Breaking down Latinx

At Kent State in 2003, Professor Olga Rivera created the class she teaches now, US Latina/o Writers. She believed the use of the term Latina/o was inclusive at the time since it identified male and female. After being educated on the term Latinx a couple of years ago, she realized this was the term she should have used for the course to be as inclusive as possible.


“When I started the course I wanted to be inclusive and I did my job really good,” Rivera said. “But, now when I teach the course I realize it should be Latinx, which I agree with the term.”


Latinx is the gender-neutral term in the Spanish language to identify all people whose origins stem from Latin America. While Latinx is slowly becoming mainstream in the United States there is still some resistance due to change. 


Merriam Webster added the word Latinx to its dictionary in September 2018. The term breaks away from grammatical gender traditions with “-x” signifying the unknown. 


The reason Rivera realized Latinx was the term she would have rathered used was due to the fact Latino and Latina showcase only two genders. Spanish nouns are classified as either masculine [ending in -o] or feminine [ending in -a]. The concept of gender in grammar, when referring to Latino and Latina, forces a gender binary in Latin America.


At one point, being inclusive was communicated by writing Latino/a or Latin@. The @ symbol suggests inclusivity by having the “-o” circle around the “-a” to be both masculine and feminine. 


However, the terms, Latino/a and Latin@, never caught on the way Latinx is today. This might be because it includes those who do not identify with any gender, not just cisgenders. 


Eduardo Giraldo-Moreno is a freshmen aeronautics major from Colombia. He personally has never heard the term Latinx until he came to Kent State.


“We do not know about it (Latinx),” he said. “It probably is important in the United States, but we do not use it in Colombia.”


Junior visual communication design major, Marcus Molina identifies as Latino as well as being a part of the LGBTQ+ community. He had never heard of the term Latinx until he came to Kent State. 


“I have personally never heard the term Latinx until I came to this campus (Kent State),” he said. “I have never heard it anywhere else. My whole life I have never heard of it until I came here. The first time I saw it was when I joined the Latinx GroupMe for Kent State.”


There are mixed reviews with those in Latin America according to Linda Pirricillo Smith who is a professor in the class Latinos in American Society. Some question Latinx and see it as another form of colonialism while others just see it as a term to be more inclusive. 


“First, this term is a learning curve just like anything else,” Smith said. “Second, this aspect of colonialism which is ‘we have to do what the English people are telling us,’ is it destroying a construct of culture to make a language that is connected to culture adapt to another standard? Because this language has been gendered branching off from Latin. How in-depth will this go?” 


Molina enjoys it for the fact that Latinx is inclusive for both him being apart of the LGBTQ+ and Hispanic community, however, he realized that some see the term as redundant.


“Since I have only heard it in college and I started to grow as a person, I really like the idea and it made me feel more included especially being in the intersectionality of the two communities,” Molina said. “It’s very inclusive, however, I realize talking to people outside the college environment I hear a lot of negativity. I’ve been told by a lot of Spanish speaking natives that the term is very American and Latino is supposed to be inclusive and Latinx is redundant. They also mentioned because it is an Americanized term, people don’t like it and don’t want to use it.” 


Reina Watson is a senior digital media production major who identifies as a Latina in the United States. She realized from taking the Latinos in American Society class that this term is a United States term, however, it should be used.


“I feel like Latinx is personally used for Latinos in the United States because I know the term is hard to pronounce for native Spanish speakers,” she said. “However, I think this is a great way for Latinx in the United States whose first language isn’t Spanish to call themselves that. It is also a great way to make them feel apart of the community more because now they have a term to call themselves.”


Watson believes the Latinx community should use the term, especially if the person’s gender non-conforming. 


“I identify as ‘Latina’ because my pronouns are she and her,” Watson said. “Latinx is more for people who identify as they/them, who are gender fluid, non-conforming. I think that is their word and is something they should use. I feel as a cis-woman, I would be taking over that term that really isn’t for me. It is just giving them space and not intruding on that.”


According to the NBC News article titled, “To Be or Not To Be Latinx? For Some Hispanics, That is the Question,” Raul A. Reyes states that “although it is difficult to pinpoint the origins of Latinx, several people told NBC News they became aware of it in 2014 and that the word began among Latino LGBTQ communities.”


Reyes also mentioned the fact that Latinx is making a rise on college campuses. 


Overall, Rivera believes that language is very powerful and Latinx shows that.


“Language is powerful when it is traditional,” Rivera said. “And language is powerful when you get out of traditions and disrupt the tradition.”

Editor: Maria McGinnis, [email protected]