The first time I heard the term “Latinx” (pronounced “La-teen-ex”) I was a graduate student at the University of North Carolina sitting among a group of fellow Latino students at the School of Social Work trying to put a schedule together for our student group. My friend and fellow group leader offered that we begin our annual planning with a consideration of a name change to our group. My friend pointed out that our current name “Latino Student Caucus” excluded those who identified outside of gender binaries—individuals who are transgender, gender nonconforming or gender fluid.
She was right. As student leaders, our goal was to offer an inclusive space where all students could feel validated and supported. In order to live up to our stated purposed, we needed to make that linguistic change.
Perhaps you’re wondering why one word could be so exclusive. The thing is, in the Spanish language words have a gender. Words that end with “o” are usually masculine, while those that end with “a” are usually feminine. Masculinized versions of words are traditionally considered gender-neutral. But to many, this designation has never really been gender-neutral because it excludes other identities and can reinforce gender stereotypes.
“Latinx,” therefore offers a truly gender-neutral alternative to Latino and Latina. Writers for the Huffington Post define “Latinx” as “…the gender-neutral alternative to Latino and Latina, that aims to move beyond gender binaries and is inclusive of the intersecting identities of Latin American descendants.” The term has been in use for several years by academics, activists and journalists, among others. Today, more organizations and individuals are adopting the term in an effort to be inclusive in their spaces and in language. The League has become one of them.
Last fall, I began this conversation with my colleagues at the League. A few of us were familiar with the term and we wanted to be purposeful in our work, so we decided to come together and discuss. As staff members at the League, we continually strive to live up to our organization’s values of equity, diversity and inclusion. In order to do so, we have to continually listen, reflect and learn.
Our conversations were fruitful, and we decided that it was time for the League to make this change. Beginning this year, the League will replace the term “Latino” and “Latina” with “Latinx” when referring to individuals of Latin American descent, except for when we are referring to data sources in our charts and graphs.
Our work depends on our commitment to create spaces where all Michiganders’ voices can be heard and valued. This change takes us one more step closer, and we look forward to continuing to break down barriers in all other aspects of our work.