One doesn’t have to dig very deep into the cultural conflicts presently raging to come across strife in using gender binary language. Gender binary language is a language that explicitly references males and females.
The conflict stems from those who self-identify as anything other than male or female in terms of their sexuality. This is an issue that has become increasingly prevalent over the past few years in societies worldwide. One of those areas represents, in a broader sense, a more widespread demographic of the population throughout many countries in Latin America.
What is Latinx?
Latinx is the latest attempt by some on the left to label a group of people who have rejected almost every previous effort to name them. It’s pronounced La-TEEN-ex, similar to the brand name Kleenex. The idea is to eliminate gender binary language that would make people identifying as non-binary feel ostracized.
Over the past few decades, the labels Latino, Latina, and Hispanic have all been used by the US Census Bureau to paint a culturally diverse group of people with one broad stroke of the brush. This has been problematic, with each label receiving a degree of pushback. It seems that people from specific Latin American countries are often highly nationalistic, and many of them prefer to be labeled in a way that reflects their national pride.
Consider the following excerpt from the New Yorker regarding Pew Research:
“If you give members of this community the freedom to choose how to identify themselves, the more than fifteen years of polling that Pew has conducted show that most prefer other collective names: Mexicans (or Mexican-Americans, or Chicanos), Puerto Ricans (or Boricuas), Cubans, Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Colombians, or any of our many nationalities of descent.”
Origins of ‘Latinx’
The creation of this name and the movement to adopt its use began with a small group of young people self-identifying as queer in Latin American countries. According to an article from Good Housekeeping in September of 2020,
“The term Latinx emerged from the Spanish-speaking queer community to challenge the gender binary, explain Aja and Scharrón-del Río. While the term’s exact origin is unclear, its use can be traced back to online queer community forums. Some researchers have found early uses of the “x” in place of the gendered “o” and “a” dating back to the late ’90s. However, the term became recently popularized after the devastating Pulse Massacre in 2016, the mass shooting that occurred at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.”
More than Meets the Eye
At first glance, one might think this is primarily a conflict between conservatives on the far right and those representing the LGBTQ community on the left. In reality, that’s only one piece of the puzzle. Many don’t feel that the labels being ascribed to them represent them accurately. Others are more practical in their plight, contending that the Spanish language will be easier to learn and use without the bonds of gender binary grammar.
Ask any American high school student whose first language is English, and they’ll probably be the first to advocate abandoning gender rules in the Spanish language. For many, it appears as though morality and ethics aren’t even part of the conversation. It’s simply a practical matter.
Religion is a Factor Though
According to Pew Research, almost 90% of the population of Latin America consider themselves to be Christians. Nearly 70% are Roman Catholic, and the remaining 20% are either Protestants or some other unaffiliated Christian religion. With these kinds of statistics, it’s no wonder that conservative moral values and ideals are deeply rooted in Hispanic culture overall.
Tradition runs deep in humanity, and religious traditions are often the most highly esteemed among any culture. To pretend religion is not a factor would be willful ignorance. For example, consider people of Latin American descent to view issues like abortion and birth control. To say that they’re frowned upon would be a grave understatement.
Many view them through the lens of Catholic tradition as outright sins. Things like traditional gender roles in language and everyday life are going to hold an important place in the Hispanic population’s hearts and minds.
Gender is an Integral Part of the Spanish Language
Whether one thinks it should or shouldn’t be, gender has played an influential role in the Spanish language for centuries. The Royal Spanish Academy (RAE), long considered the highest authority on the Spanish language, does not embrace gender neutrality.
Its official stance is that the masculine version of a word should reign over the female counterpart. Case in point, Latino would be used rather than Latina to label the Latin American population as a whole. There doesn’t appear to be any change in sight in terms of the RAE position on adopting Latinx.
It Seems a Bit Ironic
While it’s branded as an attempt to promote inclusivity, according to NBC News, many are among the Hispanic-American population who are pushing back against this agenda. They “see Latinx as an elitist attempt to erase a history of more traditional gender roles, or as a distraction from other pressing issues facing Latinos in the United States.”
To add to the irony, the growing population of immigrants from south of the border is essentially ideological allies on issues like this, with many conservatives on the right who don’t seem to want them coming to America.
Maybe it’s time for those on the left to realize that not everyone who’s part of a minority group is looking for a savior. It seems that most people want to be left alone and afforded the liberty to live as they see fit.
Similarly, those on the right need to come to terms with the fact that many issues are more complex than their shallow understanding of them. At this time, it’s uncertain where the trend of gender neutralization will lead. Still, given the history of the evolution of languages overall, any permanent changes that come will likely be slow.
Josh is a faith and culture writer with ThinkCivics. He attended seminary through Rock of Ages Baptist Bible Institute out of Cleveland, TN. He has held about every position one could hold in a local church: Sunday school teacher, Children’s Church Preacher, Bus Ministry Director/Worker, Missions Director, Choir Director, Song Leader, Janitor, etc. In October of 2005, he was ordained as an Assistant Pastor at Rest Haven Baptist Church, and that’s where he served until God called him into the Pastorate at Enon Baptist Church in Alto, GA at the age of 32. He stepped out by faith in obedience to God’s instructions and quickly received a call from Blessed Hope Baptist Church in Free Home, GA where he now serves as Pastor. In his free time, Josh enjoys spending quality time with his wife (who is his high school sweetheart) and three children: Zoey, Ava, and Jack, as well as reading, writing, hunting, cooking, weight lifting, and martial arts.