Your browser is not supported. We do our best to optimize our websites to the most current web browsers. Please try another browser.

Latinx vs. Latine: Decolonizing Queer Identities in Latin America

A person with a rainbow over their shirt and in the background

Pronouns matter. While discussing the use of personal pronouns has been a topic of debate over the past few years when it comes to common pronouns like he/him, she/her and they/them, it’s also important to unpack and consider the history and preferences of the people who use them. This brings us to the case of the term “Latinx” for the Latin American queer community.

Many argue that issues surrounding the use of pronouns stem from a heteronormative system of identities established by cisgender men. Others believe traditional binary terms to be sufficient. The most common pronouns to date are he/him, she/her and they/them. While there are those who may refute the existence of they/them as a viable pronoun, all I have to say is look at the centuries of English literature then come back and talk to me. 

It begs the question though: are these terms universal by their English definition? What we know is that gender-neutral terms have been used since at least the 1300s. But how do gender-neutral pronouns fit when it comes to the Latin American community? Let’s explore. 

You may also like: 10 Gen Z queer icons you need to know in 2022.

Aerial view of city

The introduction of “Latinx”

When the term “Latinx” started popping up across the United States in the mid 2000s, people started to question its origins, significance and, by virtue, its definition. “Latinx” was first used by people and organizations as a way to encompass all those who identified as non-binary or trans within the Latin community. With over 37 million Mexicans living in the United States alone, you would think this new pronoun would catch on quickly, right? Well, it didn’t. 

See also: Jennifer Lopez used gender-neutral pronouns to introduce her child for duet.


The persistence – and impact – of ‘macho’ culture

Like most countries in the Global South, Latin America has seen its share of challenges in a post-colonial world. And like many other countries, they continue to navigate through the process of dismantling outdated customs introduced by settlers and religious factions. 

…while the term Latinx was introduced with good intentions, the movement neglected to do one simple thing: ask the people

One of outdated customs is the frustratingly persistent “macho” culture. Macho or machismo culture is an inherently misogynistic behavioural pattern towards those that Latino men believe to be “inferior.” That could be a laundry list of people, however queer people seem to get the brunt of that aggression. 

In contrast, through the progression of Catholicism in Latin America, it has introduced a regressive understanding that one’s identity can only be binary, eliminating the acknowledgement of those who do not conform. These two major obstacles have made it extremely difficult to forward any significant change for trans and non-binary rights in LATAM, despite other members of the queer community seeing some progress. 

See also: Halsey won’t do press anymore, says their pronouns were disrespected.

The problem with ‘Latinx’

So, while the term Latinx was introduced with good intentions, the movement neglected to do one simple thing: ask the people. 

Did these organizations consult enough people within the community? Did these organizations reach out to multi-generational Latin Americans to get their take? Did they even consider what the use of “x” looks like in Spanish grammar? I’m going to lean on the side of no on these. 

Structurally, the use of “x” in Latinx is not compatible with conventional Spanish grammar. By consequence, promoting the use of Latinx to non-English speakers has proved to be an immovable task with many refuting the purpose of the cause all together. It comes across as irresponsible to the movement at large, when the issue could have been alleviated by having simply consulted impacted groups. 

Related: A brief history of Cinco de Mayo — hint: it’s not about tequila and tacos.


An organic alternative to ‘Latinx’: ‘Latine’

So how do queer Latin Americans work to decolonize this grammatical misstep? 

Phonetically, grammatically and structurally, Latine just makes more sense.

Latin American youth leaders across Central and South America have connected over the past decade to reform the use of Latinx into something that is better representative of the language and culture. 

The result of these discussions introduced the term “Latine” – an organic alternative to Latinx that fills an immense gap in the language barrier. Phonetically, grammatically and structurally, Latine just makes more sense. 

The movement to implement Latine has done the work of consulting communities while taking considerations of traditional language and culture. Now if only Gen Z TikTokers would get on board, Latine would be more than just a trend, but commonplace.

So, while the gendered terms of Latino and Latina continue to be widely used (and misused), many in the new generation hopes Latine will catch on and become just as equally respected and understood as its gendered counterparts.

Latest News

This content is restricted to adults of legal age.
Please enter your birthdate to confirm.
Date of Birth