Latino or Latina? Why Not Latin@

Sometimes solutions to unnecessarily gendered language are easy, such as changing congressman to congressperson or mailman to mail carrier. Other issues have proven more difficult, such as the search for gender neutral pronouns.

Not only is language gendered, but it can also be racist. People with privilege often—though only sometimes purposefully—use language that is oppressive, make previously non-oppressive language oppressive by how they use it, or simply say things that are inaccurate (and thus oftentimes disrespectful). It is important, therefore, to use terms that are more neutral, accurate, and inclusive. For example, Latino is preferred to saying that someone is Spanish (unless they are actually from Spain), saying someone is Mexican (unless they are actually from Mexico), or using pejorative terms that I won’t repeat here. The intersectional challenge, however, is that Latino is a gendered word (in some languages, gendered endings are the norm, even for inanimate objects). Saying someone is Latino is equivalent to saying someone is a man. Many people think it’s fine to use “man” or “mankind” to be inclusive of women, but many of these same people wouldn’t be ok with using “woman” or “womankind” to be inclusive of men.

350px-Languages_of_South_America.svg

Languages of South America

People have sometimes used a Latino/a or Latina/o construction, but when doing this you have to put one letter first. Hispanic, although not a gendered term, is less inclusive than Lantina/o, referring only to groups with Spanish-speaking roots. Latino/a refers more generally to people of Latin American origin/ancestry. So, what can a person who cares about using language that is neutral, accurate, and inclusive do?

 

Here’s one possible option that may work in some contexts: Latin@. Just don’t ask me how to pronounce it.

P.S. This can work for Chicana/o too.

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