In a recent college class on Zoom, a non-binary Mexican girl took offense when one of her classmates called her companion, the feminine word for classmate or colleague.
“I’m not your companion, I am your companion19-year-old Andra Escamilla sobbed, using a gender-neutral term, before leaving the virtual classroom despite a quick apology from her classmate.
A video of the exchange appeared on social media and quickly went viral, sparking new debate in Mexico over inclusive language.
(Latinx is a gender-neutral term that is now frequently used in English in place of Latino or Latina, while some Latin American feminists use the neologism cuerpa refer to their body rather than the correct word cuerpo, which is a masculine name in Spanish.)
One criticism that some people have of the Spanish language is that the masculine takes precedence over the feminine when referring to a mixed group of people, animals or things. For example, you can have a group of nine niñas, or girls, but just add a boy and all of a sudden you have a party of 10 niños.
According to Georgina Barraza Carbajal, linguist at the Mexican Academy of Languages, the dominance of the masculine plural “makes people invisible”.
In a newspaper interview El País, she said that women are the main victims of the grammatical rule but added that non-binary individuals are also affected.
In this context, non-binary rights groups and LGTBIQ +, among others, have proposed replacing the commonly used masculine ‘o’ with the plural – think to do (all of us), companions (classmates) and ciudadanos (citizens) – with a non-sexist “e” in the spoken language and the @ symbol or the letter “x” in the written language.
Thereby to do bECOMES todes, companions can be written as company[email protected] and ciudadanos can be rendered as ciudadanx.
The @ symbol is already commonly used to create gender neutral plural terms, particularly in online communication, while the use of gender-neutral neologisms is also becoming more and more common in spoken language.
Verónica Lozada Martínez, professor of linguistics at the National Autonomous University, said it is not clear whether such variations will gain in popularity to the point of becoming established and widely accepted, but noted that many academics object to their use because they think they cause a “distortion” of the Spanish language.
The Real Academia Española (Royal Spanish Academy), the main authority on the language, has expressed its rejection of inclusive or non-sexist neologisms.
“The grammatical masculine [plural] works in our language as an inclusive term. … He has no discriminatory intent, ”the academy said.
Its director, Santiago Muñoz Machado, said in an interview in 2020 that inclusive language terms strip Spanish of its economy and beauty.
“These kinds of variations damage it. [Spanish] is a beautiful and precise language. Why do you have to come and spoil it, ”he said.
The eminent Mexican linguist Concepción Company also expressed his opposition to the new words of inclusive language whose use is becoming more and more common, especially among young people.
Another staunch opponent of such neologisms is a Mexican State University professor who told his students during a virtual class that if someone called him companion, he will ask them in no uncertain terms to leave the class.
“You have to understand that there are two genders: male and female,” the state professor at the Autonomous University of Mexico (UAEM) said in a virtual classroom posted online.
“In the animal world, there is a macho [male] and hembra [female]. There’s no chewed up Where hember, no! Please save me the trouble of deporting you, ”he said.
The UAEM subsequently issued a statement distancing itself from the professor’s remarks, saying that values and principles of inclusion were a priority.
Also weighing on the inclusive linguistic debate following Escamilla’s call to be labeled as companion was a piñata store, which frequently finds inspiration for its designs in the news of the day.
Based in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Piñateria Ramirez made an Andra Escamilla piñata that she announced on social networks.
“We have an [new] piñata. Why? I am not your companion, I am your COMPAERE. I am not your piñata, I am your PIÑATE. … Best wishes to my non-binary customers, ”the company post said.
With reports from El País and El Universal