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Who likes the word Latinx? Hint: It's not the people you think (#115)

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Jean Latting
November 10, 2023
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Dr. Melissa Ochoa has a few things to say about the word Latinx; mainly, she doesn’t like it. For one thing, it doesn’t work in Spanish. Hear what she proposes instead.

Dr. Melissa Ochoa has expertise in race, ethnic studies, and gender. I invited her to this conversation to talk about her article on the use of the term Latinx. This is part of our racial justice training. For references about this topic, see below.

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Dr. Ochoa’s background as Mexican descent; family is White-passing.

Extended family in Mexico; she grew up in dual cultures.

Experienced family’s Whiteness as privilege in Mexico, was “confronted by little things” in US – “backstage racism” as distinct from “frontstage racism” which is more open.


Refers to the book by Leslie Picca and Joe Feagin, Two-Faced Racism, feeling free to make racist comments in front of people who don’t appear to be of another race or ethnicity.


Doesn’t distinguish between White passing vs White appearing.  Both are imposed identities.


Uses White-passing as a vehicle to teach about racism. Teaching a class without identifying her own ethnicity until the end of the semester, then discussing with students how they might have responded differently if they had known it.

Downsides of not being able to tell students of color “I’m here for you” because she wanted the White students to reflect on their responses to her as White-passing.


Always teaches “a little bit” of history in her classes because wants White students to understand that race is socially constructed, this country was founded on racism and sexism. Systems of oppression remain the same.


Discusses intersectionality and difficulties that arise when different aspects of a person’s social identity are not aligned. Women of color do not share the same experiences as White women.

In the classroom, important to hear different voices (race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, etc.).


Important for students to put the pieces together – how gender, socioeconomic status, race, etc., are all related.

Has goal that students who hear about the struggles of students in the classroom who are different from them (trans, etc.) can develop empathy.


Wants students to know she makes mistakes and needs to be checked.


Had longstanding objection to term Latinx. 
Argentina and Spain banned the term.
Latinx is not an inclusive term, even though it’s been sold that way.1


Intention in original use of term Latinx was to take out an implied gender to avoid referring to a group as male, even if it contained 99 women and one man. Also, term was intended to include members of queer community who did not identify with either gender.


Less than 5% of Americans identify with the term Latinx. The term is imposed on people.

It doesn’t work in Spanish, it has no gender, it has no plural.

To avoid Latina and Latino, better to use the term Latine.


Objects to implication that gender should not be referenced since she is a Mexican scholar studying how sexism impacts women.


Problems with term Latinx:  Doesn’t fit with Spanish language yet intended for Spanish speakers. 
Yet benefit is that gendered language does create bias.


Benefits of term Latine:  it already is being used in Spanish-speaking countries; it works for nonbinary individuals; the plural “Latines” indicates mixed genders.


Not all people of Latin descent are on board with terms Hispanic or Latino. Most prefer their country of origin.


Bringing awareness to term Latine; she didn’t invent the term.


Distinguishes between usage of terms Latino and Hispanic.

She will see if the term Latine catches on.


Importance of not imposing identities.

You can reach her at melissa.ochoa@slu.edu.

Dr. Melissa Ochoa headshot

Dr. Melissa Ochoa

Assistant Professor in the women's and Gender Studies Department, Saint Louis University

Dr. Melissa Ochoa is an Assistant Professor in the Women's and Gender Studies Department at Saint Louis University. She received her dual bachelors degrees in Psychology and Public Relations and Rhetorical Advocacy at Purdue University and her PhD in Sociology at Texas A&M University. Her research focuses on the "subtle" everyday forms of sexism women experience in both verbal and nonverbal interactions. Currently, she is writing a book on catcalling, examining the way these interactions impact women's sense of security and behavior despite its normalization.


The views and opinions expressed in this or other blog posts at www.leadingconsciously.com are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Leading Consciously. Any content provided by our bloggers or authors are of their opinion, and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.

Questions to ask yourself

  1. What term do you generally use to refer to people of Latin descent? How likely are you to use the term Latine instead?
  2. Can you name three words in English that are masculine by default?

Conscious Change Skills
covered in this blog post:

  • Bridge differences
    • Address underlying systemic biases
    • Learn to recognize dominant/nondominant dynamics
  • Initiate change
    • Emphasize changing systems, not just individuals
    • Set direction, not fixed outcomes
    • Acknowledge small wins

#LatinX #Latine #InclusiveLanguage

Additional Reading:

Del Rio-Gonzales, AM. To Latinx or Not to Latinx: A Question of Gender Inclusivity Versus Gender Neutrality. Am J Public Health, June 2021. National Library of Medicine.

Gonzalez-Hermoso J, R Santos. Separating Race from Ethnicity in Surveys Risks an Inaccurate Picture of the Latinx. Urban Institute, Oct 15, 2019.

Lopez Torregrosa, L. Many Latinos say ‘Latinx’ offends or bothers them. Here’s why. NBC News, Dec. 14, 2021.

McCarthy J, W Dupree. No preferred racial term among most Black, Hispanic adults. Gallup, Aug 4, 2021.

Ochoa, Melissa K. Stop using “Latinx” if you really want to be inclusive. Sept. 9, 2022.

Villegas P. How ‘Latinx’ united – and divided – a community seeking to redefine itself. The Washington Post, April 2, 2023.

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Leading Consciously

We are a leadership development firm that helps people and organizations create resilient, sustainable, multicultural, and inclusive settings. The ability to lead consciously can help you gain true awareness and earn the respect and trust of others.  

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