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Latinx is a gender-neutral neologism, sometimes used instead of Latino or Latina to refer to people of Latin American cultural or ethnic identity in the United States. The ⟨-x⟩ suffix replaces the standard ⟨-o/-a⟩ ending of nouns and adjectives that are typical of grammatical gender in Spanish. Its plural is Latinxs.
The term was first seen around 2004, predominantly online, among intersectional advocacy groups combining the identity politics of race, class, and gender. It slowly gained in usage, and around 2014 in US universities its usage became widespread. Words used for similar purposes include Chicanx, Latin@ and Latine.
Reactions to the term have been mixed. Supporters say it engenders greater acceptance among non-binary gender Latinxs. Both supporters and detractors point to linguistic imperialism as a reason for respectively supporting or opposing the use of the term.
Pronunciations included in dictionaries are / -, -, - , /, lə-TEE-neks, la(h)-, -nəks, LAT-in-eks. Other variants respelled ad hoc as "latins" and "latinks" have also been reported to be in use. Editors at Merriam-Webster surmised that "there was little consideration for how it was supposed to be pronounced when it was created".
Latinx is a group identity used exclusively in the United States. The social category has had different names in the past, including Hispanic, Latino, Latina/o, and Latin@. In the 2000s, the social category of Latinxs was analyzed in one of three ways, as ethnoracial, as a cultural ethnic group, or as familial-historical.
The ethnoracial approach is contextual, highlighting the analyses that Latinxs come from a variety of different races, and from different parts of Latin America, which span all the standard US racial categories. This is the approach taken by Linda Martín Alcoff. What Latinx means in a particular ethnoracial context depends on the region one is in and the provenance of the population - from one or another Latin American country or group of countries - Cubans, Mexicans, and so on. Because of this variability and complexity, Alcoff refers to Latinxs as an ethnorace as, depending on context, Latinxs function sometimes as an ethnic group, and sometimes as a racial group.
Origins and early usage
The term Latinx emerged from American Spanish in the early 21st century, and was reportedly first used online in 2004. The term has gained popularity in social media, and is mostly used by community activists and in higher education settings by students, faculty, staff, and some administrators who seek to advocate for individuals living on the borderlines of gender identity.
Salinas and Lozano (2017) stated 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 One college article said that the term "has been sweeping across college campuses."
The term Latinx grew in usage since its origins, and came into popular use in late 2014.
A 2016 NBC News report noted that it was "difficult to pinpoint" the origins of the term, but found that usage was "without question on the rise at U.S. colleges". A similar use of 'x' in the term Mx. may have been an influence or model for the development of Latinx.
At Princeton University, a student group called the Princeton University Latinx Perspective Organization was founded in 2016 to "unify Princeton's diverse Latinx community". As of 2017, 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 found that only 2% of US residents of Latin American descent preferred to use Latinx, including only 3% of 18-34-year-olds.
In literature and academia
Scharrón-del Río and Aja (2015) have traced the use of Latinx in authors Beatriz Llenín Figueroa, Jaime Géliga Quiñones, Yuderkys Espinosa Miñoso and Adriana Gallegos Dextre. The term has also been discussed in publications by Pastrana, Battle & Harris (2016), Valdes (2017), and many others.
While Latinx has been called "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," the term has also been the subject of controversy. Supporters say it engenders greater acceptance among non-binary gender Latinos. Linguistic imperialism has been used both as a basis of criticism, and of support. The term has been criticized by some lexicographers and rejected from some dictionaries on grammatical grounds, and accepted by others. Some have argued that the term supports patriarchal bias, is antifeminist, based on political correctness, or criticized it because it is difficult to pronounce.
The Royal Spanish Academy, the main authority on the Spanish language, issued a style manual in 2018 which rejects the use of -x and -e as gender-neutral alternatives to the collective masculine -o ending.
The term Latinx has been criticized for being used almost exclusively in the United States and for being virtually non-existent in Spanish-speaking countries. A 2016 HuffPost article stated, "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.'" In a 2017 article for the Los Angeles Times, Daniel Hernandez wrote "The term is used mostly by an educated minority, largely in the U.S."
Some refuse to use the term, as Latinx "doesn't roll off the tongue" in the Spanish language.
Another argument against Latinx is that "it erases feminist movements in the 1970s" that fought for use of the word Latina to represent women.
Hector Luis Alamo described 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 asserted, "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."
The term Latinx allows those who do not identify within the gender binary to be seen and accepted by getting rid of the gendered ending of Latina/o, said Yara Simón in Remezcla. In Spanish and in English, the suffix "x has grown into the linguistic vacuum created by a culture that values inclusivity over the ideologies embedded in a and o." 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 Chicanx feminist. Morales writes that "refusal to conform to male/female gender binaries" parallels "the refusal to conform to a racial binary".:61 Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera argues that "The gesture toward linguistic intersectionality stems from a suffix endowed with a literal intersection — x."
Defending usage of the term against critics arguing linguistic imperialism, Brooklyn College professors María R. Scharrón-del Río and Alan A. Aja argued that the Spanish language itself is a form of linguistic imperialism for Latin Americans.
Similar gender-neutral forms have also arisen. One such term is Latin@, which combines the written form of the ⟨-a⟩ and ⟨-o⟩ endings and has been in use since the 1990s. Similar terms include Chicanx and the variant spelling Xicanx.
Latine (plural: Latines) is another gender-neutral term that has found less acceptance than Latinx. It arose out of genderqueer speakers' use of the ending -e; similar forms include amigue ('friend') and elle ('they').
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The term Latinx has been sweeping across college campuses in the nation with the intent of creating inclusion while inadvertently pitting members of the Latino community into a cultural war.
- Guerra, Gilbert; Orbea, Gilbert (November 19, 2015). "The argument against the use of the term 'Latinx'". The Phoenix. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
This is a blatant form of linguistic imperialism – the forcing of U.S. ideals upon a language in a way that does not grammatically or orally correspond with it.
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A similar use of "x" is in Mx., a gender-neutral title of courtesy that is used in place of gendered titles, such as Mr. and Ms. It has been suggested that the use of "x" in Mx. influenced Latinx.
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Terms like Latin@, Latine, and LatinU have been deployed—with less traction—to mobilize Latina/o communities
- Cashman, Holly (2018). Queer, Latinx, and Bilingual: Narrative Resources in the Negotiation of Identities. Routledge. Introduction; Note 1. ISBN 978-0-415-73909-2.
Similarly, Latinx, Chicanx [...] along with many other terms, are all used to describe the ethnolinguistic community.
- Noriega, Christine (February 16, 2017). "'We Are Still Here' is a Gorgeous Book Capturing the Queer-Inclusive Evolution of East LA's Chicanx Identity". Remezcla.
[T]he Xicanx identity [is] a relatively new term some Mexican-Americans have claimed that stems from the grassroots and working-class roots of the 1960s Chicano movement, but also incorporates indigenous consciousness, feminism, and queer theory in its politics.
- Papadopoulos, Benjamin (2019). Morphological Gender Innovations in Spanish of Genderqueer Speakers (Thesis). University of California, Berkeley. p. 3.
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