Cisgender and, closer to my ethnicity, Latinx are words that reek of academic smugness, of what POTUS (a word that just reeks) and his supporters call elitism. Weird words served over a bowl of quinoa and kale, both of which, to set the record straight, I eat with gusto. Or gustx.
Father, why do these words sound so nasty?, as the lyrics of a Hair song go. Frankly, I seldom write or say them. Not out of any ideological objection; on the contrary, I sympathize with the ideological matrices in which they are embedded. But I find that they don’t come trippingly on the tongue or the page — or the screen. In our rush toward futurism, that very politically suspect notion, we forget tradition, a non-scientific, non-specific and vague-by-definition concept that has, nonetheless, valence.
How long does it take for tradition to normalize words? Depends. Media is a force here, but so is the beginning of words, the place where they were first normal. Because of popular acceptance of and affection for such beginnings, normalization can happen very quickly. It’s one of the paradoxes of race that, racism notwithstanding, Black English penetrates mainstream English at a fast pace. That’s because of the dialectics of race. For every ugly notion about Blacks among whites there’s a strong current that insists that Black folk are admirable, and so is their use of language. Check me as someone happily swimming in that current.
So, not only was the lingo of rap and hip hop (used to be jazz and r&b) hungrily assimilated by whites, but so were the genres themselves. If it comes from the street we love it.
But from snooty, obtuse, and most certainly not-street academia? My own reluctance to cis and x springs from an allergic reaction to the smugness of intellectual elitism, an allergy I share with the POTUSians and their Foxy friends — to whom, to be clear, my physical response is, beyond sniffles, puking.
Can ideology trump (like a good Catholic I just crossed myself) linguistic allergy? I think so. I find myself drawn to gender fluidity, in part because it makes intellectual sense and in part because, born and raised in the Latino/Hispanic (no x’s here) home turf of machismo, I find the latter a big fat lie. A beautiful one sometimes, as in the wonderful Mexican corridos I know by heart. Oh, to die like Juan Charrasqueado yelling, ¡soy buen gallo! But their charm to me lies in that I will never die like that, looking for my pistola and trying to get on my caballo. More likely, I’ll be yelling, give me more morphine! Or begging sweet cousin cocaine to lay a cool, cool hand on my head. Like Mick in his morbid song, I’m trying to score.
For different reasons I wear the same buzz cut as Emma González, the young cubanita that has become the face of the Parkland survivors activism. Proud of the sister. ¡Vaya, mi negrx! (Being Cuban here, so make no racialist assumption). If you call yourself Latinx, I, regardless of my cis-ness, will too. You’ve turned my language inside out.