Gender-neutral descriptors that are inclusive of various gender identities.
At first, “Latinx” — pronounced “Lah-teen-ex” — or “AfroLatinx” might seem like typos. They’re not.
In June 2016, Jack Qu’emi Gutiérrez a queer, non-binary femme AfroLatinx writer, told Public Radio International: “The x [in Latinx], is a way of rejecting the gendering of words to begin with, especially since Spanish is such a gendered language.”
In the Spanish language, most nouns are assigned a gender so words that end in “a” are usually feminine and words that end in “o” are usually masculine. When it comes to the plural, nouns default to the masculine when referring to groups of mixed genders, like “los niños” for a group of children. Whereas English is a relatively gender neutral language with exception of personal singular pronouns, like “his/her” and “he/she.” Many people in the US who identify as trans or gender non-conforming in the US have opted to use the pronouns “they/them” in the singular.. The issue with expressing ethnicity for trans and gender non-conforming people of of Latin American descent is that the default gender neutral designation is Latino.
While Latino is the gender neutral way to refer to people in the US of Latin American descent the term is inherently masculine. NPR’s Latino USA notes that within the Spanish language many people use the masculine to be gender neutral without even thinking about it. According to the Pew Research Center: “The use of the terms “Hispanic” and ‘Latino’ to describe Americans of Spanish origin or descent is unique to the U.S. and their meaning continue to change and evolve. Outside of the U.S., these terms are not widely used (National Research Council, 2006) and may also have different meanings.”
In the 1990’s the “Latin@” — pronounced “Lah-teen-at” — emerged to be inclusive of both masculine and feminine identities. It was originally used on forums and blogs and was adopted by academia but its usage has decreased recently. But where do people who don’t identify as an “o” or an “a” fit in?
That’s where Latinx and AfroLatinx come into play. They are the gender neutral equivalent of the traditional gendered designation. Their usage has become common as the visibility of gender non-conforming and trans people has increased and these traditionally marginalized communities have become more vocal about inclusion and representation. These terms seem to the product of the evolution of the term ‘Latino’ that Pew Research mentions in their findings.
Afro-descendants are often marginalized members of the Latino community so there has been a movement to use the term AfroLatino to embrace their heritage and combat erasure within the mainstream Latino culture. With the adoption of the term Latinx the members of the Latinx community who are trans and gender non-conforming and Afro-descendants have adopted the term AfroLatinx.
The prevalence of Latinx and AfroLatinx in both an academic space and on social media marks Latinx culture coming more inclusive of gender identities outside of the masculine/feminine gender binary.
What does ‘Latinx’ mean? A look at the term that’s challenging gender norms — http://www.complex.com/life/2016/04/latinx/ungendering-spanish