Do Latinxes say "Latinx"?
February 11, 2021 7:30 PM   Subscribe

How is gender-neutral language to reference people, a la "Latinx" as used by some in the U.S., handled in the Spanish-speaking world - if at all? How common are such usages, and are they catching on? Feel free speak of any part of the Spanish-speaking world that you might have knowledge of. I'm even curious about Spanish-speakers in the U.S.; if they actually say "Latinx", how do they pronounce it?
posted by Mechitar to Society & Culture (23 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Please note that I'm about 80% fluent in Spanish and have studied in Mexico, so you don't have to explain pronunciation or phraseology or whatever as though I don't know anything about the language.
posted by Mechitar at 7:33 PM on February 11, 2021

At least in the US, the answer is no. The overwhelming majority of hispanic people in the US have never even heard the term.
posted by kickingtheground at 7:44 PM on February 11, 2021 [13 favorites]

I saw an article about this recently:

“For the population it is meant to describe, only 23 percent of U.S. adults who self-identify as Hispanic or Latino have heard of the term Latinx, and just 3 percent say they use it to describe themselves,” a 2020 report Pew Research Center found after a national bilingual survey of U.S. Hispanic adults. People in the 18 to 29 age bracket who are college graduates are most likely to have heard the word. However, its use as a self-identifier is low across all categories of age, educational attainment, preferred language, political party, foreign or U.S. born and women and men.
posted by ejs at 7:45 PM on February 11, 2021 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Pew Research, 2020: About One-in-Four U.S. Hispanics Have Heard of Latinx, but Just 3% Use It

More anecdotally, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ-07) is decidedly not a fan, saying it makes it harder to authentically communicate with Hispanic voters who overwhelmingly don't identify with the term.

Personally (as someone with Spanish-speaking family who retains enough to be dangerous), I think it's much better to use the popular Argentinian method of replacing the gendered -o/-a endings with a gender-neutral -e when necessary, i.e. elle, les Latines, les amigues, le profesore. It's far more compatible with the pronunciation of the language than awkwardly shoehorning in an Americanized -x in the middle of a word -- probably one factor in why it's far more prevalent online than IRL; ever try pronouncing "lxs amigxs"? (To say nothing of "l@s niñ@s", blecch).
posted by Rhaomi at 8:02 PM on February 11, 2021 [47 favorites]

I'm absolutely not an expert, fluent, or knowledgeable. But, if anecdotes are of interest, I've heard a couple of people who speak Nahuatl and grew up in central Mexico and now live in the US say it in person, and they pronounce it exactly like a BBC radio host would, with a hard X and a weird lack of stress on the i. Closer to "funeral" in English than "Latino." It definitely stands out as an adopted word, at least to me. (Which isn't a bad thing.) They are also very cosmopolitan academics who speak fluent English and have lived in many places, and they may be far from representative of even that specific group.
posted by eotvos at 8:06 PM on February 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

The writer Aura Bogado has written a fair amount about "Latinx" on twitter, so search her name and the word for a variety of her takes. A representative thread from 2017 is here.
posted by purpleclover at 8:15 PM on February 11, 2021 [3 favorites]

(Consider also, from an accessibility POV, that most screen readers for the visually impaired will choke on "Latinxs" and other -x/@ forms far more often than the -e form.)
posted by Rhaomi at 8:24 PM on February 11, 2021 [15 favorites]

The only places I've heard it spoken is on radio/podcasts by English speaking people, for English speaking people. I've never heard any Spanish speaking family members or co workers say it. It's entirely possible they might in the right context, and I've never been around to witness it, but I seriously doubt it. The word kind of irks me, a Latino, because it always comes across as an enlightened word made up for the sake of Anglos rather than Latinos.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:47 PM on February 11, 2021 [10 favorites]

+1 to primalux. my perspective is as a queer white latinx person in the US who speaks some Spanish -- it's definitely super common in younger, queer, and leftist spaces, grassroots and community spaces of various kinds, how ppl identify online, etc.

whenever I read or hear 'latinx' I feel warm and positive - it communicates safety and acceptance. to your original question, I think the term has been "catching on" in the sense that i've seen a wider diversity of ppl use it for that exact purpose - to signal acceptance.

