The term LatinX that purports to describe Latinos in a gender-inclusive, non-binary way, has become commonplace in some quarters – but certainly not among Hispanics.
So, who is using LatinX? Opponents of transphobia and sexism and those who embrace the latest lingo. The term appears in academic research papers; liberal politicians, social scientists and civil rights litigators use it. Even Dr. Anthony Fauci uses it. In fact, in 2018 Merriam-Webster officially added it to the dictionary.
But are Hispanics or Latinos using LatinX? Hardly at all. According to an August 2020 Pew Research Center Survey, just 3% of Hispanics self-identify as LatinX. The rest of us, regardless of politics, gender, age, or country of origin are loath to use it.
LatinX is not a Hispanic or Latino Term
To many Latinos, the term LatinX feels alien and imposed, an invention of U.S. academics and marketers eager to be inclusive and politically correct. Unfortunately, the term is not grounded in the reality, culture, or the origins of the language and of the very people it is supposed to represent.
Simply put, LatinX just doesn’t work in Spanish, a language that is gendered, as are all Romance languages. This is an intrinsic element of Latin cultural identity – irrespective of one’s level of fluency in the language. As further proof, there is no mainstream use of the term LatinX in Spanish advertising.
How to properly describe the vast and nuanced population – 61 million according to the latest U.S. Census – that hails from 16 Spanish-speaking countries has long been a source of intense debate here in the United States.
In Spanish-speaking Latin America (América Latina in Spanish), the collective population is referred to as hispanos, but primarily as latinoamericanos and its shortened term, latinos. Here in the United States, depending on who you are and where you live, some people prefer Latino over Hispanic, due to its reference to Spain. Some Mexican Americans prefer the term Chicano, and still others self-identify by race (for example Afro Latino) or by country of origin (Colombian, Cuban, Puerto Rican).
In fact, surveys (Pew Research Center, December 2019) show that people of Latin American ancestry in the United States often prefer to describe themselves by referencing their specific countries of heritage. What may be more surprising, is that for second-generation Americans of Latino descent, country of heritage is used equally often as “Hispanic” or “Latino,” according to the survey. And those nationalities are not gendered in English.
What is clear is that the big difference between all those terms and LatinX, is that most people are not only familiar with them but use those terms regularly.
Well-intentioned progressives use LatinX to be politically correct, but in reality LatinX and Latina/Latino are not interchangeable. It is a label that does not fit all.
So, can Spanish be more gender inclusive?
Language, as our primary form of communication, is complex and highly nuanced, reflecting its own culture and history. At the end of the day, it is the nature of language to evolve to meet the needs of those trying to communicate with it. If something does not work, it does not stick. If it works, it takes off and might even endure.
However, there is no way to make Spanish a gender-neutral language. It is impossible without changing the core of the etymology and pronunciation, and that is unworkable in a short period of time. That profound change would take generations to be achieved.
Furthermore, changing the language in this way to fit a social agenda is just a lazy way to go about it. Using LatinX is an artificial bending of the language rather than learning how to best evolve it.
To be sure, the need for a more inclusive Spanish is there, but this is not the way to go about it. That evolutionary change must come from within, not imposed by external, non-Spanish speaking entities.
Patricia Testa – Managing Partner – D2H Partners, LLC – 2021
About d2H Partners – Los Angeles based full-service Hispanic Advertising Agency focused on D2C and B2B Spanish language campaigns targeting immigrant, first-generation and “billenial” Hispanics. d2H specializes in creating, adapting, and delivering targeted messages to Latinos to profitably enculturate your message,