Picture being in a room full of friends and one of them uses a word you have never heard before. You nod politely and wonder what that word means but are too embarrassed to ask. Then you excuse yourself because you feel left out and go to a corner to look it up because it feels like everyone except you knows what it means. You read the definition and you say, wtf..
As a Latina myself I had to do my own research on the terms Hispanic, Latino, Latinx, and Latine. These are not explained in typical Latinx households or even in some schools. I did not find offense to the word Hispanic until I received an explanation of how it is not inclusive of all countries in Latin America. I was not offended by the word Latino to generalize the population until I read that it was not inclusive of other gender identities and depicts male dominance over all other genders. It is like saying “hey guys” to a group of women and men. But what if we said “hey gals” it wouldn’t be received the same. Then, in 2020 a classmate corrected me when I said I wanted to work with Latinos and they said I should say Latinx. That is when I thought wtf? I am being corrected on how to address my own people with a word that spanish speaking Latinos can’t even pronounce. But then I was told the X is to be inclusive of all gender identities. I embraced and accepted it. One year later I heard the word Latine. I had no clue what it was and was confused for a while about what it meant. Then I read it is just like Latinx but used for those who feel more comfortable saying Latine since it is easier to say for spanish speaking people. The E in spanish is usually gender-neutral therefore this makes sense and fixes my original issue with the word LATINX.
Therefore don’t be surprised when you speak to Latinx that they will look at you funny if you say the word Latinx or Latine in a sentence. Be mindful of the audience you are speaking to.
I am still getting used to saying Latinx in conversations with other Latinx. I usually ask if they know what it means and help them understand if they don’t. In response, I have heard “que feo” (translation: how ugly) or “that’s stupid”. This is where patience comes in because the ultimate goal isn’t to force people to say Latinx or Latine. The only person I can hold that standard to is myself. The more you try to force people to say it the more they will resent the word and ignore the deeper meaning behind it.
Since these words are still fairly new it is not my place to tell people how to address themselves. If they want to say they are Hispanic/Latino/Latinx that is ok. It can bring about a very good conversation and sharing of knowledge. What people choose to do with that knowledge is up to them.
Happy Latinx Heritage Month!
Here are some articles that further explain the history of these words plus more!
From your favorite Latina Therapist,
Erika Medrano M.A. LGPC