Updated: Nov 3, 2022
Latina, Latino, Latin@, Latine, Latinx, Hispanic, Caribbean, or...? Reflections about why we may opt to use Latinx despite controversies, and an invitation to embracing yet another alternative term.
Do we identify as Latino/a/@/e/x? As Latin American? As Caribbean? As migrants? How does the use of the term Latinx instead of Latina, Latino, Latine, or Latin@ help us? How can we overcome controversies and resistance? Can we? How about embracing yet another term to be both more inclusive and inviting at the same time?
Latinx highlights gender and sexual fluidity. It implies dislocation, the diaspora of Latin Americans. It transpires the heaviness of the unequal politics of geopolitical, economic, gender, sexual, and ethnoracial transnational regimes. Yet, Latinx shows pride and resistance. It's a powerful yet controversial tool. Can we use it without getting caught in insignificant or counterproductive battles?
When we imagined our Collective, in the midst of conversations, meals, and receptions at the Sociologists for Women in Society Meetings, we spontaneously identified as being Latinx feminists and how this positionality influenced the ways in which we could practice an antiracist, liberatory, intersectional, transnational praxis. But, in our first workshops, questions about the adoption of the term Latinx arose from various participants. Some stated that they didn't think of themselves as such but instead as nationals of their native Latin American countries, Hispanics, Latin American migrants, or simply, Latinas.
We reflected on participants' input, and agreed to continue using the term Latinx as we valued firstly, the relevance of indicating that as feminists we scientifically understood and believed in the social construction of gender and sexualities, their fluidity, the need to dismantle binary regimes and the power that language and discourse carried as signifiers of social norms and tools of social change. Secondly, we trusted that Latinx could be utilized as a term that indicated an implicit, flexible solidarity along gender, sexual as well as ethnoracial and geopolitical positionalities, that is, as a term that would invite us to reflect on the great heterogeneity of Latin America and its people's diaspora as opposed to erasing difference or homogenizing experiences. Then, we bet on the counter-hegemonic power of all that Latinx entailed, convinced that it would not define us but instead, call us to collectively assert who we were, what we wanted and could do, and how we could contribute with the movements to change our exclusionary status quo.
The use of the term Latinx also signaled being conscious of the heaviness of the unequal politics of geopolitical, economic, gender, sexual, and ethnoracial transnational regimes. Regimes that intersected in complex and unfair ways, and were so institutionalized and culturally embedded that we often lost hope that they could ever be fully dismantled or replaced with more equal forms of social organization. However, the same term reflected a commitment with struggle, resistance, action and transformation. The use of Latinx implied activism, power and a sense of purpose. Despite doubts, as Latinx we showed that we believed in change, desired better societies, and were proud and ready to do our part to debunk oppressive practices, structures and systems.
Overcoming counterproductive conflict
If we believed that the advantages of utilizing the term Latinx as opposed to Latina, Latino, Latin@, Hispanic, Caribbean, etc. surpassed the controversies it arose, could we avoid getting tangled in debates around it? Did its politically charged meaning bound Latinx to disagreement and therefore meant that we ought to be ready to engage in a constant questioning of its use? How could we as a Collective overcome counterproductive conflict, that is, quarrels that prevented us from focusing our energy in developing constructive initiatives that lifted Latinx feminisms? After reflection, we decided to adopt the strategy of bringing the rationale behind our choice of using the term to the very forefront, as it was part and parcel of our mission as a Collective committed to embrace an antiracist, intersectional, transnational, feminist, liberatory praxis, and actively recreate what it meant to be a critically conscious feminist sociologist in the Global North. Yet, could we do something else? Could we move beyond the use of the term?
Upon deliberation, an idea came up. What if instead of Latinx we proposed a new concept? How about using the term "Latin+" instead? Borrowing from the terminology developed by non-binary social movements (from LGB to LGBTQIA+), why couldn't we adopt the use of the plus sign as a means to highlight the socially constructed character of ethnoracial and gender and sexual categories and identities (and therefore their changing nature) as well as our willingness to build solidarity and alliances across geopolitical and sociocultural borders and boundaries? What if we took on the term "Latin+" as an attempt to overcome the paralysis that confrontations about Latinx often brought? Latin+ could help us be more inclusive and inviting, while also implying a literally positive turn given that plus means more, addition, summation, incorporation, and growth. Furthermore, Latin+ sounds powerful, especially in Spanish: LatinMAS - somos mas, queremos mas, abarcamos mas, crecemos mas - we are more, we want more, we reach more, we grow more. Latin+ may then have an empowering effect. Entonces, a Latin-qué? respondemos, Latin+!, con orgullo y promesa. Hence, to Latin-what? we reply, Latin+!, with pride and promise.
Latin+ recognizes the socially constructed character of ethnoracial and gender and sexual categories and identities and invites the building of solidarity and alliances across geopolitical and sociocultural borders and boundaries with the aim of transforming the current exclusionary status quo.
Undoubtedly, the term "Latin+" will generate controversies too. But, we believe the debates that may arise have the potential of being generative. Let's see what that entail. Veamos de que se trata. ¿Se unen? Will you join us?
En la lucha, siempre.