Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world, yet like many other languages, it lacks inclusivity and gender-neutral diction.
Every noun, pronoun and adjective is either masculine (word ending with an “o”) or feminine (word ending with an “a”). When you pluralize a noun, it becomes a little more complicated.
For example, take the word “primo” or cousin. One male cousin is primo and one female cousin is prima. However, more than one cousin ends up in the masculine form primos. The same goes for any other noun, it will often end up masculine, not feminine, unless you have a group of only females.
Since the 1990s, people have thought of different ways to make the language more inclusive. The LGBTQ+ community is just one of the few who started to use the “@” or “x” instead of “o” in “Latino.” Although the word “Latino” encompasses both genders, the terms Latin@ and Latinx have become prominent because they avoid the dominance of masculinity and are inclusive to both genders.
Recently there has been a new trend that uses the letter “e” as an alternative to the letters “o” and “a,” so that one gender doesn’t dominate the other. Instead of amigos or amigas they are amigues. Claudia Serrato, an ethnic and women’s studies professor, said the use of the “x” is problematic.
“It is not gender inclusive,” Serrato said. “There is this idea of male dominance … it creates a black and white binary, it silences identity, it silences cultural expression.”
The use of the “x,” “@” and even “e” to substitute for the letters “o” and “a” are confusing because what exactly do these letters mean? For example, Serrato mentioned that the “e” sounds more feminine. If that is the case, then the letter “e” is not suitable to make the language more gender inclusive and is not suitable if it is confusing. However, there are other alternatives that can make the language more gender neutral.
Serrato said exploring and then integrating more indigenous references is one way. Other ways include possibly creating new words that capture the essence of gender identities, but overall it is up to the people, what it means or can mean to them.
Adding new words might work more efficiently because of the meanings that these words establish and how they are communicated within the community. It would be difficult now to change a major language and force the changes upon people who have used it for many decades, but as generations pass the language evolves.
Overall, it is the decision of the people who will adapt to developments in the language whether they use terms Latin@, Latinx, whether they switch out the “a” and “o” for an “e,” or they just don’t adapt at all.
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