Saying most "hispanics" don't use it so it's therefore not valid is like saying most cis people don't use the term cis.

a million times this
posted by elephantsvanish at 10:03 PM on February 11, 2021 [13 favorites]

I think the argument is that the -x suffix as gender-neutral is not really inclusive - it excludes native Spanish speakers in a way that the -e suffix does not (but of course, that hasn't caught on popularly). It's difficult, as Rhaomi notes, for Spanish speakers to pronounce the -x, so they can't use it. But people can call themselves whatever they want, of course, and if it works for you in your own community, go for it.
posted by transient at 10:24 PM on February 11, 2021 [4 favorites]

Here in Spain it's gaining currency to use -e forms to denote consciously neutral grammatical gender (as opposed to applying a "generic masculine" to mixed gender groups) or language about nb persons, as in "les niñes están jugando en el patio" or "Elle es une escritore no binarie". The RAE is still foaming at the mouth about all of this, though.
posted by sukeban at 10:29 PM on February 11, 2021 [24 favorites]

The overwhelming majority of hispanic people in the US have never even heard the term.

I'm white, and I used "Latinx" in front my Mexican ex-wife's family once, and I still have not heard the end of it. To give an indication of how long they've been making fun of me: I celebrated my 7th anniversary with my current wife just this week. It was made real clear to me that it was the height of white people bullshit, and that they would have considered it actually offensive if they didn't know I meant well.

The mother even considers Cinco De Mayo a borderline white people made up holiday, since it was made popular by college students in the Chicano movement, rather than "real" Mexicans in Mexico.

Everyone was born in Mexico with the exception of my ex-wife, who was born in Los Angeles 18 or so months after the parents and older siblings came to the States back in the very late 80's. The parents are from extremely rural and poverty stricken villages in the state of Nayarit.
posted by sideshow at 10:38 PM on February 11, 2021 [22 favorites]

Not so much gender-neutral as gender-inclusive, but worth mentioning: I have occasionally noticed use of both a masculine and a feminine plural noun when classically a masculine plural should do. So "Mexicanos y mexicanas" for "mexicanos." There's a brief but good discussion of the debate amongst grammatical authorities about whether this is okay here.
posted by bertran at 1:25 AM on February 12, 2021 [4 favorites]

In the part of Mexico I live in, you don't see "Latinx" used. But you see "Latin@" used a lot. No idea if I've ever heard it in speech, since it looks like it would be pronounced as Latino or Latina depending on context.
posted by bricoleur at 5:54 AM on February 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

My partner, who is an academic, uses it, and it's common in his discipline. We had a discussion about it where he said it's actually not really applicable outside the US. He's also just heard the Latines version, from one of his current students. I asked about communities that are not hispanic - people from Central America or Mexico who don't speak Spanish at all, for example - which is how the US as a necessary component of a Latinx identity came up. All campus communications at our institution use it, that I've seen, and the students seem like they're on board with it.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 6:57 AM on February 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

In the part of Mexico I live in, you don't see "Latinx" used. But you see "Latin@" used a lot

This makes me happy because I dislike the "x" wildcard but think using the arroba is great (since it actually shows both an o and an a). Like the x, however, no idea how to say words containing this char. In time, however, I believe a common usage and pronunciation will take hold.
posted by Rash at 9:40 AM on February 12, 2021

Anecdotally, it's very common among the youngish (teens-30s) Latinx people I know--which is a group that tends queer/trans and includes both Latinx people who speak Spanish and Latinx people who do not, all in the US. Some also use Latines, though I hear Latinx more often.

