More and more I’ve begun to see the use of the letter “X” in otherwise lucid and proper writing in an attempt to neuter the words, Latina and Latino, thusly, latinX. The X factor, as I understand it, was intended to allow for persons who do not identify as o’s or a’s to use a gender neutral, or X-factored term. I get that.
Problem is there seems to be a “movement” seeking to have “latinX” designate all persons who are indigenous to the Americas, with Hispanic roots through bloodlines and ethnicity, born and/or living in the United States of America, who do not identify solely as of white European/Caucasian origin—my definition of a Latina or Latino. From what I can gather, the X thing dates back to 2014 – three whole years ago! – and has gained acceptance among many persons, and organizations, of indigenous Hispanic origin. As editor of a magazine which daily strives to find and consider for publication that particular italicized composite of writers described above, the idea of the “X” factor violates basic tenets of literary endeavor, that we respect language, that it be organic and that it elevate the meaning and purpose of the Word. Or, as my old friend and preeminent scholar of Chicano literature, Felipe de Ortego y Gasca, put it, it’s “an insidious blurring of hereditary and cultural roots.” Put another way, while it purports to allow for “gender inclusivity,” the use of the “X” blithely obliges the millions of people in the U.S. who are Hispanic by birth and identify as either male or female to veil their gender; it’s a form of linguistic neo-imperialism, to put it bluntly. Or, to put it more colorfully, the tail wagging the dog. I understand the intent, and basically I support and respect those who seek some recourse, but not at the expense of common sense or a language that is no one’s own to hash up. Besides, Latino and Latina are already made-up nouns, concocted by protagonists for an English dominant society. Adding an X compounds the linguistic hegemony conveyed in the words which have their origins in the bowels of the U.S. Census Bureau and the Congressional Budget Office, such as the use of Hispanic as a noun. (I get a lurch in my stomach to hear the term.) Have any discussions about the suffiX taken place during the past few years—confabs involving hopefully a wide range of interested parties, such as socio-linguists, writers, community activists, even politicians, to arrive at a broadly accepted term or policy about the issue? It appears that the use of X has made its way into certain areas of parlance much as the terms, Latino and Hispanic, did—by unilateral actions and arbitrary decisions by persons otherwise evincing a social evolution in the meaning of gender. Personally, I don’t care how anyone might want to identify themselves, as long as it doesn’t impose on my right to call myself what I want. I did hear of a symposium, titled, LatinxFuturism, held June 22nd last by the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute in New York City. The questions posed for discussion were: Do Latinxs see themselves as having a common ground or are we more concerned with our individual national constituencies? How do intersectional politics of race and gender fit into the mix? Is it possible to see a future for LatinXs in New York and the U.S. that brings together all of our issues? The questions are basically worth addressing eXcept they presume the predominance of the X factor as the predicate for eXchange of ideas. The first question might have been, can we impose on all indigenous Americans of Hispanic origin the further Anglicization of a term imposed on us by X-ing the Spanish language? At the kind of conference I envision, I could conjure up a few alternatives for consideration. In order of potential acceptance (or not), they are: 1. Establish a policy with all sides taken into consideration that henceforth, the word, Latine (or other term agreed upon), could be used to connote gender inclusivity. In other words, make it a bland social construct like Hispanic (lurch) as a noun. 2. Do what I do, only use the term preferred by the individual I’m considering for publication such as MeXican, Puerto Rican, or Nicaraguense, or an –o, –a, or –x. 3. Consider terms within the Spanish idiom which are organic to the language, that is, which can be derived from the actual language itself, not forced from without, especially given the English dominant nature of the letter, “X.” No word in Spanish starts with X, eXcept derivatives of Greek-based words, such as Xenophobia. X is not found in any form as a suffiX within the Spanish language. One critic I read showed how a sentence with the o’s and a’s changed to “X” looked like—an egg splattered on a wall is more appealing to the eye. a. Several of the demonyms of ethnic/national origin have been folded easily into U.S. usage without raising gender flags: e.g., MeXican, Colombian, Venezuelan, etc.; in fact, that terminology covers most of the Latin American countries. Only a few demonyms raise the “X” flag and they’re all in the U.S.A.: Chicano/a, Hispana/o, and Latina/o: as far as I know, none of these terms are used as identifiers in Latin America. 4. Evolve a term which is gender neutral, whose meaning derives organically from the Spanish language itself and thus acceptable worldwide. A basic method of demonymizing an ethnic term in English is simply to add -an, or –ian, to wit: a. Chicanan or Chicanian, Hispanan or Hispanian, and Latinan or Latinian. Alternatively, how about Chicanamerican, Latinamerican, or, Hispanamerican? 5. We could spend at least three years in conferences, webinars, and online video calls or whatever other technology develops during the time to reach a consensus. Recollection alone serves me with regard to the name-calling battle that occurred within the National Association of Chicano Studies, back in 1994, I believe, when women academics brought a national conference to a halt over their demand that the name be changed to National Association of Chicano and Chicana Studies. a. This suggests another solution: adding the X factor as a separate entity to o and a to produce, e.g., National Association of Chicano, Chicana, and ChicanX Studies or NACCCXS). In general usage, the outcome would look like this: Chicana/o/X as in “the Chicano/a/X Literary Club.” Obviously, a kind of oXymoron, because there’s nothing literate about the suffiX: o/a/X. Wouldn’t it be less cumbersome simply to turn NACCS into NACS – National Association of Chicanan Studies? b. Another solution might lie in the only other demonym I know of for an ethnic/national group in the Americas that’s gender neutral, alluded to above—Nicaraguense. So, we could have Chicanense, Hispanense or Latinense, or just “Nense,” for short.
So, to sum up, before the use of X as a suffiX for Chican-, Latin- or Hispan- spreads any further willy-nilly, I suggest certain steps occur: · Let’s agree that we need to have a serious discussion about the X factor. · Determine the problem or issue the X factor seeks to resolve. · Conduct discussions including organizations dedicated to scholarly and policy pursuits, writers and a broad spectrum of our communities—no government officials allowed— to address the various options. · Reach a consensus about which term makes logical, practical, and literate sense, and publish the outcome far and wide—within the U.S. at least because I don’t believe anyone cares beyond our borders. For sure, Somos en escrito will publish every word of the outcome. For now, I defer to the default status: call yourself whatever you want, let everyone else do the same, and think really hard about what makes sense. −Armando Rendón Executive Editor