Spanish is a romance language, so every word is gendered male or female. Mesa is a female term, as is casa, sombrilla. Carro and other words like musculo are male terms. Because of this, many feminists in Latin America have dubbed Spanish an innately sexist language. Imagine a room full of women, we can refer to ourselves as nosotras las Latinas, but the MINUTE one man enters this primarily female space we become: nosotros los Latinos. We essentially acquiesce to the male in the room, despite the numbers. This is troublesome for feministas in Latin America and the Caribbean and has been for some time.
Spanish-speaking feminists began to reject the “O” as the neutral and initially opted for the @, in Latin@, when referring to a male and female mixed group, as : nosotr@s l@s Latin@s. So everything that would be gendered as female and thus changed to the perceived neutral male, gets the @. However, in recent years the “@” has been rejected by a lot of feminists because la letra O siempre dominando la letra A. The argument was that the A was still dominated by O, in the @.
In 2014 I met with LGBTQIA folks in El Salvador and became particularly aware of the “X” as intentional inclusive language, as in Latinx (La-teen-ex). A Salvadorian human rights protector/activist/intersex/trans/queer feminist friend of mine Nicole Santamaria wisely told me:
“I use X because everyone shares an X chromosome, and I do not have to categorize people into genders that may or may not apply to them. So in progressive LGBTQIA circles in Latin America and the Caribbean, there has been a move toward addressing a room as: nosotrxs lxs Latinxs.”
Latinxs with the X has become the preferred and most gender-neutral identifier, but it goes beyond just Latinxs. It’s an effort to remove the sexism and innately homophobic undertones of the Spanish language within oppressed and marginalized communities, particularly for females and LGBTQIA folks.
Though my identity is not directly at stake when opting against @ and choosing the gender-neutral X, we can and should be intentional about language. Fortunately, if you're bilingual, you can opt out of gendering certain words by using the English term for them. But the great thing about Latinx is that it’s neither Spanish or English, male or female, it is just Latinx.