Latinx is a gender-neutral neologism, sometimes used to refer to people of Latin American cultural or ethnic identity in the United States. The ⟨-x⟩ suffix replaces the ⟨-o/-a⟩ ending of Latino and Latina that are typical of grammatical gender in Spanish. Its plural is Latinxs. Words used for similar purposes include Latin@ and Latine. Related gender-neutral neologisms include Chicanx and Xicanx.
The term was first seen online around 2004. It has later been used in social media by activists, students, and academics who seek to advocate for individuals living on the borderlines of gender identity. Surveys of Hispanic and Latino Americans have found that most prefer other terms such as Hispanic and Latina/Latino to describe themselves, and that only 2 to 3 percent use Latinx. A 2020 Pew Research Center survey found that 23% of U.S. adults who self-identified as Hispanic or Latino were aware of the term Latinx, and that of those, 65% said it should not be used to describe their racial or ethnic group.
Supporters say it promotes greater acceptance of non-binary Latinos by being gender-neutral and thus inclusive of all genders. Critics say the term does not follow traditional grammar, is difficult to pronounce, and is disrespectful toward conventional Spanish; the Royal Spanish Academy style guide does not recognize the suffix -x. Both supporters and opponents have cited linguistic imperialism as a reason for supporting or opposing the use of the term.
Usage and pronunciation
Latinx is a term for a group identity used to describe individuals in the United States who have Latin American roots. Other names for this social category include Hispanic, Latino, Latina/o, Latine, and Latin@. Latinx is used as an alternative to the gender binary inherent to formulations such as Latina/o and Latin@, and is used by and for Latinos who do not identify as either male or female, or more broadly as a gender-neutral term for anyone of Latin-American descent.
Pronunciations of Latinx documented in dictionaries include / -, -, - , /, lə-TEE-neks, la(h)-, -nəks, LAT-in-eks. Other variants respelled ad hoc as "Latins", "La-tinks", or "Latin-equis" have also been reported. Editors at Merriam-Webster write that "more than likely, there was little consideration for how [Latinx] was supposed to be pronounced when it was created".
Initial records of the term Latinx appear in the 21st century. The origins of the term are unclear. According to Google Trends, it was first seen online in 2004, and first appeared in academic literature "in a Puerto Rican psychological periodical to challenge the gender binaries encoded in the Spanish language." Contrarily, it has been claimed that usage of the term "started in online chat rooms and listservs in the 1990s" and that its first appearance in academic literature was in the "Fall 2004 volume of the journal Feministas Unidas". In the U.S. it was first used in activist and LGBT circles as a way to expand on earlier attempts at gender-inclusive forms of the grammatically masculine Latino, such as Latino/a and Latin@. Between 2004 and 2014, Latinx did not attain broad usage or attention.
Use of x to expand language can be traced to the word Chicano, which had an x added to the front of the word, making it Xicano. Scholars have identified this shift as part of the movement to empower people of Mexican origin in the U.S. and also as a means of emphasizing that the origins of the letter X and term Chicano are linked to the Indigenous Nahuatl language. The x has also been added to the end of the term Chicano, making it Chicanx. An example of this occurred at Columbia University where students changed their student group name from "Chicano Caucus" to "Chicanx Caucus". Later Columbia University changed the name of Latino Heritage Month to Latinx Hispanic Heritage Month. Salinas and Lozano (2017) state that the term is influenced by Mexican indigenous communities that have a third gender role, such as Juchitán de Zaragoza, Oaxaca (see also: Gender system § Juchitán, Oaxaca, Mexico). The term often refers specifically to LGBT people or to young people. Brian Latimer, a producer at MSNBC who identifies as nonbinary, says that the application of the term "shows a generational divide in the Hispanic community".:60 In 2016, a student newspaper described the term as "[having] been sweeping across college campuses in the [United States]".
Public awareness and use
As of 2018[update] the term Latinx was used nearly exclusively in the United States. Manuel Vargas writes that people from Latin America ordinarily would not think of themselves using the term unless they reside in the United States. The term was added to the Merriam-Webster English dictionary in 2018, as it continued to grow in popularity in the United States, and to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2019.
Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera writes that in Puerto Rico, the "shift toward x in reference to people has already occurred" in limited academic settings and "for many faculty [in the humanities department at the University of Puerto Rico] hermanx and niñx and their equivalents have been the standard ... for years. It is clear that the inclusive approach to nouns and adjectives is becoming more common, and while it may at some point become the prevailing tendency, presently there is no prescriptive control toward either syntax".
Many people became more aware of the term in the month following the Orlando nightclub shooting of June 2016; Google Trends shows that searches for this term rose greatly in this period.:60 A similar use of 'x' in the term Mx. may have been an influence or model for the development of Latinx.
At Princeton University the Latinx Perspective Organization was founded in 2016 to "unify Princeton's diverse Latinx community" and several student-run organizations at other institutions have utilized the word in their title.
On June 26, 2019, during the first 2020 Democratic Party presidential debate, the word was used by the presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, which USA Today called "one of the highest profile uses of the term since its conception".
A 2019 poll (with a 5% margin of error) found that 2% of US residents of Latin American descent in the US use Latinx, including 3% of 18–34-year-olds; the rest preferred other terms. "No respondents over [age] 50 selected the term", while overall "3% of women and 1% of men selected the term as their preferred ethnic identifier".
A 2020 Pew Research Center survey found that only 23% of U.S. adults who self-identified as Hispanic or Latino had heard of the term Latinx. Of those, 65% said that the term Latinx should not be used to describe them, with most preferring terms such as Hispanic or Latino. While the remaining 33% of U.S. Hispanic adults who have heard the term Latinx said it could be used to describe the community, only 10% of that subgroup preferred it to the terms Hispanic or Latino. The preferred term both among Hispanics who have heard the term and among those who have not was Hispanic, garnering 50% and 64% respectively. Latino was second in preference with 31% and 29% respectively. Only 3% self identified as Latinx in that survey.
A 2020 study based on interviews with 34 Latinx/a/o students from the US found that they "perceive higher education as a privileged space where they use the term Latinx. Once they return to their communities, they do not use the term".
In literature and academia
Latinx has become commonly used by activists in higher education and the popular media who seek to advocate for individuals on the borderlines of gender identity. Herlihy-Mera calls Latinx "a recognition of the exclusionary nature of our institutions, of the deficiencies in existent linguistic structures, and of language as an agent of social change", saying, "The gesture toward linguistic intersectionality stems from a suffix endowed with a literal intersection—x." Some commentators, such as Ed Morales, a lecturer at Columbia University and author of the 2018 book Latinx: The New Force in American Politics and Culture, associate the term with the ideas of Gloria Anzaldúa, a Chicana feminist. Morales writes that "refusal to conform to male/female gender binaries" parallels "the refusal to conform to a racial binary".:61
Scharrón-del Río and Aja (2015) have traced the use of Latinx by authors Beatriz Llenín Figueroa, Jaime Géliga Quiñones, Yuderkys Espinosa Miñoso, and Adriana Gallegos Dextre. The term has also been discussed in scholarly research by cultural theorist Ilan Stavans on Spanglish and by Frederick Luis Aldama and Christopher Gonzalez on Latinx super heroes in mainstream comics and Latinx graphic novels such as United States of Banana. The term and concept of Latinx is also explored by Antonio Pastrana Jr, Juan Battle and Angelique Harris on LBGTQ+ issues. Valdes also uses the term in research on black perspectives on Latinx.
A 2020 analysis found "that community college professional organizations have by and large not adopted the term Latinx, even by organizations with a Latinx/a/o centered mission", although some academic journals and dissertations about community colleges were using it.
In 2018, the Royal Spanish Academy rejected the use of -x and -e as gender-neutral alternatives to the collective masculine -o ending, in a style manual published together with the Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española (ASALE). Regarding this decision, Darío Villanueva, RAE's director said, "The problem is we’re confusing grammar with machismo." According to HuffPost, some refuse to use the term on the grounds that Latinx is difficult to pronounce in the Spanish language.
