By Didi Martinez | Digital Managing Editor
I remember seeing the word “Latinx” for the first time last year. My initial ignorance had me assume that the “-x” at the end of “Latin” was simply a typo. I now know that the word is a gender neutral term for Latin Americans. However, as a Mexican-American, I have found myself unconvinced at its wide-spread adoption.
Proponents of Latinx argue that the elimination of the -o and the -a at the end Latino or Latina strip the term of its gender and can describe those who are gender fluid, transgender or non-binary.
To be clear, my reservations against using Latinx aren’t aimed against a well-intentioned move toward inclusion. Rather, my reluctance to adopt Latinx comes from what I feel is a cultural aloofness toward the many it’s supposed to describe.
Both of Latin America’s predominant languages, Portuguese and Spanish, use the gendered versions of Latino as a term to describe the millions of people who culturally identify with these regions. Attempting to learn the language without gender would be very difficult since everything from “table” to “finger” end with either an -a or an -o. And while Spanish and Portuguese dialects differ from region to region, none of them seem to include a widespread adoption of -x. Instead, -o is generally accepted as the default for a group of multi-gendered individuals or when a person’s gender is unknown.
Listen, I am by no means a “linguistic purist,” but I do feel as if attaching an English modifier to a group of people who speak other languages is an overreach, if not intrusive, toward those who have worked so hard to maintain the richness of their culture.
Linguistics aside, I find that Latinx creates a divide across generations. As a young Mexican-American, I can see myself responding to Latinx, but could hardly imagine my grandmother doing so. Latinx is a term popularized by first and second generation Latinos who are used to the uniquely Americanized blend of English and Spanish. But where does this leave those belonging to older generations or the millions of other Latinos around the world?
I’ve always felt that government agencies, academia and even English-speaking news outlets never quite know what to do with Latinos. We are often treated as a cultural monolith devoid of variety and distinction. Latinx is just another attempt to keep on widening the umbrella instead of aiming toward the exactitude given to other peoples. And while being Latino can mean many things and include a variety of cultures, I believe we are better than terms that paint a broad brush over us as if what we experience is all the same. We are worth the curiosity and exploration into who we are — something a spelling change falls significantly short of.
My decision not to use Latinx doesn’t come from a refusal to include others. In fact, I welcome its use by those who feel that -o and -a offer them no place on the gender spectrum. But I also believe that there is a place for Latinos who are reluctant to adopt Latinx as their own on the basis of heritage and culture.