What Shall We Call Us? The Debate Around “Latinx” Continues
If you’ve spent any amount of time on the internet, 1) yikes and 2) you’re probably familiar with seeing “Latino/a,” which is clunkily condensed as “Latin@.” It’s been around for a while and is, ostensibly, a way to streamline the label, while applying to both men and women.
More and more, you might have noticed a new option popping up online: Latinx.
So, how is Latinx different from Latin@, exactly?
For one, it’s easier and faster to type out, which is kind of nice for the lazily-inclined among us. It’s also a term that allows for intersectionality and includes identities beyond a gender binary. It is, in a word, inclusive.
The term, though relatively new, has already inspired its share of controversy and debate. The site Latino Rebels, for instance, featured arguments both in favor of and against the term, taking into account factors like the history and implications of the term “Latino,” the term’s ties (or lack thereof) to the Spanish language, and the idea of subverting or reclaiming existing terms rather than creating new news.
For example, in their argument for the use of Latinx, professors María R. Scharréon-Del Río and Alan A. Aja write that opposing “Latinx” on the grounds that it isn’t in Spanish shows a narrow view of what it really means, historically and right now, to belong to this particular group:
Are we not aware that upon the arrival of the conquistadores and subsequent acts of genocide, a few thousand indigenous languages existed in the Americas, and a few resilient hundred continue to be spoken today? Not to mention the attempted erasure of African languages via the violence of slavery and colonialism.
Moreover, indigenous languages in Latin America (and throughout the world) range from the genderless to the multigendered, going beyond the binary. This is another instance in which Guerra and Orbea, while claiming to denounce imperialism, actually fall into one of the markers of colonization: the erasure of indigenous history and its cultural legacy.
As for an argument against adopting the term, Latino Rebels deputy editor Hector Luis Alamo writes that, among other factors, the label doesn’t actually ensure that its adopters do the work needed to address issues surrounding intersectionality and gender and, besides, words and their meanings aren’t necessarily immutable:
For those hung up on the -o, I suggest they worry less about the history of Latino and discover its present meaning. Language isn’t dead, after all, but living. Definitions continue to transform all the time, all around us. The word no longer applies strictly to male Latinos but all Latinos, just as the “men” in “all men are created equal” now means all people. The word queer, for example, literally means “odd” or “worthless,” a fact which doesn’t keep millions in the LGBT community from donning the term proudly. The word Latino, once a fork, has evolved into a spork, and so there’s no reason to invent an all-purpose substitute.
Latina magazine, for its part, asked several transgender and gender non-conforming people to share why they personally prefer the term. One respondent explained that, for them, “The ‘x’ in Afro-Latinx serves as a nod to my gender neutrality and my commitment to a lack of participation in the gender binary.” Another noted that Spanish is a very gendered language adding, “So what about non-binary trans people? We love our culture and want to be included, too. I identify as Latinx to assure everyone’s voice is heard.”
It’s also worth pointing out that many of the same arguments that hold true for Latinx can also be applied to Chicanx.
So tell us: What do you think of the term?
Do you use it? Do you think it’s more relevant than using “Latino/a” or “Latin@”? Or maybe you identity as none of those terms and want to share which one you prefer!
Either way, let us know. We’re all ears.
Want to share your views? We want to hear ’em. Tell us what you think, below.