Linguists Janet M. Fuller and Jennifer Leeman state that some people reject the use of Latinx to refer to people regardless of gender because they see it as a one-size-fits-all term that erases diversity, preferring to switch between -o/-a/-x when referring to specific individuals. Those who oppose the term in its entirety have argued that the -x is artificial, unpronounceable, an imposition of English norms on Spanish, or overly faddish.
Some non-binary Latinos whose first language is not English have also criticized the term on the basis that it caters more to Latin Americans who are fluent in English and can pronounce the -x ending easily while ignoring gender neutral alternatives already employed by Latin American activists, such as -e.
Linguist John McWhorter argues that, in contrast to other neologisms such as African American or singular they, Latinx has not become mainstream as of 2019[update] because the problem of implied gender it aims to solve is more a concern of the intelligentsia than the "proverbial person on the street".
Matthew Yglesias of Vox, discussing Donald Trump's gains among Hispanic voters in the 2020 United States presidential election, stated that for Democrats, while other factors played a larger role, the term "is, if nothing else, a symptom of the problem, which is a tendency to privilege academic concepts and linguistic innovations in addressing social justice concerns." He says that "[t]he message of the term...is that the entire grammatical system of the Spanish language is problematic, which in any other context progressives would recognize as an alienating and insensitive message." Democratic congressman Ruben Gallego, who represents a heavily working-class Hispanic district in Arizona, advises Democrats not to use the term.
According to HuffPost, "Many opponents of the term have suggested that using an un-gendered noun like Latinx is disrespectful to the Spanish language and some have even called the term 'a blatant form of linguistic imperialism'". Defending usage of the term against critics arguing linguistic imperialism, Brooklyn College professors María R. Scharrón-del Río and Alan A. Aja argue that the Spanish language itself is a form of linguistic imperialism for Latin Americans.
Another argument against Latinx is that "it erases feminist movements in the 1970s" that fought for use of the word Latina to represent women, according to George Cadava, Director of the Latina and Latino Studies program at Northwestern University.
Hector Luis Alamo describes the term as a "bulldozing of Spanish". In a 2015 article for Latino Rebels, Alamo wrote: "If we dump Latino for Latinx because it offends some people, then we should go on dumping words forever since there will always be some people who find some words offensive."
Nicole Trujillo-Pagán has argued that patriarchal bias is reproduced in ostensibly "gender neutral" language and stated, "Less clear in the debate (as it has developed since then) is how the replacement silences and erases long-standing struggles to recognize the significance of gender difference and sexual violence."
Similar gender-neutral forms have also arisen. One such term is Latin@, which combines the written form of the ⟨-a⟩ and ⟨-o⟩ endings. Similar terms include Chicanx and the variant spelling Xicanx.
Latine (plural: Latines) as a gender-neutral term is less prevalent than Latinx. It arose out of genderqueer speakers' use of the ending ⟨-e⟩; similar forms include amigue ('friend') and elle (singular 'they'). In Argentina, efforts to increase gender neutrality in Spanish have utilized both grammatical genders together, as well as ⟨-@⟩ and ⟨-x⟩ endings. According to The New York Times, the ⟨-e⟩ ending has been more widely adopted because it is easier to pronounce.
|Look up Latinx in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
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Mario Carrasco, the co-founder and principal of ThinkNow Research says, [...] 'Despite its usage by academics and cultural influencers, 98% of Latinos prefer other terms to describe their ethnicity. Only 2% of our respondents said the label accurately describes them, making it the least popular ethnic label among Latinos'.
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However, for the population it is meant to describe, only 23% of U.S. adults who self-identify as Hispanic or Latino have heard of the term Latinx, and just 3% say they use it to describe themselves, according to a nationally representative, bilingual survey of U.S. Hispanic adults conducted in December 2019 by Pew Research Center.
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Terms like Latin@, Latine, and LatinU have been deployed—with less traction—to mobilize Latina/o communities
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