Every Learner Everywhere

Why We’re Transitioning from “Latinx” to “Latino”: Shifting Perspectives on Equitable Language

Every Learner Everywhere seeks to use equitable language that decentralizes dominant narratives and includes underrepresented people in the conversation of higher education. For this reason, Every Learner has made the decision to replace our use of the term “Latinx” in favor of the terms “Latino” in our publications when referring to peoples of Latin American descent and “Latina” when specifically talking about women of Latin American descent.

Moving to adopt the term “Latino” was a deliberate process based on examining recent research and on conversations with the Every Learner Equity Advisory Board, our student interns, and network representatives. These conversations led to a decision that “Latino” better reflects both the current state of higher education and the community.

As we discussed in an earlier article about developing an equity-centered style guide for our publications, equity language evolves. As such, Every Learner strives to better reflect the students and faculty it serves by committing to the use of equity-centered language in all its published materials. By adopting the term “Latino,” Every Learner continues to reaffirm that commitment.

Questioning if “Latinx” is inclusive

One motivation for moving away from the term “Latinx” is because it has never been widely adopted by the Latino community. While the exact origins are unclear, the term became popularized in the early-to-mid 2000s as a non-gendered alternative for people of Latin American descent. Every Learner began utilizing the term in 2020 in an effort to employ more equitable, inclusive language. However, it became clear that the term “Latinx” is flawed as more leaders in the Latino community took a stance in opposition to it.

While the term “Latinx” was meant to support non-gendered language, it introduced an unnatural dissonance because the Spanish language traditionally employs male or female constructions. One critique of the term is that genderless language originated among western English speakers rather than from the Spanish-speaking community.

A 2019 survey from the Pew Research Center found that of U.S. adults who self-identify as Hispanic or Latino, only 23 percent had heard of the term “Latinx.” and just 3 percent said they used it to describe themselves. Younger people in the Latino community, ages 18 to 29, were more likely to have heard the term, as were people with college experience.

Not only is the term “Latinx” not in common use, but many find it offensive. In an article for Inside Higher Ed titled Why I Hate the Term “Latinx, Bryan Betancur outlines how the effort to neutralize gender in Spanish results in an “elitist linguistic trend.” In the push for “Latinx,” the use of “x” as a genderless suffix began being applied to other Spanish words, creating neologisms like amigx (friend) or queridx (dear).

“I could explain gender-inclusive language to my mom but could only spell out terms like queridx, because these words cannot be pronounced in Spanish,” Betancur wrote. “The battle against grammatical gender was inaccessible to my mom, who did not attend college and was not about to read a jargony essay on the subject. If this new linguistic practice did not lend itself to a simple oral explanation to my mom, it also excluded much of my family and the immigrant community in which I grew up.”

Community perspectives on “Latino” and “Latinx”

Community involvement in the discussion about this choice was a priority. Every Learner’s student interns were a vital part of understanding current student perspectives. Listening to students active in the Latino community, it became evident that “Latino” was the preferred term for most students. Through these discussions, we also found that “Latino” serves as a more inclusive term than “Latino/a,” as it does not specifically exclude non-binary members of the community.

Looking to peer organizations working in higher education has affirmed our shift to “Latino.” Many publications and leaders have discontinued use of “Latinx” for the reasons described above. We also consulted numerous equity language guides from other organizations and publications to better understand where equity language currently stands.

We believe the choice of the term “Latino” is more reflective of the community Every Learner serves. Initial community feedback to this shift has largely been positive. In alignment with Every Learner’s mission, accurate representation and participation in the conversation from minoritized groups is of the utmost importance in the dialogue of equity language.

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