Why You Should Use the Word "Latinx"

There has been a lot of talk about how to include non-binary people in the Spanish language. With the world constantly changing and people becoming more confident with their identities, it seems silly to exclude a group of people from their culture, right? Unfortunately that's not the case. In Latin American countries, the term Latino/Latina have binary implications. When speaking about a Latin American male, you use the term Latino. When describing a Latin American female, you use the term Latina. When there are both Latinos and Latinas, you use the term Latinos. Therefore, the Spanish language excludes those who don't identify within the gender binary. Solution? Use Latinx. 

People like to argue adopting a "North American" term is submitting once again to the language of our colonizers. That the Spanish language needs to be preserved. Except a lot of those people do not understand that by preserving the Spanish language, we are still living within the language barriers of our colonizers. Others are concerned that people will not be able to pronounce it. Solution? Latin + X. "Well what about my abuela? How will she pronounce it?" Well, English words get mixed in to the Spanish language anyway, and your abuela will not be the one changing how we see gender indentities. It's also important to remember that Anglanism is very much still a thing. Also, I'm pretty sure most of first generation Latin American immigrants do not have a problem speaking Spanglish. With all that being said, I decided to ask two members of the Latinx communities what their thoughts were with this "controversy". 

Names, age, and preferred pronouns: 

Camila Aranguiz-Allende, 22, they/them

Hermie Jackson, 18, they/them or he/his 

What are your ethnicities? 

Aranguiz-Allende: Latinx/mestizx

Jackson: Half Dominican, Half Spanish

Can you explain more on what it means to be non-binary?

Aranguiz-Allende: Non-binary is a subjective identification. There is no singular way of being non-binary, so for me, it is refusing to identify as a man or a woman. Gender is a social construct that I actively choose not to conform to.

Jackson: For me, it means not being male or female. My gender is basically nonexistent, in a sense, because I do not associate with the idea of the gender binary. It's a social construct created to confine and restrict humans and I do not feel comfortable within it. I dress and present in a manner that is me, it is neither male nor female, it is just "Hermie-style clothes/makeup/etc".

Why is the term "Latinx" important to you?

Aranguiz-Allende: The term “Latinx” is important to me because it is a step towards decolonizing Latinidad. Gender is not only a social construct, but also a colonial construct that has been used throughout history to subjugate bipoc (black, indigenous and people of color) to the constraints of white supremacy. The binary gender system that we have today came directly from colonization. 

Jackson: Latinx makes me feel at home. For the longest time, being referred to as Latina/Latino felt very directive and confining for me. By hearing Latinx/being referred to as Latinx, I feel like I belong within the community, which is even more important to me because being mixed and white-passing means a lot of the time I feel misplaced/unwelcome within the community.

What does being Latinx and non-binary mean to you?

Aranguiz-Allende: Being Latinx and non-binary means a lot of explaining and compromising. Queerness of gender or practice is still not something that is openly accepted in the Latinx community and the queer community is still very white-dominated and perpetuates racism, xenophobia and even transphobia. It means carving out spaces for myself and others like me so that we may exist honestly and openly without having to sacrifice any of our identities.

Jackson: For me, it is both and gift and a struggle. I am proud of my identities, I am proud of who I am. At the same time, there are points in time where I feel excluded from the community because of my identity and appearance. All the same, meeting other non-binary Latinx people is such an amazing experience because that feeling of lonesomeness is eliminated in the moment because I'm able to physically see that there are others like me everywhere.

Would you feel excluded if an organization failed to recognize non-binary people?​

Aranguiz-Allende: I would not only feel excluded, but I would also feel offended. Language is a dynamic source of communication. Vocabulary is constantly shifting. If you are more willing to uphold the “sanctity” of the colonizer’s tongue than to change a single letter to respect the existence of non-binary and/or trans people, that’s just transphobic.

Jackson: Very much so. I am already excluded in many areas of life and am ostracized for my gender identity at times, so organizations failing to recognize non-binary people within their group is a directly transphobic act that makes an explicit point of excluding non-binary people from their group.

What do you think needs to change and how can we change it?

Aranguiz-Allende: There need to be more conversations surrounding intersectionality within groups for students of color. I should be able to attend social meetings for Latinx students without having to prepare myself for a night of misgendering and ignorance, whether or not it is intentional. Not every student of color is straight and/or cis.

Jackson: I think the global and local VCU/Richmond community, as a whole needs to recognize the value of the term Latinx. It allows us to include people within the community who may otherwise experience bigotry towards them. We should treat each other as family and love each other no matter our sexuality or gender identity, and using the term Latinx allows us to do exactly that.