I understand the reason for this shift is to ensure that folks within the LGBTQ+ community are better represented within mainstream media. However, we must ensure while we do what we can for inclusion, we must also ensure that, in turn, we do not create a problem where there is none. Or rather, we not ‘solve’ an issue by creating other ones.
The main issue I’ve identified within the term ‘Latinx’ is the fact that, not only does it not work with the grammatical structures of Spanish, it is also a very hard word to pronounce for native Spanish speakers. This difficulty in pronunciation - I’m sure you can imagine can be quite isolating for native Spanish speakers that come to a country such as Canada and are told the way they refer to their communities is not only incorrect but that the socially ‘correct’ word has sounds that are linguistically foreign to Spanish speakers.
My second point has to do with the differences between grammatical gender and biological gender. English, over time, has lost grammatical gender while other languages, such as Spanish, have retained this trait as seen in its having of two noun classes; masculine and feminine. Noun classes do not necessarily have any bearing on biological gender. Using an ‘o’ at the end of the words is not ‘gendering’ objects - it is merely providing linguistic categories.
Another example to further illustrate this point can be seen in the Hebrew word for father (ab). This word, in Hebrew, is grammatically feminine, but this does not change the definition of the word. Fathers are not female in the minds of Hebrew speakers, even though the word to refer to father is grammatically feminine.
Amalgamating the cultural contexts of others to our own western ideals is dangerous and while we move forward, we must take every effort to not fall into our historic tendency of colonialism - even if that which we are colonizing is not physical ground - but rather, the language of others.
Gender within the Spanish language is far greater than just adding an ‘a’ or an ‘o’ at the end of words (or switching out those letters for an x). The term ‘Latinos’ , while grammatically masculine, refers to groups of people of unknown and unspecified gender as well. The issue is in anglo-centric lens that conflates biological gender and grammatical gender - this is not an issue with the Spanish language.
So all of this is to say that, particularly in print media, it can be easy to view a publication under a myopic, reactionary lens to whichever voice is the loudest and the most vocally oppressed. However, we must be wary not to silence and assimilate one minority group for the sake of the others — lest we fall victim to what one Philosopher refers to as “the inferno of the same.”
While an ‘x’ may initially appear to be more inclusive or encapsulating of one’s gender, we do so at the risk of isolating millions of people from their language and history.
There are steps we can and should take to ensure that our media is more inclusive but ‘Latinx’ is not the answer.
We talk a big game when it comes to diversity and inclusion in Canada, but as soon as a language is unable to conform with our definition of inclusion, we silence it for the sake of what’s popular.
The term Latinx shows what can happen when we strive for inclusion from a very narrow lens. If inclusion is truly our goal, then our means of getting there must be as holistic as the goal we are claiming to strive for.
Monica Rawlek Elizondo