Please don’t call me that. “Latinx” is the hip term du jour, but not all of us are on board or even comfortable with that term. Many of us still prefer to use Latin, Latino, Latina, or Hispanic. These are still in use. They are not obsolete. They are not slurs. They are not politically incorrect.
Particularly as someone who is active in the fight for racial justice, I am disappointed in that nowadays there are often no options given for ethnicity that I feel represent me and align with my identity, not even “Multiracial” or “Mixed,” not even “Other.” It’s Latinx or Latinx.
Case in point, I went to create a profile listing for an online directory for therapists, and when it came time to identify myself, the only option for me was Latinx. They had Armenian, they had Eastern European, three different kinds of Asian, Black, White, some other stuff… but no group for me, other than Latinx. Nowhere for me and my identity to fit in.
First let me clarify, I am ethnically Latina. Racially… I have no race, apparently. Neither Hispanic nor Latin is not recognized as a race; I’m meant to choose from American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, or White, none of which apply to me. Sometimes I get lucky and there’s an “Other.”
“Latinx” is being touted as the “correct” term to use, but it is not, in fact, universally accepted. (I recently heard someone repeatedly say “Latinax” in a misguided effort to keep up!) Actually, many agree that it’s mostly (North) American millennials who use that term, not older folks or people that still reside in Latin America. (Not Latinx America. See?) The Census Bureau certainly does not use that terminology — unless it has very recently changed; it was not long ago that they added “Multiracial” as an option. Not that we should rely on the Bureau to make decisions for us about what words to use. Languages evolve much faster than the government does.
I respect — nay, enthusiastically support other people’s right to use “Latinx,” and will of course refer to them as such if that is how they identify, but I am not going to refer to myself that way. And here’s why:
You may have already heard some of the arguments against “Latinx.” The “x” isn’t even Spanish! In Spanish, the letter x is pronounced “eckis,” not “ex.” (My mother, for whom Spanish is her first and only language, cannot even pronounce an X at the end of a word! She tries, but she ends up saying “Latin-et” or “Latin-eps,” because that is not a sound that exists in our language in that way.) And what *I* can’t pronounce is a sentence like, “Todxs lxs niñxs están ansiosxs de volver a lx escuelx.” What a tongue-twister. That doesn’t sound or even look like Spanish. I much prefer the alternative, using an ‘e’ instead of an ‘a’ or ‘o.’ Latine! That sounds about right. And allows for a way more reasonable “Todes les niñes están ansioses de volver a le escuele.”)
While the fact that Spanish is a gendered language is of course problematic… Spanish is a gendered language. And it is what I speak. It is my language. I appreciate that Xs serve as a good reminder of non-binarity (and I often use the term “folx”), I respect others’ right to use it Latinx, and will of course refer to them as such if that is how they identify, but I am not going to refer to myself that way. I wish to identify as Latina (at least as this stage in my life); I want to keep that option. What’s more, the term “Latin” is already gender-neutral! And so is “Hispanic!” Granted, there is much disagreement on these terms as well. Because Latin is a language. And Hispanic technically means (used to mean) Spanish-speaking. And are Brazilians Hispanic? And are Italians Latin? But there’s a Latin America… etc, etc. There is no unanimous agreement. So stop forcing this slangy term on me! And spreading its almost-exclusive use, and implying that you’re wrong not to use it. It is just more colonialism disguised as “wokeness” when a word is being –while not created –chosen, used, enforced, disseminated and applied to Black and Brown people by White America. They did it with “Hispanic” and “Latin” (google it) and they’re just doing more of the same with “Latinx.”
But what is a good alternative? In support of non-gendered language I’ve begun using -e. It’s perfect! It’s in line with the way romance languages work, and it highlights the existence of the concept of non-binarity. You are most welcome to refer to me as Latine.
An important note: this is obviously an opinion piece. This is one Hispanic woman’s opinion. We are individuals, not a monolith. I do not represent all Hispanic women, or even Caribbean women, or even Puerto Rican women.
Gracias for reading,
Doctora Álvarez. (Yes, áccent ánd áll.)
P.S. I dictated this onto my phone, and the only word it didn’t recognize was Latinx!
P.P.S. Check out this comic by Terry Blas, that explains it — in a cool way.