Goodbye ‘Latinx,’ Hello ‘Latine’: Connecticut’s Bold Move Towards Inclusivity
Connecticut has always been known for its history and revolutionary spirit. This time, however, it is revolutionizing not war but language.
Democratic Governor Ned Lamont signed a bill introducing “Latine” as a new legal term for citizens of Latin American descent. For many, it is nothing less than an unprecedented act of linguistic rebellion and inclusiveness.
The new law states, “On every official communication or form of a state agency relevant to the Latin American community, or communication by a state employee on behalf of a state agency relevant to such community, such communication or form shall use the terms ‘Latino’, ‘Latina’ and ‘Latine’ to refer to such community.”
In this way, Connecticut follows the lead of activist organizations such as GLAAD, Nalip, and ACLU which have dropped the neologism “Latinx” to embrace a term used in Spanish-speaking countries.
Latine vs. Latinx
“Latine” emerges as a gender-neutral alternative to the controversial “Latinx” that gained prominence on college campuses and in academic spaces. Although intended to be inclusive, the term was often considered exclusionary and pretentious due to its distance from the traditional structure of Spanish and its complex pronunciation.
Thus, five Hispanic Democratic lawmakers from Connecticut initially challenged “Latinx” last February, seeking a term that better represented their non-binary and transgender constituents. Their appeal sparked a debate leading to the “Latine” proposal and their legislation.
Lawmakers then found a linguistic alternative in the rich history of the Spanish language itself.
Spanish is strongly gendered, like many other languages, with binary rules separating words into masculine and feminine. Over time, however, the linguistic landscape has changed.
A neutral Spanish?
“Latine” (pronounced la-ˈti-ne) is a gender-neutral form of Latino, created by the LGBTQIA+, gender non-binary, and feminist communities in Spanish-speaking countries.
The term “Latine” aims to remove the gender from the Spanish word Latino, replacing it with the gender-neutral letter E. This idea is native to Spanish and can be seen in many gender-neutral words, such as “estudiante.”
This is a far cry from what many perceived in the neologism “Latinx,” considered by critics to be less inclusive than it purports to be. Other scholars who have researched the term’s origins believe it is uniquely U.S.-centric, which would reinforce the notion of domination.
Likewise, “Latine” is not the only word Spanish speakers have changed to embrace diversity. Young Latin Americans and Spaniards also substitute the “o” for the “e” in the plural of both genders.
Language is our tool for understanding the world and relating to it. It reflects our social and cultural systems and transforms itself to adapt to changes in those systems.
That is why the change from “Latinx” to “Latine” implies a linguistic and social change that reflects Connecticut’s commitment to a more inclusive environment for the Latin American community.
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