My name is Celeste, and my preferred gender pronouns are she/her.
This is a statement that I had never been asked to say before I started college in Pennsylvania in 2013. That is, I had no idea what it meant to have a gender pronoun preference and share that preference with others. I’m sorry to say that prior to my first day on my new college campus, I had not really been expected to wrap my head around the concept that gender identity did not have to conform to the he/ she binary. Someone could prefer they/them. Someone could prefer they/ them and he/ him interchangeably. These three gender identity pronouns (they/she/he) are definitely the ones that I have come across most often in the past few years, but they are not the only preferences that exist. It is important to acknowledge that gender and sexual identity cannot be presumed to fit into a binary or even a trinary, but rather, a spectrum.
With that said, I also want to talk about how my evolved understanding of gender identity reflects on my identity as a Latin American. Over the years, I’ve made use of a few different identifiers to indicate my ethnicity. In previous years, I think my preferred ones are Mexican and Latina. As most of us know, the Spanish language is gendered in that words are either masculine or feminine. Here are the widely accepted rules that are most often used when gendering our ethnic identifier:
As a woman I can call myself a Latina.
In a group of my friends who are all women, we can call ourselves Latinas.
If I am in a group of all women with the exception of one man, the entire group is automatically referred to as Latinos because of the masculine presence.
If I am in a group of people whose gender identities vary and may include individuals who do not fall into the presumed he/she binary, we are still referred to as Latinos.
You see, on the personal level, I feel completely at ease making use of the term Latina, but just because I am not bothered by this, in terms of my identity, does not mean that I should not try to take on a different perspective and make a transition that would help the Latin American community grow in its understanding about the intersection of gender and ethnic identities.
That having been said, I am most compelled right now to make use of the term Latinx, particularly when I refer to our community in academic, professional, and social media settings. Although this is not necessarily a term that was crafted with grammar’s best interest in mind, I hope that we can look past this and realize the need for gender inclusiveness is greater than the need for grammatical correctness.
I still consider terms like Latinas and Latinitas to be empowering and even necessary for a lot of Latin American women and girls, so I think I can safely say that I foresee future social and personal situations in which I will find it effective to make us of the feminized version of this ethnic identifier. For as long as woman identifying people and gender non-conformists are are othered in our communities, I think both Latina and Latinx are words worth recognition and respect.
Here is a link that can explain the term Latinx further, if you would like to learn more: http://www.latina.com/lifestyle/our-issues/why-we-say-latinx-trans-...