I’ve never been comfortable with the “LatinX” term. I recognize that Spanish is a gendered language. And I recognize that this complicates things for transgender people. But a bunch of Americans sticking an “x” at the end of Spanish words is basically language colonialism. Terminology based on identity is constantly shifting of course (BIPOC being the 2020 addition to this world). I’m completely supportive of using terms that arise out of affected communities….if they in fact are used by these communities. The problem is that effectively no one in Latin America, including on the left, uses this term and many are pretty offended by it. And it turns out that effectively no one in the Latin American population in the U.S. does either.
— Pew Research Center (@pewresearch) August 11, 2020
This is also telling:
When I asked, almost a third of the students in my Intro to Latina/o Studies class said that they would not have taken it if it had been named intro to Latinx Studies because they wouldn’t have been sure that that referred to them.
— A K Sandoval-Strausz (@SandovalStrausz) August 11, 2020
When 77% of the Latino population has no idea what you are talking about and 97% of the population don’t use the term to describe themselves, what you are really talking about here is a term that exists solely on college campuses and in activist circles. That’s fine as far as it goes. It’s not really up to me to decide what term people want to use and if people want to use it, OK. But a lot of what is happening is that liberal whites are using it to be allies to the Latin American descendant transgender community (also fine!) but aren’t thinking about how they as a liberal white might be presenting themselves to the rest of the Latino community. It’s just not my place to be the woke white guy telling Mexican-Americans what to call themselves, even if it is in the spirit of alliance.
Even discussing this is a potential minefield since there are plenty of people also willing to say that someone with my position is being transphobic. That’s obviously not something I or anyone else wants to be accused of. But it’s a conversation that is worth having, not because of me or anyone else choosing to use it or not but because of what it represents to the larger Latin American communities in this nation, which after all is our largest minority group.
I borrowed the art above from this great visual Vox piece by the artist Terry Blas, who, borrowing from a Mexican drag show that replaced all the gendered vowels (“a” and “o” in Spanish) with “e.” That….makes a lot of sense, can be conjugated, and actually fits with spoken Spanish!