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Illustration Courtesy of Zelalem Waritu

Linguistic Inclusivity: Why Latinx is Not the Answer

Latinx is a common word used by scientific publications, government agencies and news organizations, but not Latinos. Who is actually using this word created by western bodies in an attempt to be gender neutral, and what should be used instead?

Dec 12, 2021

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “Latinx” is defined as “of, relating to, or marked by Latin American heritage — used as a gender-neutral alternative to Latino or Latina.” However, this word cannot be pronounced in any of the Latino languages. Across languages such as Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese and many dialects, the reality remains the same. So who created this word?
According to Google Trends data, this word first appeared online in 2004. But many, including students at NYU Abu Dhabi, did not know this word existed until recently.
Claudia Alcarra, Class of 2025, first heard this gender neutral spelling “Around 3 years ago when I applied to attend UWC. It was included in all the communications of the UWC Venezuelan national committee as well as other uses of inclusive language like ‘candidatxs’,’venezolanxs.’”
This word has become the staple description of Latinos’ news publications, research and government materials. However many Latinos do not seem to know it exists. Research done in the U.S by Pew Research has found that only three percent of Hispanics in the U.S. use this word, while only 25 percent know of its existence.
Western “wokeness” seems to have become disassociated with the people it is claiming to protect. Every time I saw Latinx trend on social media, it was in opposition to it. On Dec. 6, research published by Politico restarted this conversation. Latinx trended for most of the day with upwards of 20,000 tweets. Many were supporting this research, which found that only 2 percent of Latino individuals refer to themselves as Latinx, and that 30 percent said that it made them less likely to support a politician who uses the term. The discussion again became about Latin Americans having to explain the issues associated with this word to the general public. But no one listens because this process repeats at least once a month, every month.
According to Paula Rojas, Class of 2021, “It is not a word heard much in Costa Rica (my home country) because adding "x" to make words gender neutral makes it both unreadable and unpronounceable for many Spanish speakers. "Mis hermanxs juegan con lxs niñxs de al lado" How am I meant to pronounce those words? I have heard that for Spanish speakers who use screen readers the "x" in words renders the whole word incomprehensible for them.”
Using an “x” to make a gendered word neutral is simply not a viable option for speakers of Romance languages. Its pronunciation seems to only be intuitive to English speakers. While the customary pronunciation of Latinx or other non-gendered words uses the english pronunciation “ex”, X is pronounced differently in Spanish as “eh-kis”. Similarly, the addition of “x” often replaces vowels for a consonant, making it difficult to pronounce terms such as “Mexicanxs”, even for English speakers.
Alternatively, a neutral wording created by Latinos themselves is replacing gendered vowels, such as “o” and “a” with an “e”. Instead of Latinos, people can say “Latine.” This vowel for vowel replacement allows for a broad array of uses. It is also easy for Latinos to pronounce because an “e” is not uncommon to end a word with. Some examples include “estudiante” (student) or “padre” (parent).
“I sometimes use it [Latinx] but because I think it has been imposed on me, not because I feel naturally drawn to use it” asserts Pam Martinez, Class of 2023. “I actually reject it as a whole because I feel it is just another term created within U.S. identity politics in an attempt to centralize U.S. citizens as Americans.”
Why is it that Americans and other western countries seem to cling onto this word as if it is a badge of inclusivity? Does the creation of a gender neutral word for those who question and/or do not identify with a gender make them feel inclusive of a group of people they know little to nothing about? The rise of performative activism allows people to outwardly show support for a movement without creating actual change. However, this does not diminish the necessity of gender neutral alternatives. As the world progresses, visibility of the long existing LGBTQ+ community only increases. Gender is more and more understood for the societal construct that it is.
Gender neutrality in language allows those who identify with no particular gender to be included. While it may be more difficult for gendered languages to adapt, having reasonable replacements for gendered words allows flexibility and visibility for queer people. But for these alterations of words to have any meaning, it must be created by the community that communicates using them. While “Latinx” seems to be coming from a good place, the insistence on its use by western society is simply modern day imperialism.
Luna Lopez is Deputy Multimedia Editor. Email her at
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