Latinx: Redefining traditional gendered language

Students from a Latinx organization discuss the importance of the gender-neutral term.


Latinx is a gender-neutral umbrella term used as an alternative to Latina and Latino, both binary gendered identifiers.  

The term was first used around 2004 among queer groups, but the use has spread beyond the LGBTQ community, Complex, a New York-based magazine, reported. Latinx came into popular use around 2014 and has increased in interest since, according to Google Trends data. 

Gendered language uses masculine or feminine nouns, according to the British Council. In languages, like Spanish, people and objects are gendered this way. 

Jennifer Martinez, a sophomore journalism major who identifies as Latinx, said the term allows for diversity and cultural awareness in the community.

“There’s a lot of stigma against the LGBTQ community in Latin countries, and I think this term is not a turning point but a starting point for allowing more inclusivity,” Martinez said. 

Luisa Suarez, a sophomore journalism and political science major, is the co-president of a new organization, the LatinX Media Association — the first organization at Temple to have the term in its title.

Suarez, who is Colombian and identifies as Latinx, said the organization wants to increase inclusive representation of the community at the Klein College of Media and Communication and at the university.

“Gender really is a spectrum, and we want everyone to feel like they are included in our title,” she said.

Millennials are significantly more likely to openly identify as LGBTQ than generations before them, and 12 percent identify as transgender or gender non-conforming, according to a 2017 Accelerating Acceptance survey by GLAAD, an LGBTQ advocacy group.

The term Latinx is included in the Merriam-Webster and the Oxford English Dictionary, but not in the Royal Academy of Spanish, an institution charged with safeguarding the correct use of the Spanish language. Spanish-language purists argue that the word Latinx is about political correctness and that the word is a threat to the Spanish language, Oprah Magazine reported.

Martinez said she doesn’t think Latinx is affecting Spanish because languages are evolving and people can be stubborn to change.

“There’s also a lot of toxic masculinity in our culture … and that allows them to be a little stubborn when it comes to being more inclusive,” she added. 

Suarez said the Latin community is very diverse so there should be an effort to make people who don’t identify as Latino or Latina comfortable.

“I think some people like to stick to the more traditional Spanish language but what I say is that although that might work for you, that’s not going to work for everybody and as a language, we should strive to be as inclusive as possible,” Suarez said.

Beyond gender inclusion, Suarez finds Latinx to be more inclusive to people who do not speak Spanish and therefore do not identify as Hispanic, like Brazilians and Haitians. 

Nu’Rodney Prad, the director of student engagement at the Center for Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy and Leadership, said the office encourages Temple to use the word Latinx. 

“We gladly accept the usage of the term Latinx but we also don’t shun or judge if people utilize terms such as Hispanic, Latino or Latina,” Prad said. “It is up to the person and how they characterize themselves.”

Temple has really set itself apart from a lot of other universities with its inclusivity, Suarez said.

Latinx has been used in the names of campus events by other organizations and sponsors.

“They’ve embraced the Latinx presence at Klein College and they’re embraced it at the university. They’ve been so supportive,” Suarez said. “I’m just really glad to have a safe space and feel comfortable at this university.” 

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