I also want to third primalux's point that "Saying most "hispanics" don't use it so it's therefore not valid is like saying most cis people don't use the term cis." Some of the anecdotes in this thread feel like they're drawing on a myth of singular cultural/linguistic authenticity in order to delegitimize inclusive language developed by queer and trans people, which (to my ear) echoes uncomfortably of "I don't know how to use singular 'they' in a sentence."
posted by dizziest at 9:41 AM on February 12, 2021 [6 favorites]

I will nth primalux here (and dizziest) as well, as an English-speaking, cis female Latina. I personally like it and it feels more inclusive to me; "Hispanics" drives me nuts because it centers colonizers. However, "Latinx" also drives me nuts when NPR pronounces it "lat-tin-EX" when to me it seems obvious it should be "lat-TEEN-ex." I fear that fight has been lost.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:48 AM on February 12, 2021 [5 favorites]

> +1 to primalux. my perspective is as a queer white latinx person in the US who speaks some Spanish -- it's definitely super common in younger, queer, and leftist spaces, grassroots and community spaces of various kinds, how ppl identify online, etc.

Echoing other comments, it's really only in specifically queer circles where I see native Spanish speakers in the US embracing the use of Latinx. And I can only speak for primarily-English-language spaces, so I don't know if these same folks use Latinx the same way when speaking Spanish.

I see it used all over the place in leftist circles and academia as a general inclusive descriptive term, but there seems to be a lot of variation in whether people actually self-identify using Latinx, or just accept it as a US neologism.
posted by desuetude at 2:41 PM on February 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've observed the same dynamic as Rhaomi suggests. I grew up speaking a little Spanish and listening to it daily, and I'm queer. Personally I use Latine, as I find Latinx unforgivably clunky.

Latinx is a phrase that makes a lot more sense in English, and it frustrates me that the term wasn't Latine to start with, but it originated online (I saw it emerge about a year after everyone was using Latin@) and then was taken up by academics. Shoehorning a word ending with nX into the Spanish language sounds bizarre and linguistically incorrect, and thus likely adds weight to the highly problematic arguments that NB/gender-inclusive language is similarly bizarre and culturally 'incorrect'.

Drawing comparisons of the linguistic pushback against Latinx being like cis people not using the word cis is a false equivalency! There's a better solution, and e endings for nouns were actually originated by genderqueer & GNC Spanish speakers and are a real, workable solution to a more widespread problem than most English speakers understand. Again, Latinx is also not similar to singular they, as singular They has been acceptable in English since before dictionaries, with lots and lots of citations. Rather, I've looked and can find no other word in Spanish that ends with an X next to a consonant (and X endings are very rare anyway).
posted by saveyoursanity at 3:28 PM on February 12, 2021 [10 favorites]

I’m Brazilian, fluent in Portuguese. Not the demographic you asked about, but Brazilians are Latin Americans, so here goes:
NO. We do not. Pretty darn cringe to have white Americans correcting us (Portuguese and Spanish speakers) by saying Latinx. So “woke” of them. [insert massive eye roll]
posted by Neekee at 7:30 AM on February 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

Shoehorning a word ending with nX into the Spanish language sounds bizarre and linguistically incorrect

You might even say that it's a kind of colonizing behavior. That has been my main objection to "Latinx", as a second-generation Mexican-American who did not grow up speaking Spanish and is to all appearances cishet. There's a solution which originated within the community in question, and it's being marginalized. If English speakers want to call themselves Latinx, whatever, I guess. But for English speakers to call Spanish speakers Latinx feels uncomfortable, to me. (I say, calling it Spanish and not español, so I don't know where the line is.)
posted by hades at 12:03 AM on February 14, 2021 [4 favorites]

I have spotted "amigxs" in the wild (on Facebook, from a native speaker in Mexico City). But in my albeit limited exposure, using the @ is much more common.
posted by Glier's Goetta at 3:27 AM on February 15, 2021 [2 favorites]

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