Latinx term story

Lucía Suárez, director of the U.S. Latino/a studies program and the coordinator of the Studies 25 Year Anniversary Symposium, welcomed students, faculty and staff. During this symposium, the term "Latinx" was brought up multiple times by multiple parties in how they use it.

The term Latinx has been used numerous amounts of time in academic journals, university events and all over social media. People use this word to either identify themselves with a certain community or to put others in a specific group.

As this term continues to grow, there are some people who feel comfortable with this term and there are also others who are a bit skeptical with using it.

Instead of using Latina, Latino or Latin@, the term “Latinx” was created to identify people who are of Latin American descent or a part of the hispanic communities that make room for others who identify as gender non-conforming, non-binary gender, queer, transgender, etc.

Even though this word was created to give people who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community a sense of belonging, people who are gender-conforming used the word “Latinx” to identify themselves as well. Many people use this word without understanding the true meaning behind it, causing confusion.

"People should be called what they want to be called," said Gabriel Rodriguez, assistant professor in the school of education department. "It is important for people to do the self-work of learning their own and other people's history and how and why people identify they way that they do. I think people forget that the way people identify can be political as well. So for me as a cis-gendered straight man, who am to use the term Latinx, what am I doing to learn the history of the term. For folks using the term, I'd imagine they are embracing the term to be in solidarity, but do they know history, because if they don't they run the risk of erasing other people's experiences and struggles.”

Depending on the context in which a person uses the term, Latinx could mean that someone has a different gender identity. If it is used in the context of trying to bring people together, such as at an event, meeting or club, then it can be an inclusive term.

“So [if] someone prefers to identify us as Latinx, I respect and support that choice, it's just not a choice that I make for myself,” said Diana Sloan, the program director of Hispanic and Latino Affairs in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. “It depends on the context. So I know that there are student groups at Iowa State that say Latinx and they refer to everybody in what I refer to as the Latino community. So of course I would go to the event, and also because of my role at Iowa State being director of Hispanic and Latino Affairs. The Latinx community is part of the Latino community and vice versa.”

According to the HuffPost, “Latinx first began to emerge within queer communities on the internet in 2004 and saw a rise in popularity in late 2014, according to Complex. By 2015, Google searches for the term began to increase and Latinx became a widely-used identifier both on social media platforms like Tumblr and in scholarly work. Many scholars and activists praise the term’s ability to better include many groups of people while challenging cultural and norms.”

Although it may be inclusive to gender non-conforming or gender conforming groups, others may feel it’s only inclusive to a certain extent.

The term, “Latinx” is in fact an Americanized term that was developed in the U.S. According to LatinoRebel, “The term “Latinx” is used almost exclusively within the United States. According to Google trend data, “Latinx” came into popular use in October of 2014 and has since been widely popularized by American blogs and American institutions of higher education. The term is virtually nonexistent in any Spanish-speaking country.” Therefore, to many people outside the U.S., the term may not feel inclusive.

People who speak Portuguese do not use the letter “x” in their vocabulary. Instead of "Latinx," they use the word “Latines” to describe people who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Some people may think it’s not inclusive to indigenous languages due to the fact the Spanish language was introduced during the times of colonization and erased the cultures and languages of indigenous people.

According to LatinoRebels, the indigenous language does in fact have many genderless and multigendered languages.

People may feel as if they’re repeating colonization and others crossing the borders by not identifying with their indigenous roots. What others fail to realize is that you have a choice on what you want to be called, and don’t have to believe in something that doesn’t resonate with you.

“Since I have a choice in how I feel about these things I don't choose to feel offended,” Sloan said. “I choose to own it and be proud of my heritage and, and because I am from Mexico, I am both Hispanic and Latina, and I choose not to be bothered by those labels, but to properly own them.”

Most people choose to identify with their nationality. Rodriguez said he identifies as a Mexican-American because his family is from Mexico and he was born in America. Others may choose to identify with their region.

“If someone asks me who I am I tend to say I'm Tejana, which is a female from Texas like a Texan basically because I identify really strongly with the place where I was born and where I grew up,” said Erin Doran, assistant professor in the school of education department.

In some communities, Latinx may feel like it’s a sense of belonging while some may feel as they are being pushed farther away from their culture.

“I think in some circles it has created unity, and unfortunately, when people are distracted by preferred terminology it can be used to separate,” Sloan said. “But we're very fortunate that we have a strong community that knows that respecting each other's preferred terminology for identifying ourselves is not going to get in the way of who we are as a community.”

Some people feel that it is important to have a term that they could feel strongly about and that relates to them.

“We need to be inclusive of our friends, family members and other people who don't identify as Latinx, we can't always make the assumption that they are anti-Latinx, but are being mindful of their position and relationship with gender-inclusivity," Rodriguez said. "I think it's possible to talk about the collective community as Latinx, and you yourself identify as Latino or Latina if that is how you identify.”

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