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.

 

 

 

Liliam Rivera

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?

 

Iliana Rocha

Iliana RochaI 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.

 

Elliott Turner

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? 

 

 

Anna-Marie McLemore

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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.

 

 

 

Lisa M. Bradley

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.


Elliott Turner

torso-arms-crossed-bwI 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! 

 

 

 

Désirée Zamorano

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.

 

Sabrina Vourvoulias
sabrinaLatin@ has the same problem as Latinx, only worse — how is it pronounced? I’ve heard people say Latin-ow to pronounce it, but really there is no standard. Generally, I use Latinx and Latinxs in writing in English, Latino or Latina and Latinos in writing in Spanish. I use Latina in referring to myself in spoken English and Spanish, and Latinos for a general collective in spoken English and Spanish. 
Hispanic really, really grates on me. (Here’s a column from a number of years ago I wrote on the subject (it is in Spanish but you can click to read it in English): http://aldianews.com/articles/opinion/latino-or-hispanic/28533. I think Latinos, Latinxs and Latin@s is marginally better, but still problematic in terms of flattening us into a very generalized term. I know lots of Chicanos/as who object to it, as well as some Boricuas. Since my equivalent would be Chapina — something most U.S. folks (even many U.S. Latinx folks) wouldn’t understand — I do find the generalized term useful.
 
Tristan J. Tarwater

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.

Zoraida Córdova

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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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If you are non-Latinx and this is all very new or confusing to you, feel free to ask questions! I am open to all discussions and am happy to clarify anything further. 

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50 thoughts on “The Value In Saying “Latinx”

  1. My sentiments are very similar to author Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s. It was also interesting to read how a couple of the authors feel about using the term Hispanic. Actually, a couple of days ago I referred to a third person as Hispanic and the person I was speaking to corrected me and told me the correct term was Latino. They seemed offended, and I got some anti-Spanish vibes. :/

    1. I think most Latinos/Latinxs feel this way. Maybe it was because the group that I asked are authors and they’re more likely to be accepting of new words? But as I said, I respect why some people don’t want to use it. And certainly don’t want to force anyone to! I just want to make the case for it. 🙂

      1. The relationship with Spain is very prickly. Some Latinx love Iberia and the Real Academia Espanhola and think the peninsula is the seat of culture. Others, though, kinda recall the mass killings and torture perpetrated by the Catholic Kings which hastened the exodus of Jews, Muslims, non-Catholics to the Americas. Of course, Spaniards today had zero to do with that history, but still.

        When I lived in Spain I def made some friends and it was cool that most everybody was a night owl and nobody cared much for punctuality, but I just will never get over/use/accept “vosotros.”

  2. This is a fantastic post. I really love how you gathered the opinions of other members of the Latinx literature community. As someone who does not speak, nor has even studied, Spanish, this is not something I would have considered. It’s enlightening to see how other people might interpret the term. Everyone has the right to label themselves as they wish– even if that means rejecting a label entirely.

    1. Identify is a complex subject and I’m all for people identifying how they wish. And yes, sometimes that means rejection of new terms. But a new term does not suddenly invalidate an old term, it’s just a different way to describe identity and experience. It’s all very fascinating and I hope the conversations about Latino/Latinx/Hispanic are ongoing.

  3. Is Latinx pronounced differently if it’s used in Latin American countries as far as anyone knows? I find it confusing that the “x” is pronounced like the letter in English, and not how you would pronounce “x” in Spanish or even in Nahuatl-influenced words in Spanish (ie, like how Mexico is pronounced).

    1. Hi, Casey.
      The Spanish “x” is also pronounced like it is in English in several words. The soft sound in “Mexico” is only one of the “x” sounds. There are also words like “exagerar” “crucifixion” “exacto” “excepcional” and several other words with the “x” sound that English speakers are used to. So I don’t see any confusion. 🙂

  4. Prior to coming on here I never even heard of the word Latinx. From your blog, I get a sense of open mindedness and respect towards others which is good. From personal experience the worst way to lose someone’s interest is to name call them or accuse them of beight malicious when in fact they might have been curious. Point being that long ago I asked goodreads community whether or not to read for today I am a boy. Instead of a thoughtful dialogue I got accused of being a transphobe.. those reactions completely turned me off from learning or caring about Transgender issues.

  5. This was so fascinating! I personally identify as Latina, but I like the idea of a more gender inclusive term (even if things in English don’t necessarily have a gender). I thought Latinx looked kind of weird since I didn’t understand why it was being used before, but after reading this I feel like I’ll be using this term from now on. Love how you got different opinions, too!

