Students share opinions on ‘Latinx’ term

Andreana Lozano, Life and Arts Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the June 28 flipbook.

The word Latinx seemed wrong the first time Claire Harper saw it, as if the term was coined by a non-native Spanish speaker. The “x” ending defied the basic gendered rules of Spanish. 

“I definitely had a negative reaction to it at first, because I didn’t understand the context of why people use it,” Harper said. “Learning the purpose of inclusion behind it has definitely helped me understand that it was something that was created by the community.” 

The word “Latinx” symbolizes a sharp break from the Spanish language’s gendered grammatical tradition, but has been embraced by many in the Latin LGBTQ+ community as well as in some academic circles as a gender-neutral label. However, the word still faces a fair share of scrutiny.

As of August 2020, only about one-in-four U.S. Hispanics have heard of the word Latinx and 3% use it. The term is most often used among young, Hispanic women and in academic contexts.  

Anthropology professor Martha Menchaca said she first saw the term appear in academic literature in 2018.  

“On a personal basis I have not heard the term used by individuals,” Menchaca said. “The only time (I’ve heard) it used is when professors or other professionals give public presentations.”

Harper said she believes the term is not widely accepted because of the grammatical barrier. 

“It ends with an x,” said Harper, an honors neuroscience, sociology and English junior. “That’s something that’s basically unpronounceable to monolingual Spanish speakers because of the way that the Spanish language works. It is a very bad combination with a very foreign sound to their tongue and it’s very difficult for them to say.”

Yet, Harper appreciates that the word is more inclusive of gender, unlike the usual o/a endings which signify masculinity and femininity. 

“I do understand the value of having a more gender-neutral word, especially when Latin American cultures have this history of machismo,” Harper said.

For Ph.D student Melissa Santillana, the discussion about labels goes beyond Latino vs Latinx.

“I never thought of myself as Latino or Hispanic, for me it was always Mexican,” Santillana said. “But as you spend more time in the United States, you’re kind of forced to group with this Latino or Hispanic identity that encompasses a lot of other people from Latin America.”

Without knowing the true origins of the word, Paola Solano, applied learning and development junior, said she feels uncomfortable using it.

“I don’t know how I would feel if someone said a white person came up with this,” Solano said. “In that case, I don’t think that I would feel as strongly connected to it. I feel like if it was a Latino person, it might be a little bit cooler, because it’s like, oh, okay, you’re trying to find your own identity as well.”

Santillana believes the word Latinx is here to stay, regardless of pronunciation or popularity, and she is supportive of the inclusive intent behind the label, even if it is not the first word she would choose to define herself.

Harper prefers the term “Latine” to describe herself, a gender-neutral term similar to Latinx that originated in Spain and is easier for Spanish speakers to pronounce. Still, Harper supports the growing usage of Latinx.

“I do think that there is value in trying to find more inclusive terms to really include everyone in the community, and not just men or women in the community, to really include everyone,” Harper said. “I am appreciating that it’s becoming a more widespread term, even if I do find some flaws in Latinx.”