In the Art World, ‘Latinx’ Marks a Gender-Free Spot

“The word is a proposal to change the machismo in the culture and the language,” he said.

For her part, Macarena Goméz-Barris used Chicanx repeatedly in her catalog essay on the photographer Laura Aguilar, a key artist in a West Hollywood exhibition about the area’s pre-AIDS “queer” art scene. “Her gender does not fall within ‘Chicano’ and the people she studies with her camera are butches and femmes and gender-nonconforming,” said Ms. Goméz-Barris, the head of social sciences and cultural studies at Pratt Institute in New York.

She calls the “x” of Latinx and Chicanx (pronounced Latinex and Chicanex) a “queering” of the gendering of nouns and adjectives natural to the Spanish language, which also turns Latinas into Latinos the moment one man enters the group. “The x marks a kind of political resistance and provocation,” she said.

Ms. Goméz-Barris pressed for using the word Chicanx in the show’s title. But she lost that battle: it is called “Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A.”

C. Ondine Chavoya, a Williams College professor and a curator of “Axis Mundo,” said that for the title “we wanted to go with the more familiar, recognizable term that could help with online searching.”

Scholars say that Latinx, the broader and more popular of the new terms, began to appear as early as 2004 in LGBTQ communities online but did not really take off until two or three years ago. This year Google Scholar shows about a thousand academic articles using the term, twice the number from 2016.

An Ohio State University professor, Frederick Luis Aldama, changed the name of his high school outreach program, LASER, to the Latinx Space for Enrichment and Research (He titled his new book “Latinx Superheroes in Mainstream Comics.”) Mr. Aldama said he’s taking the lead of his students: “They feel so empowered by this term, it’s hard not to follow them.”

Photo

A 1972 photo by Anthony Friedkin, “Jim and Mundo, Montebello,” in East Los Angeles, is also in the show “Axis Mundo.”

Credit
Anthony Friedkin

But as the popularity of the words grows, so does the debate over their value. Some critics reject Latinx and Chicanx for being foreign to the Spanish language, off-putting to the public or simply unnecessary.

The prominent Chicano artist Lalo Alcaraz, the creator of the comic…

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