This Comic Proves That The Great Debate On The Word ‘Latinx’ Rages On
There is much debate about whether we should use Latino or Latinx. Languages tend to evolve over time, especially to account for changes in society. As the world becomes more tolerant it makes sense that we’d try to come up with a new word that includes the sprawling diversity, gender or otherwise, of Latin people. However, nothing last forever, and what was the standard one day might be yesterday’s news.
A recent comic by Mexican-American artist Terry Blas called “You Say Latinx,” has reignited the debate around Latinx vs. Latine. Blas decided to opt for using Latine, but as he notes in his comic, ultimately which word you choose to use is up to you.
Why do some people use the word Latinx instead of Latino?
Spanish-language is gendered, with nouns ending in an “a” perceived as feminine, and nouns ending in an “o” regarded as masculine. As Raquel Reichard notes in Latina, the language is oft considered sexist with masculine nouns taking preference over feminine ones. Reichard gives the example of seven women being referred to as “Latinas” until a man shows up and suddenly it’s a group of “Latinos.”
While some have tried to subvert the norm by using “a” instead of “o,” others noted that it simply isn’t inclusive enough.
“But even these variations fall short, as they exclude the countless people of Latin American descent whose genders fall outside the woman-man binary—those identifying as agender (without a gender), nonbinary (beyond the traditional binary), or gender-fluid (fluctuating genders), among a spectrum of other identities,” Reichard writes.
Enter: Latinx. The term is a way of stripping away the sexism while also including all Latinxs. Added to the Meriam-Webster dictionary in 2018, it is defined as, “a gender-neutral term for Latin Americans, but it has been especially embraced by members of Latin LGBTQ communities as a word to identify themselves as people of Latin descent possessing a gender identity outside the male/female binary.”
However, there’s only one problem: how the heck do you say it? How the heck do you insert an “x” into a bunch of words in casual conversation?
“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,” Jack Qu’emi Gutiérrez, a nonbinary femme author, told Latina.
Illustrator Terry Blas chooses to us Latine instead of Latinx.
In his comic “You Say Latinx,” Blas recounts how going to a drag show inspired him to start using Latine instead of Latinx. The reason was simple: it’s easier to apply, pronounce, and use. In the comic, he is disarmed by how seamlessly a drag queen on La Mas Drag used Latine and substituted an “e” anywhere an “o” or “a” would go.
“Bienvenidos a todos,” was changed to “bienvenides a todes.” Blas described the “e” as rolling off the tongue.
“I find language, labels and terms interesting,” Blas told Remezcla. “Latinx is a term that I find fascinating and confusing, and I encountered people who didn’t know what it meant.”
Blas believes Latine and “e” are easier to implement into language than Latinx and the “x.”
“I would never tell anyone how to define themselves,” writes Blas in his comic. “Use whatever you like to be more inclusive. But I think I will use ‘e.’ Which means that for me Latinx just might become Latine.”
How gendered-language hurts expectations for everyone.
The reason many have opted to use Latinx instead of Latino, is similar to why we say postal worker instead of “mailman.” When we use gendered language it usually reveals what that culture thinks of that gender. Case in point, “mailman” implies we expect all postal workers to be men, which can make it harder for people besides men to get the job. On the flip side, we no longer call the role “stewardess” but rather that of a flight attendant, and that’s to include people besides women.
Moreover, language doesn’t include the fact that not everyone identifies as a man or a woman, other identities exist and some of the people who have them are Latinx too.
“When children hear a job title that has a gender mark on it, like an e-s-s ending or an m-a-n ending, and you ask them to draw pictures or talk about who’s doing that job, they will pick the one that matches the gender of the word,” Brigham Young University English professor Delys M. Snyder said. “If we’re going to be fair in opening up the world of work to men and women, and make it possible for everybody, maybe our job titles should reflect that.”
Thus, ridding away with gendered language can make society more equal for everybody involved.
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