AUSTIN (KXAN) — The League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, has announced it will stop using the controversial gender-neutral term “Latinx” in its official communications.
LULAC president Domingo García earlier this month directed the group to cease the term’s usage, NBC News reports. García explained the term is “very unliked” by nearly all Latinos. The term is not being banned from usage within LULAC, however.
“The reality is there is very little to no support for its use and it’s sort of seen as something used inside the Beltway or in Ivy League tower settings, while LULAC always rep Jose and María on Main Street in the barrio and we need to make sure we talk to them the way they talk to each other,” García told NBC.
Only 3% of Hispanic or Latino people say they use Latinx to describe themselves, according to 2019 polling from Pew Research Center. Usage is most common among younger people, with 7% of Latinos ages 18 to 29 saying they use the term.
The current most common ways Hispanic populations refer to themselves are “Hispanic,” “Latino/Latina” and “Chicano,” but the term “Latinx” arose in recent years as a way to be more inclusive to non-binary (those who don’t identify with a particular gender) members of the population.
García says that while LULAC doesn’t oppose Latinos referring to themselves as Latinx, the organization is working to appeal to as much of the community as possible and using terms that the majority uses.
“I don’t know of any abuelita (grandmother) that calls her granddaughter, ‘Hey you Latinx, I’m going to throw you the chancla (flip-flop).’ It just doesn’t happen,” García said.
Only days earlier, a poll by Bendixen & Amandi International, a Democratic Latino voter outreach group, found 30% of Hispanic voters are less likely to support politicians who use the term. The 30% was made up of 24% Democrats and 43% Republicans.
“The numbers strongly suggest that the use of this term may actually be counterproductive, as opposed to productive, because only 2% of Hispanic voters nationally embrace the term,” said Fernand Amandi, the firm’s principal.
It’s believed by many Democratic Latinos that usage of the term will become — or has already become — a reason for Democrats to turn away from the party and toward the GOP.
“I think one has to be careful in saying, ‘This is the silver bullet reason for why Republicans are making inroads,’” Amandi told NBC. “But what I think the data makes clear is that this is not helping Democrats potentially maximize this critical voting bloc for that, and their electoral chances.”
Authors of “The argument against the use of the term ‘Latinx,” Gilbert Guerra and Gilbert Orbea point to linguistics, saying “Latino” is already gender-neutral.
“Gender in Spanish and gender in English are two different things. Even inanimate objects are given gendered -o/s and -a/s endings, although it is inherently understood that these objects are not tied to the genders assigned to them,” the authors write.
Reception of Latinx has been met with confusion and derision by naysayers. Some say the term is a form of “neocolonialism,” or a way for non-Hispanic progressives to control what Latin people call themselves. Many in the community see it as a “white” term.
“This is a blatant form of linguistic imperialism — the forcing of U.S. ideals upon a language in a way that does not grammatically or orally correspond with it,” say authors of a notable Swarthmore College essay titled, “The argument against the use of the term ‘Latinx.”
Guerra and Orbea — who say they’re not opposed to non-binary language — elaborate:
“It seems that U.S. English speakers came upon Spanish, deemed it too backwards compared to their own progressive leanings, and rather than working within the language to address any of their concerns, ‘fixed’ it from a foreign perspective that has already had too much influence on Latino and Latin American culture.”Guerra, Orbea, “The argument against the use of the term ‘Latinx’
Meanwhile, María R. Scharrón-del Río, associate professor at Brooklyn College, told NBC News that while “Latinx” is an appreciated small act of politeness and recognition, it also reveals privilege in the community. People who are often excluded, Scharrón-del Río, may not understand why it’s important to be.
According to Pew Research, 38% of U.S. Hispanics are aware of term, while only 13% of those with a high school diploma or less are. Additionally, U.S.-born and predominantly English speakers were more likely to have heard and use the term.
In a June 2021 essay for The New York Times, “For Most Latinos, Latinx Does Not Mark the Spot,” 16-year-old Evan Odegard Pereira writes: “It’s important that our society move toward gender inclusivity. But imposing an unwanted label on another community isn’t the right way to do that. While well-intentioned, the use of Latinx creates more problems than solutions, and makes Latinos feel ignored and disrespected.”
A 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey by the Trans Equality Center found that of 27,715 respondents, 35% identified as non-binary. Fourteen percent of Hispanics in the survey reported immediate family members ending relationships because of their identity and 13% reported they’d experienced violence by a family member as a result of coming out.
In defense of Latinx
But “Latinx” isn’t without supporters.
Brooklyn College, City University of New York scholars Scharrón-del Río, Associate Dean of School of Education, and Alan A. Aja, Professor and Department Chairperson for Puerto Rican/Latino Studies, both focus their work on issues related to Latin communities.
In their 2015 article, “The Case FOR ‘Latinx’: Why Intersectionality Is Not a Choice,” Scharrón-del Río and Aja attempt to dismantle specific arguments used by detractors. The pair explain that Spanish itself arose out of colonialism (invasion by conquistadores) and that while “Latinx” presents problems for usage in Spanish speaking, not all people in Latin communities speak Spanish.
Scharrón-del Río and Aja say being able to reject “Latinx” is a privilege only certain types of Latinos have.
“Opposition to this newer term, however imperfect it is, comes from a place of unexamined intersectionality of privilege and oppression, one that completely furthers oppression and marginalization of non-binary and trans people from Latin American descent.
“I personally use the term ‘Latinx’ frequently, but do I think that is the only correct term? Absolutely not,” Eastern Illinois University student Kyaar Morales-Rodriguez wrote in the school’s The Daily Eastern News in September. Morales-Rodriguez further explains in her “In defense of the term Latinx,” that since LGBTQ+ issues are important to her, inclusion is important, whether or not other people agree with using the term.
“If you don’t identify with the term “Latinx,” that is fine. No one is forcing you to use it! Everyone deserves to self-describe and self-identify in ways that feel right for them, she writes. “But there are people out there that do identify with that term. Just how you wouldn’t want anybody to tell you how you should identify, you should not be telling others how they should.”