In June 2021, President Biden said that it has been difficult to get “Latinx” people vaccinated because they are fearful of being “deported.” Biden’s sentiment is shockingly racist, with his usage of the term “Latinx” being the ironic, insensitive cherry on top. The term “Latinx” is intended to function as an all-encompassing, gender-neutral version of “Hispanic” or “Latino.” Given the continued rising profile of nonbinary gender identities, it’s more important than ever to normalize language that emphasizes inclusion for nonbinary people. The intentions behind the term “Latinx” are well-meaning, but its usage is not as beneficial to the community it was intended for as it seems.
In fact, in a June-July 2021 Gallup poll that asked Hispanic adults to choose a preferred term, 57% of them selected “Hispanic” and 37% chose “Latino,” while only 5% picked “Latinx.” In this way, it’s clear that “Latinx” has been largely rejected by the Hispanic community.
The term “Latine” is a stronger option that achieves the goals of gender inclusivity more effectively than “Latinx” does. Changing one letter may seem like a minor difference, but in comparison to “Latine,” “Latinx” is disconnected from the Spanish language and dehumanizing. Replacing the “x” with the “e” also makes “Latine” feel more natural. Additionally, “Latinx” has been thoroughly mocked for the ironic fact that it is awkward to pronounce in Spanish.
“Latine” is pronounced similarly to its gendered counterparts: “lat-een.” Its adoption also enables a monumentous shift towards nonbinary inclusion in the Spanish language. In Spanish, adjectives are gendered to indicate whether someone is masculine or feminine, but using ”Latine” as a gender-neutral term would pave the way for non-binary people to be represented correctly. A tall nonbinary person could be described as “alte” in the same way that a tall man is described as “alto.”
When nonbinary people were gaining mainstream attention in America, there was backlash along with claims that using “they” or “them” to refer to a singular person would be too confusing. In reality, it’s as easy as referring to somebody as “they” instead of a gendered pronoun like “she.” Using “Latine” and adjusting the endings of gendered adjectives to “e” would be a similarly trouble-free way to properly reference nonbinary people.
At the same time, “Hispanic” is an acceptable, inclusive term, as long as it’s correctly used to refer to someone from a Spanish-speaking country. As a half-Mexican man myself, I also understand that “Latino” does not inherently exclude women or nonbinary people. This doesn’t mean the Spanish language cannot adapt to reflect the major changes in how our society views gender in modern times.
Other options like “Latino/a” and “Latin@” are not only even more impossible to pronounce, but fail to provide the gender inclusivity of the previously mentioned terms. Terms like “Latin@” erase non-binary identities — it’s like saying “his or hers” instead of simply saying “theirs.” Using either of these terms is more difficult than using “Latinx.”
At this point, non-Hispanic peoples’ usage of “Latinx” is performative due to its high unpopularity with Hispanic people themselves. People like Biden and academic institutions that continue to use “Latinx” do so in an attempt to project a socially conscious image, but are actually displaying their lack of awareness on the issue. “Latine” is a better gender-neutral alternative, but it seems that the non-Hispanic people who use “Latinx” are too disconnected from the Hispanic community to realize it.
Daniel Waters is an Opinion Apprentice for the spring 2022 quarter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.