“Latinx”: Pronouns, language, and gender.

“Latinx”: Pronouns, language, and gender.

Lilia Arrizabalaga | Managing Editor | Editorial

You have probably heard the term latinx. You may have even used it before. And if you’re a friend of mine, you’ve probably heard me complain about it. Designed as a more inclusive and gender-neutral alternative to latino/latina, many members of the community it sets out to describe (myself included) have problems with it.

To start with, the term latin/o/a/x is a pan-ethnic term which groups people of many nationalities and identities under one label. While this can be useful for grouping data or creating community spaces, many people prefer to identify with a more specific label, such as one describing their nationality. Indeed, even grouping all people from Latin countries together for data collection purposes can have problems. There can be a wide variance in data even among the Latin American countries.

In addition, I would argue that the use of the word is unnecessary in many cases. Due to the way gendered words work in Spanish, latinos can refer to either a group of men or of mixed gender while latinas refers to a group of only women. This means that referring to a group of mixed gender, including trans or non-binary people with latinos is not grammatically incorrect. There are people who still find this objectionable, but I would argue that using the word latinx instead is just much worse.

Lastly, my main problem with the word is that it is not pronounceable in Spanish. Even when I’m thinking in my head, I can notice myself pronouncing latino/a with a noticeable Spanish accent and latinx in a very American accent. There is just no smooth way to pronounce the x at the end of the word and even pronouncing it “latin-equis” is distracting and jarring in an otherwise natural Spanish sentence. If the goal of this word was to make gender diverse and non-binary people feel more included, I don’t think this is accomplished by making the word distinctly “othering” and unpronounceable.

In short, using “x” as a gender-neutral ending in a language in which this is not a pronounceable way to end a word is just stupid. It is predominantly used by non-Latin Americans, and it is even seen by some to be “linguistic imperialism”. This might be slightly misleading, as the term was coined by queer Latin people, but it remains that only 3 percent of Latino adults have heard of and use latinx (according to a 2020 Pew study). While I assume most people who use latinx mean well, the trend strikes me as people overcompensating in order to be “woke” while ignoring the realities of the situation, or, in short, virtue signaling.

Now don’t think I would write a whole article complaining about this without offering a solution: latine. Latine is much more common in Latin America, but its use has been spreading to the United States. Latine succeeds where latinx fails in my mind. The “e” suffix is pronounceable and consistent with the convention of the “o/a” suffix on other gendered terms. In addition, it does not sound out of place when used in other words. Some people have even begun to use elle as a gender-neutral pronoun (instead of ella which is feminine or él which is masculine).

Of course, I do not speak for every Latin person. If you’re ever in doubt as to how to refer to someone, just ask. But personally, as a non-binary person of Latin descent, I think latine is a step in the right direction. And hey, having the option to use a gender-neutral pronoun is great, even if learning a new word is a bit scary.