Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! As someone who is proud to be of afro-latin descent and also as someone who cares deeply about making our world more inclusive, the importance of language comes to mind. I have seen many debates about using the terms Latinx, Latine or staying with the classic latino/a. For some time I believed that these terms were interchangeable for the most part and that the main point was to simply say one was of Latin descent. However these terms heighten the importance of intersectionality and inclusivity. Using a specific term not only speaks on someone’s heritage but on their gender identity as well. If I respected people’s gender identities in other aspects of my life, how was it I hadn’t truly considered the implications of such when using these terms? So, I began to do some research.
In the Spanish language most words are gendered. Many words follow the language patterns in which masculine words end in “o” and feminine words end in “a”, therefore having Latino refer to men and Latina refer to women. Having gendered terms be the only way of expressing one’s Latin identity excludes nonbinary and other non cis gendered identities. Hence the term Latinx was born and began to be used mainstream in the early 2000s. When I first heard the term “Latinx” I felt pride that my people were trying to find ways to include all. I originally saw no issue with the term and began using it more often then its gendered counterparts. However in the past two years I began hearing more people refer to themselves as Latine. I originally thought these two terms were one in the same, but they are not and have some key differences.
Part of the reason Latine began to be used and preferred is that like the term Latinx, it remained gender neutral, however it also fits in with normal Spanish dialogue. An “x” at the end of a word in Spanish is basically impossible. Spanish has a few ways of pronouncing the letter x, but none that sound like how we say x in english. By using the term Latinx some people felt that the whole point of the intersectionality of heritage and gender identity got lost on the heritage side. If a word is not possible to be used in the language of the people it’s supposed to represent, given that not all Latin countries have Spanish as their official language, then is it truly encompassing that group of people? The letter “e” is used in Spanish words without gendered endings, therefore combining the gender inclusivity of Latinx, while combining it with a word Spanish speaking people can actually use in their language.
Language is continually changing, and it is important to not only note the changes, but to ask why, and to ask the people who are directly affected by these terms how they feel about it. Language like “Latine” can allow more space for queer, trans, gender non conforming and all types of amazing humans to feel seen, understood and respected. These terms are more than just letters and endings, they are continued work towards a more expansive and inclusive world for all. Latine term has become my personal preference, and yet there are still people that prefer Latinx and what it stands for, and for them I will continue to call them by whatever makes them feel the most like them. I look forward to continuing to learn and grow.
Jasmine Yesenia Bryant