It is no secret that languages are constantly in flux. Some changes happen gracefully, like the slang that evolves from generation to generation. Other shifts can create divides between speakers of a language and illustrate sharp differences in how we perceive our identities and our surroundings. One such example is the term Latinx, which is a fascinating example of how contemporary ideas of gender equality and sexual identity can conflict with longstanding linguistic traditions. The results of this conflict have yet to be determined.
There are two primary claims for why we should adopt the term Latinx. The first is that the commonly used Latino presumes masculine dominance. Put another way, why should we use the masculine suffix when half the population is female? The second point is that it is becoming more commonly acknowledged that some people do not wish to identify as male or female. The x suffix acknowledges this ambiguity. Though the term has been in use on the internet since 2004 if not before, its popularity has increased – particularly on college campuses.
Those who oppose the term are quick to point out some of the challenges it creates. Spanish is fundamentally based on a binary and gendered system. Every noun is either masculine or feminine, and in the case of people – mixed groups of men and women are always referred to in the masculine. A 2015 article in The Phoenix asked: If Latinx became standard, what about other plural nouns? Would we have to say niñx instead of niños or hermanx instead of hermanos? It has also been pointed out that an already common word, Latin is gender neutral and could achieve many of the same goals as Latinx while fitting more naturally within the Spanish linguistic tradition.
I invite anyone reading this to write in with your opinion. Do you think Latinx is an important word to incorporate into the Spanish vocabulary? Are we better off sticking with Latino or Latin? Are there other issues that we have not touched on in this article? Please send your thoughts in to firstname.lastname@example.org
Maximilian Eyle is a native of Syracuse, NY and a graduate of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He works as a media consultant and writes each month about a variety of issues for Spanish-language papers across New York State. Maximilian has a love of Hispanic culture and learned Spanish while living in Spain where he studied and worked as an English teacher. He can be contacted at email@example.com.