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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Latinx is not what we want

When I saw that my first class studying Hispanic history at Marquette was called Intro to Latinx Studies, I was confused. Although one of my favorite academic adventures to this day, I could never shake away the nagging annoyance that accompanied seeing the “x” at the end of my class’s course name. While slightly irritating, there is a very important reason why this distinction has been made.

Spanish is a gendered language, meaning that there are no gender-neutral terms. Whether you’re speaking about the sky or a book or even the outfit you are wearing, all nouns are assigned male or female. By adding an “x” at the end of Latin or any other word in Spanish, it is meant to allow for that word to be interpreted in a gender-neutral manner, seeking to increase access to the Spanish language.

Admittedly, there is a need for such innovation within the linguistic space, as nonbinary and genderfluid Latin Americans have existed since before colonial relations and the creation of the concept of Latin America. However, I believe that whatever grammar rule is adopted to accommodate Latin American people of different gender identities should be decided by those who understand and speak the language.

The term Latinx can be traced back to online spaces in the early 2000s. Since then, the term has been continuously used and abused by scholars and self-proclaimed progressives ever since.

In most Latin American countries, however, there is a silent agreement that no one uses the “x” as a substitute for “a” or “o” at the end of a word. In fact, only 3-4% of Latin Americans in the United States use the term.

Some of this might be because of anti-LGBTQ attitudes within Hispanic communities, but that does not erase the fact that the term already has an unfavorable stance within the community it is supposed to be describing.

As such, I believe there needs to be better communication with Latin American audiences as to what they themselves want to be called.

Despite the fact they often overlap, Latinx and Hispanic do not mean the same thing, meaning that neither of these words should necessarily be used as the default when describing all Latin Americans.

The term Hispanic does not acknowledge the existence of non-Spanish speaking Latin American countries such as Brazil and Haiti.

Conversely, the term Latinx seems Americanized to many who were born speaking Spanish and who are not used to the American practice of using “x’s” in order to designate a sense of inclusion.

This showcases the actual need that exists for both new linguistic tools that facilitate the use of the Spanish language as well as for Latin Americans to find a succinct and inclusive term.

However, this is the kind of discussion that should be had outside of classrooms and within a community. Although rising, Hispanics are the least likely demographic to attend college within the United States.

Additionally, Latin Americans from the United States should not be the most prominent voices when discussing these terms. While there is an increased sense of connection between both the English language and the Spanish language for many people such as myself who were taught both, this connection is not universal.

There should be space open and available for the opinions of those who might not be able to understand the use of certain words or sounds, as this would assure that whatever term is used is the most accessible for all those who are using it.

Although personally I prefer the term Latine, (as the use of “e” as a replacement for the typically gendered “a”or “o”sounds a lot more natural to me as a native Spanish speaker) I cannot overestimate the insignificance of my personal preference over the linguistic decisions of one of the most pervasive languages on Earth.

Although I am Latine, I also acknowledge that I am a Latina woman, and therefore would not need to be comfortable with whatever term is chosen to represent gender diversity in the Spanish language. This discourse should be had, but any decision on official or standard language changes should be led by Latin American people who do not feel represented in their own language.

This story was written by Clara Lebrón. She can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Clara Lebrón, Opinions Columnist
Clara Lebrón is a junior from Guaynabo, Puerto Rico studying journalism and health studies at the university and works as an opinions columnist. This is her second year on the opinions desk. Outside of The Wire, she enjoys baking, reading books, and watching movies.

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