    1. When I first learned about Latinx, I though it looked weird too. hah, but I’m used to it by now and I love it. I’m glad to hear you say you’ll use it more often now! The more people use it, the more quickly it will become a household word. At least in the US! lol

  6. Fabulous post. I had never come across the word, and it made me think about how I personally would refer to someone. The word Hispanic comes to mind but it somehow sounds wrong/off. You made very good points with the use of the word Latinx, I will make sure to remember it. It is very interesting to hear what everyone has to say about it.

    1. I’ve seen it a lot this year, mostly since I joined Twitter. So it’s still pretty new to me but I was immediately drawn to it.
      I’m glad I could bring this word to your attention. Now that you’ve seen it once, you’ll notice it much more frequently online!

  7. I like seeing all the authors’ perspectives on this. I live in a state with a large Latinx population, but I’ve only seen that word on the internet. I don’t remember ever hearing anyone say it. Latino, Latina, and Mexican seem pretty common around here, but those don’t apply to everyone. Latinx makes sense to me because it’s not a gendered word and works for people from different countries.

    1. Yeah, it’s a relatively new term and it may never catch on in everyday speech. Kind of like for a long time people wrote “Latin@” to be more inclusive.
      But I do hope it becomes mainstream at least in written form. I fear it may be too soon for a word that changes the way we think about identity in the Latinx community. People can be stubborn and set in their ways about change. :/

  8. Great post! I appreciate the depth with which you’ve gone into the topic and the opinions from various authors you shared. I didn’t realize Latinx can be a controversial term, so I definitely learned a few things from this post.

    1. I wish it weren’t a controversial term, but it is. I feel that the majority of Latinxs don’t like it because it’s radical change and especially because they don’t feel it makes sense as a Spanish word. I totally understand that. I would be OK if it was only a term used by English-speaking Latinxs. I’ll certainly continue to use it both in writing and in everyday speech!

  9. This is such an interesting read — it’s great to hear your thoughts, and then I love that you got a range of responses from your collaborators. Lots to think about! It’s interesting because terminology is never perfect and constantly evolving, and I think it’s possible that now — with so many people having a platform to voice their opinions — that evolution happens faster? Possibly? (I am not that committed to this hypothesis yet; further observation is merited.) So it’s trickier to find a term that works, given that as soon as you put something into words, it’s necessarily limited in a way that free-floating concepts are not.

    1. Yes! Evolution and change can definitely happen faster now that we have the internet. The term “Latinx” has gained a lot of momentum over the last year and I think it will keep gaining more. I just don’t know if it will catch on in every day speech, but I’m ok with it just being a written word, kind of like “Latin@.” I’ll be using it conversations, though!

  10. I see “Latinx” on the Internet, such as on your fabulous blog, but I have yet to come across it in other spaces. Those other spaces (like my profession) are dominated by older, less diverse, and more “traditional” folks than the blogosphere is, so that might explain the difference. Personally, I like the idea of moving away from sexist rules in language. My daughters take Spanish, and I’ll never forget the day they had to separate masculine and feminine words on a worksheet. They actually cried about it, saying it was unfair. When I was their age, I just accepted it. They’re different. I think that’s progress.

  11. THANK YOU for writing this post! As a non-Latinx person, this definitely cleared some things up for me.

    “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!”

    This was particularly helpful!

    1. You’ll keep seeing it on the internet far more frequently in the future. I have used it so frequently, that saying “Latino” as a general term doesn’t sound right to me. It’s too restrictive and not inclusive enough. I figure the more people see it, they more quickly they will accept it, so I will remain persistent.

    1. It makes sense why you haven’t heard it. I can’t imagine there are many Latinx people in Australia! hehe 🙂 But now that you’ve seen it once, I’m sure you will notice it pop up again.
      I’m sorry if this post was a bit confusing. It wasn’t meant to be an introductory post to the term, since there are many of them out there already. But thanks for reading!

  12. Such an amazing post, Naz! Thanks so much for presenting so many different perspectives! I only recently learned about LatinX, but learned about the use of the @ in grad school, yay🙌 Speaking more generally on communities and making, I try never to name but use the term ppl identify with but when I refer to a group more broadly use an inclusive variant. I love though that more of these discussions are had and we can see concerns and inclusivity evolve through these changing acts of naming!✊ LHM here was awesome, kudos!

  13. Idk why I’ve only read this now, it was really great! I’ve had the same question for several months now. On Twitter, I’ve seen people pushing for Filipinx instead of Filipino/Filipina, and I’m not sure how to feel about it. I would say that I identify as Filipina since I am a cisgender female, but would not object to being called Filipinx as well. I certainly wouldn’t object to the word being used in an attempt to be more inclusive!

    Thanks for this, I love it!

    1. Only a small percentage of the Latinx population personally identify as “Latinx.” I see its use when referring to large groups of people or when used as a general term. It’s possible your friends may not have even heard of it! If they have, they probably have strong opinions about it.

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