Sept. 15 marked the beginning of Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month, a celebration of Hispanic and Latinx culture, impact and history.
Identity and terminology is important and distinct in the Hispanic and Latinx community. Specifically, the origin of Latinx is rooted in inclusivity and support of LGBTQ+ individuals. The term Latinx, added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is said to have been coined for people of Latin American descent who do not identify as men or women. It is pronounced (luh-TEE-neks), according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
In recent years, it has been used by those in the Latin queer community and others who identify as nonbinary. In the Spanish language, nouns have either masculine or feminine endings — o or a. Although grammatically incorrect, Latinx is a way to bypass the gender-based endings.
The use of the word Latinx has been supported and criticized by many in the Hispanic and Latin community. Some of the criticism derives from homophobia within the community while some say it is grammatically a mistake, Edward Delgado-Romero said.
Delgado-Romero is the associate dean for faculty and staff services in the Mary Frances Early College of Education and a professor in the department of counseling and human development services. He studies Latino/a psychology as well as race and ethnicity.
The conversation around terminology and identity within the Hispanic and Latinx community raises questions on history, homophobia and choice.
Identity and inclusivity
Originally, the term Hispanic was criticized for being “too European” and not including Indigenous, Black and non-Spanish speaking countries such as Brazil, Delgado-Romero said. From that, the term Latino and Latina was created. However, he said it’s difficult to pick two terms to describe millions in the U.S. and abroad.
“For example when I talk to my mom she doesn’t identify as Latinx, she identifies as Colombian… she doesn’t relate to Hispanic, Latino or Latinx,” Delgado-Romero said.
When it comes to those who critique the term Latinx, he said it’s important to understand the ongoing homophobia in Latin and Hispanic culture and countries. Delgado-Romero said the invalidation of the term Latinx further invalidates people’s identities and excludes them from a culture or community.
Latinx is meant to promote and spread inclusivity, however in some cases where people are resistant to the term, they can be resistant to “inclusivity of the queer community”, Delgado-Romero said.
On June 12, 2016 there was a mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando. This event “revitalized” the term Latinx in support of the LGBTQ+ community, Delgado-Romero said.
In an article for Higher Education, Gary Santos Mendoza, who identifies as Queer Latinx, said the daily struggle for Queer Latinx has been to find a safe space where they feel loved and free. While in an interview with The New York Times, Columbia University professor Ed Morales spoke about the term Latinx “imagining a future of more inclusion for people that don’t conform to the various kinds of rigid identities that exist in the United States.”
“I don’t see the need to impose or tell people how they identify but maybe we can make people aware of why they use the terms so we can embrace the full diversity of Latino people in the U.S.,” Delgado-Romero said.
He also said one term doesn’t capture the complexity of any group, whether Black, Asian or white — it’s the “barest” introduction to who a person is. If a person chooses to identify as Latinx, Brazilian, Hispanic or Cuban, it should be validated and their choice, Delgado-Romero said. While the terminology is important, the different countries, backgrounds and cultures Hispanics and Latinxs come from “make us unique, make us who we are,” he said.
“To the outside person, they just see Latino and Hispanic, don’t see a lot of differences but us within the culture are proud of our differences,” Delgado-Romero said.