Like many residing in the Los Angeles area, Charlie Mate was raised by Mexican immigrant parents. Mate, 24, is just one of a growing number of people today who does not identify as a man or a woman and uses the nonbinary pronouns they/them.
They came out to their mother as nonbinary years ago, and although they felt appreciative of her acceptance, the language barrier became palpable in the form of distance between family members. There has not been a shift in the feminine terms of endearment used to describe them.
“She doesn’t speak English so she doesn’t know how to say ‘them,’ and when she refers to me in Spanish it’s still very like ‘niña’ or ‘mija,’” Mate said of their mother.
When asked about the best diction in terms of referring to nonbinary Hispanic people, Mate said they still have yet to find it.
“I know people use the ‘X’ at the end of words, but it can be pretty awkward to say out loud,” Mate said.
Many academics agree with that sentiment. In Stacey K. Sowards’ “Discussion Forum on Latinx,” an article published by the University of Texas at El Paso, she argues that the term “Latinx” does not fit Spanish syntax in a way that feels natural. Therefore, this creates a barrier between recent Latino immigrants and American-born Latinos.
Gender-neutral identity is seen beyond the realm of academia. Apps like Facebook and Tinder offer users options beyond male and female when choosing a gender for their profile, and for many English speakers, this is not their first encounter with options like “genderfluid” and “nonbinary.”
Pew Research Center found in 2019 that one in five Americans claimed to know someone who uses “they/them” pronouns. But for people accustomed to the masculine and feminine characteristics attached to even inanimate objects in other languages like Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and French, the idea of a gender-nonconforming identity can be more convoluted.
The use of words like Latinx is increasing within places of higher education, and ASU’s Department of Chicana/o Studies reflected that in 2007 by rebranding as the Department of Transborder Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies.
The department's mission is to be "firmly committed to fostering civic and democratic engagement, cross-border cooperation and the continued scholarship effort necessary to produce much-needed changes and advancements.”