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What the term ‘Latinx’ means

You may have thought the x was a typo. It wasn’t. "Latinx" rejects the gender binary.
12 Jul 2016 – 04:27 PM EDT
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Latinx: Beyond masculine and feminine Crédito: Univision

In the Spanish language, where nouns and adjectives take a masculine or feminine descriptor, it’s no longer about gender for one important word. " Latinx," pronounced "Latin-ex," is the new preferred inclusive, gender-neutral way to identify people with Latin American roots of any kind.

Beyond terms like Latino/a and Latin@, Latinx encompasses those who are trans, queer, agender, non-binary, gender non-conforming or gender fluid. It also helps advocate for Latinidad, an identity that encompasses the diversity of being from Latin America.

The broad and growing adoption of Latinx is part of a larger movement for inclusivity, as gender non-conforming and trans people demand greater representation across the country. Though it’s been used for years by academics, writers and some journalists, the general public is beginning to adopt “Latinx,” too.

"The x [in Latinx], is a way of rejecting the gendering of words to begin with,” writer Jack Qu'emi told PRI last month. Qu’emi is a self-described "queer, non-binary femme," who identifies as Afro-Latinx.

“The 'x' is a helpful reminder that I live on the border, and I transgress the gender border at every turn,” Robyn Henderson-Espinoza, a professor at the Pacific School of Religion, told Latina last year.

According to Google Trends data, Latinx began increasing in online searches in late 2014, and has recently spiked. There are now almost 10,000 photos and videos on Instagram with the #Latinx tag.

This is a novel concept for English speakers. English adjectives are not gendered, and the debate about non-binary identification within the English language focuses primarily on pronouns (to use "he" or "she"?). The genderqueer community suggests neutral pronouns, like "they.” Other proposed neutral pronouns are "ze,” "hir, "one,” "sie,” "co" and "y.”

In Spanish there is still no neutral pronoun accepted by the Royal Spanish Academy. The queer community has proposed "Elle,” and a petition to have it included in the dictionary has been signed by nearly 8,500 people.

But not everyone agrees “Latinx” is the solution to more gender-inclusive Spanish. Critics have argued that the word “effectively serves as an American way to erase the Spanish language,” and that “Latino” is already a gender-neutral term used to describe the Latin-American community.

In response, New York-based professors María R. Scharrón-del Río and Alan A. Aja defended the term last year, writing in Latino Rebels that criticism of Latinx is “born out of unexamined privilege and lack of awareness about systemic oppression.”

In an article in Complex, poet Yesenia Padilla concedes "Latinx" isn’t perfect. But, she writes, “it’s a “positive step towards recognizing all of nuestro gente [our people] … and will hopefully challenge every Latin American to think about what it truly means to be part of this complex culture.”

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