Embracing LatinX Whole-Heartedly

How and why LatinX feels like the next evolution for Latino/as to me.

"How do you feel about the term LatinX? Have you embraced it? Do you use it? Discuss ... "

I saw this question posted on my Latina Entrepreneurs network and I was a little surprised. Doesn't everyone on this forum use LatinX? I actually thought I was one of the last to join the party when I started using the term more and more in my writing for clients in 2016.

I had just submitted some fresh web copy for a university's Hispanic Serving Institution site. As always I give clients a chance to edit and expect a decent amount of changes, but this time most of the edits were strikethroughs of the word Latinos and Latinas.

On the phone later with my client Rene Moreno, a dynamite advocate for LatinX in the higher ed space, explained his organization chose to use LatinX as way to also embrace people who identify as trans, queer or non-binary.

It made sense to me but it still took me a while to fully live into the word.

A simple definition of LatinX

If you're new to the term as I was then, here's a plain and simple definition for you:

"Latinx is the gender-neutral alternative to Latino, Latina and even Latin@.... It’s part of a ‘linguistic revolution”’ that aims to move beyond gender binaries and is inclusive of the intersecting identities of Latin American descendants."

The definition was easy for my brain to understand but in my heart, I was still hesitant to call myself LatinX. I'd often think to myself, "Is the term for someone like me, too?"

I grew up moving through language trying to find just the right word to describe myself and my experience. My evolution so far has gone a little something like this:

  • American - Too white, describes my citizenship but not my cultural identity

  • Mexican-American - Too confusing, many people thought I was half white and half Mexican

  • Chicana - The undisputed term for those of Mexican descent born in the US. Still an important word for me, but also can be divisive to immigrant communities

  • Mexican - That's how people see me anyway! Admittedly if you are brown and living in California people will call you a Mexican even if you have a completely different heritage. NOT COOL!

  • Latina - Definitely more comprehensive. Has allowed me to see commonalities with others from different countries including El Salvador, Peru, Cuba, Puerto Rico y mas

  • ...LatinX? - This is the space I am moving into today. I want to use this term more and more to describe the state of my identity, which is in unity with marginalized groups including trans, queer and non-binary folks

The turning point for me and the word LatinX has been when I finally understood LatinX was not about me. It’s about US collectively as a group. It's our ability to recognize and stand strong with those that have been mostly made to be felt mostly invisible, marginalized and ridiculed because they didn't fall into our current societal constraints of gender.

Their experiences of pain, of perseverance, and of courage to be themselves in world that tries to tell them they are too different are the reasons I'm embracing LatinX.

If I put myself in the shoes of a trans person, I can see how at every turn gender becomes a struggle. Which bathroom do I use? How can I list my gender on my driver's license? How will my family introduce me? How will people look at me? That’s all just the very surface level of what I am able to glean. There are infinitely deeper struggles that relate to familial relationships, finding love, finding acceptance at places of work and of worship and more.

When I started to let these experiences sync in more and truly listen to the experiences and life stories of my trans friends, the importance of using LatinX moved deeper within me.

Words can be complex and deeply personal. I see how words can unite us or divide us. If evolving toward LatinX means a better way to stand with my trans friends, then I'm embracing the word more fully in my mind and heart. I hope you will too.