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‘Latinx’: More debate on the gender ‘exclusiveness’ of the Spanish language

Over a year ago, yours truly first encountered use of the term “Latinx” — pronounced “lah-tee-nex” — a replacement of sorts for the traditional words “Latino/Latina” in an attempt to be, naturally, more “gender inclusive.”

As Inside Higher Ed explained, Latinx was created “in order to escape the implicit gender binary […] and include all possible gender and sexual identities.”

Now, the seemingly gender-noninclusive magazine Latina is pondering “Latinx,” as well as another possible (inclusive) alternative, “Latine.”

But while “Latinx” and “Latine” may assuage the politically correct set when it comes to addressing actual people, many, including even some in the PC set, consider its usage ridiculously cumbersome in terms of grammar.

From the story:

“‘Latinx’ is about our self-determination: the way we understand ourselves and how we want others to understand us in our own terms,” says Aldo Gallardo, a trans Peruvian based in Oakland, Calif. “[It] is an explicit recognition of nonbinary and gender-nonconforming folks from the Latin American diaspora, like me, moving us toward trans liberation and collective freedom.” …

“By embracing the term ‘Latinx,’ we as a community are saying, ‘You are welcome—and not just part of you, all of you is welcome,’” says [BeVisible Latinx’s Nicole] Castillo, a queer mexicana based in Boston. “I want BeVisible to be a place where you know you will be accepted, so you can just get along with pursuing your dreams.” …

“Using the ‘x’ was important to publicly signal our recognition of the diversity inside of our communities,” says Mijente co-founder Marisa Franco. “We can no longer afford to exile whole parts of our community and whole parts of ourselves.”

MORE: ‘Latinx’: Activists attempt to alter the fundamentals of an entire language

Still, the Arizona-based Chicana concedes that “Latinx” has its flaws. It can be difficult to apply an “x” after every gendered noun when speaking. For example, while “lxs niñxs fueron a protestar en sus escuela” may be understandable on paper, it’s not easy to pronounce or comprehend when said aloud. Even more, Franco recognizes a disconnect between young people using gender-neutral Spanish in the U.S. and those across Latin America who haven’t adopted it.

For Jack Qu’emi Gutiérrez, a nonbinary femme who identifies as Afro-Latinx, the term is “ingenious.” The Puerto Rican author, who first learned of the word on Tumblr, has spoken at universities across the country about “Latinx,” expressing the need for queer people of color’s self-determination. Still, even Gutiérrez acknowledges that making all of the Spanish language gender-inclusive with the letter “x” isn’t ideal.

“The main issue is with flow. You have one term made gender-neutral, but the rest of Spanish’s conjugation isn’t. I try to stick to neutralizing words that refer to people but also am not personally pressed to change all of Spanish’s structure,” she says.

Indeed, two students from Swarthmore had argued that “[b]y replacing [Spanish’s] o’s and a’s with x’s, the word ‘Latinx’ is rendered laughably incomprehensible to any Spanish speaker without some fluency in English.”

Heat Street points to a Facebook post demonstrating how confusing the “x” can be in place of an “o” or “a”:

“Yo uso la ‘x’ constantemente en mi página de Facebook, para mi es sumamente importante que lxs compañerxs se sientan indentificadxs y valuadxs individualmente. Es sumamente importante para mí hacer un contacto directo cada unx de ellxs, pues al estar en este país y con los ataques constants [sic] anti-inmigrante, el reafirmar su valor como individuos es de extra importancia. La evolución liguística [sic] continua.”

As I noted, examples in the above like “lxs compañerxs” do avoid the … “patriarchal” use of Spanish masculine plurals when including both genders. But this doesn’t address the linguistic confusion of the reader/listener: Is it supposed to be “los compañeros” or “las compañeras”? “Uno de ellos” or Una de ellas”?

Read the full article.

MORE: Student’s Spanish class video project ignites cries of racism, feelings of ‘victimization’

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.