Gender Inclusivity in the Spanish-Language

Phillips Academy students Cristina Donovan ’24, Max Berkenblit ’24, Sam Keamy ’23, and Spanish instructor Yasmine Allen delivered a presentation to Spanish 300 students on gender in the Spanish language. The presentation explored ways to adapt the Spanish language while keeping in mind inclusivity.

Just like most Latin-based languages, every noun in Spanish has a gender. These gendered words are reserved to solely masculine and feminine distinctions. One option included in the presentation to increase gender inclusivity was the inclusion of gender-neutral endings on adjectives, seen in words such as Latinx as opposed to the traditional Latino.

However, there has been disagreement surrounding gender-neutral terminology. One argument, in the case of the word Latinx, is that it does not follow the natural sounds of the Spanish language. Berkenblit mentioned that the use of the ending “x” is reminiscent of American imperialism in Latin America. He offered the use of “e” as an alternative, a letter that follows the rhythmic patterns of Spanish.

“I think that with the historical implications of linguistic imperialism, as well as just imperialism, especially American imperialism in Latin America, it’s really important to consider that we should change our language…for what’s most natural for Latine people. I think that’s the best way to be really conscientious of our impact. So personally, I use Latine when I’m referring to people,” said Berkenblit.

Donovan mentioned that although they personally use the term Latine, they feel that Latinx is a better alternative than Latino. They added that particularly for those not familiar with Spanish, Latinx may be simpler.

“I think the term Latinx is better than the term Latino for a general population. Like, getting away from defining a people by their men…I identify with Latine and I call us Latines with an ‘e,’ which is often used in place of the x, because it does follow better Spanish grammar notation. I think if you’re not Latine, using the ‘x’ is better than nothing at all, and especially because it has such big publicity today, I think it calls attention to queer folks who are Latinx, and I like that,” said Donovan.

Allen echoed the impact that gender-affirming pronouns can have on LGBTQIA+ people. She personally connected it to their experiences with transgender family members.

“Not misgendering people, first of all, affirms their identity. And second of all, it can be life saving. And as a cisgender person, I don’t necessarily have that experience, but as I shared in the presentation, I have a transgender niece and nephew. And, you know, I have been in situations where they were gendered properly and for me as a family member, and as someone knowing their trans identity, it was a thrilling, wonderful feeling, because I knew that at that moment, they felt safe,” said Allen.

Berkenblit gave insight on the planning that went behind the presentation. Initially offered to Uppers and Seniors as a MLK Day workshop, the presenters have since translated the original presentation into Spanish.

“We started planning this around…November or December. And then we started really working on the slides mostly in January. And then, the Sunday before MLK Day, we did our first run through and everything went really well…That [/presentation] was in English. Then basically, we pretty much did nothing with it until we showed up on the day of the presentation in Spanish and just kind of went for it, so that was really exciting [and] definitely required a lot of on the spot translation,” said Berkenblit.

Attendee and Spanish 300 student Prince La Paz ’24 valued last Wednesday’s presentation. Specifically, La Paz appreciated having students take part in delivering the presentation.

“It was a very good presentation and I really liked the aspect of having other students talking about it alongside a teacher, that gave it a lot of good different viewpoints and perspectives. I also really liked how Profe Allen described the change in teaching and vocabulary that they made the active choice to undergo in order to better address and represent their entire student population,” said La Paz.

After the presentation, Donovan explained the impact that teh group had hoped to create at Andover. In the future, Donovan hopes that Spanish classes will start teaching students about gender neutral pronouns earlier on.

Donovan said, “I think [Andover] can do a better job about being more inclusive in its language structure. Like [Spanish 300] classes are a little late to be learning about a whole set of pronouns, in my opinion, so I think that the most important thing is spreading the word and using inclusive language when you can in your classes and in safe spaces like that. That was our