The shape of language is agnostic of allegiance. Culture appears to be the determinate trajectory for how language evolves with people through time. It is perpetually in flux, just as the humans who created it. The Spanish language is the mother tongue of over 20 countries. Embedded within Spanish are a multi-centennial culture, history, and heritage. Across these centuries, language ebbs and flows — language evolves. But it can only effectively evolve organically and through majority persuasion.
The current miasma surrounding the “Latinx” phenomenon doesn’t appear to harness these considerations of culture, history, or heritage. Rather, it behaves as a type of lexical imperialism, a phrase attempting to artificially change language — not organically — but from the ideological persuasion of a select few.
Many people already identify as “Latino,” “Hispanic,” or “Latin-American,” and these maintain the neutrality of the language. While we can — and must continue to — respect how people want to be identified, we can also maintain the commitment to our Spanish language. Respecting a person’s humanity is much more important than bickering about the words we use or don’t use. Latinos have so many other important issues to worry about — splitting hairs over semantics and lexical nuances should be the least of our concerns.
There are three issues with the term “Latinx.” First, “Latinx” is widely unpopular among the majority of Latinos. Many Latinos (at least in the United States) have either not heard of this term, or —in other cases — find it offensive and unnecessary. Given this aversion, why is “Latinx” being enforced into the mainstream? Secondly, “Latinx” seems inconsistent and impractical. Simply adding an “x” as a suffix to an established term barely skims the surface of a larger, complicated problem. While the English language already has gender-neutral pronouns, Spanish does not.
Additionally, the letter “x” is a curious choice; almost no other Spanish word ends with “x.” Is this to suggest we should extend this cadence to other words, such as “ninx” instead of niño or niña? Masculine and feminine nouns and verbs are instantiated within the Spanish language; adding an “x’ to “Latin” would require adding an “x” to the entire language.
The proponents of gender-neutral typologies within the Spanish language deserve better, more permanent solutions. If new terms must be employed, they require much deeper, rigorous actions before they can be a clearly defined identifier on a major scale. With that said, there should be more consideration around how this term — or any new terms — fundamentally reshapes the Spanish language, both culturally and linguistically. The term “Latinx” is, at best, a temporary solution for inclusion and, at worst, a hastily fashioned pantomime of the culture it aims to represent.
Many proponents of terms like “Latinx” also condemn hate speech, alienation, and segregation. And as I wouldn’t argue those efforts, the insertion of “x” seems to demarcate one’s identity into an exclusive box while ostracizing it from its culture. As it currently stands, “Latinos” functions as a neutral term, including those identifying as queer, non-binary, or gender non-conforming. Perhaps those who champion this new term don’t truly see it excludes the very people they wish to protect, embrace and include.
It’s undeniably essential to be respectful to all humans. We must not only acknowledge but accept how people want to be addressed and how people identify. However, this is not the issue. The issue is suddenly changing a centuries-old language. All of this culminates towards the paramount factor: how do we respect all Latin individuals who are queer, non-binary, and gender non-conforming without dismissing or obfuscating the established history, culture, and heritage of the Spanish language? In the long term, language will continue to evolve and find fluid ways of becoming more inclusive of all people. In the short term, why is Latin not enough?
I certainly have no issue referring to anyone by what they identify as, including Latinx. What does matter is the clarity that surrounds this term. We mustn’t assume “Latinx” is the mainstream term for all Latinos everywhere; instead, we must respect and maintain the Spanish language as it is because it is already inclusive.
Editor’s Note: This essay is apart of our new “The Grounded Letters” series. Click here to read about Ximena Del Cerro’s essay Why Is “Latinx” Inclusive, Necessary and Unifying?