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Opinion: The Continuing Dilemma Over The Term “Latinx”

“Latinx.”

I have to admit – I was never a fan of the term. I even resisted using it for some time, but ultimately decided to go with it. For one, because I have bigger issues to confront and this was too small a hill to die on while trying to make a broader point, and two, it kind of grew on me when I saw it in print.

Latinx does look cool spelled out. It’s like the name of a Latin superhero.

But more often these days, it’s getting in the way of my messaging. It is increasingly preventing me from making crucial points about our community to the more middle-road and otherwise “unwoke” section of the Latino community. As soon as they see the term Latinx, they dismiss every other thing I am trying to say as progressive nonsense, whether they might agree with it or not – which is exactly what happened when I tried to take the L.A. Times to task for representation on their masthead.

The piece got plenty of reaction on our social media; but, instead of being taken seriously, I received an avalanche of mocking sarcasm in what became the trolling [comments] section. And rather than taking in the case I was making about how tone-deaf our local media is to Latino representation, the mostly Latino commentators berated us for using “Latinx” in the title.

And to some degree, I get it.

Latinx has become the ultimate conversation killer with any Latino that holds on to even a shred of traditional values (or still uses the term “Hispanic”). Outside of progressive urban centers like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York, that constitutes a lot of Latinos.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll propose it once more…can we all consider going back to the ’80s and using the gender-neutral word, “Latin?” I won’t get into the also gender-neutral, but more politically loaded “Hispanic,” so we’ll leave it for another day. But, consider that we as a society used to use the term Latin somewhere prior to the late ’90s. However, some of us decided we want to emphasize our ethnicity louder, and prouder. So we started using SPANISH words, “Latino” and Latina.”

Yes, people – Latino and Latina are Spanish, not English words (although maybe now, after two decades of use, they are considered part of the English language). And while they exuded pride in our heritage, they also brought with it the tricky nature of the Castilian language’s gendered nouns. With the rise of intersectional feminism, and the various forms of language policing that came with it, we had ourselves a little issue. We cannot be referring to our entire group of people in the masculine, so we then went forward with the term “Latinx,” a term that for the first couple of years was mostly pronounced La-teenx.

At the end of the day, though, my attitude is: Latin, Latino, Latina, Latinx…all good. Like Billy Shakespeare once said, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet…”

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