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AMIR RODRÍGUEZ: ‘Latinx or Latine were created to be more inclusive to the different identities’

AMIR RODRÍGUEZ (Abdallah) was born in Pasadena, Calif., and came to Chicago to study dance at Columbia College. He is 21 years old and identifies as a Mexican Palestinian man.

What do you think of the term Latinx to identify people of Latin American or Spanish background?  

Latinx was mainly created for those who identify as non-binary or who are gender fluid. Latin cultures have always been based on the two gender identities, so in the Spanish language, people are always referred to Latinos, or Latino for a male and Latina for a female. We’ve started to change this ideology by creating terms like Latinx and Latine, to take away the gender aspect, and create a name just for people, rather than men or women. 

Do you feel like Latinx is just an excuse for corporations to lump all Latino cultures together?

No. The term Latinx had nothing to do with corporations to begin with. It was made to create a more inviting term for those who do not wish to identify as Latino or Latina, due to identifying as non-binary or gender fluid. The terms Latinx or Latine were created to be more inclusive to the different identities and communities present in Latin Culture.

Has your experience as a Latinx person isolated you to the way you grew up, or have you been able to branch out culturally?

Growing up Latin, Mexican, to be specific, was pretty difficult when it came to being able to be my true authentic self. There were always gender stereotypes and ideologies pushed onto me. In Latin culture, just like many others, people born as men and people born as women, are expected to act like those genders. As a boy, I was expected to be more masculine and to want to play with toy trucks and watch Batman. I knew from a young age that I was attracted to boys and knew I was gay, but that was always such a big issue in the Latinx community. But, being born in the U.S., it was way easier to branch out as a gay Latino/Middle Eastern man, and I am able to be open in different ways. 

“The term Latinx … was made to create a more inviting term for those who do not wish to identify as Latino or Latina, due to identifying as non-binary or gender fluid.”

As a U.S. born, does it bother you to be labeled? 

It has always bothered me to be labeled. I have always identified as a gay Mexican-Palestinian man, and am totally okay with being known as such. What I do not appreciate about the U.S. is the amount of people driven by racism and stereotypical ideologies. Just because I am Mexican, does not mean I had to “cross the border” or am an “illegal immigrant” or “drug dealer.” I actually do not even speak Spanish, which shocks so many white people. I do not eat tacos all day and I am not planning on going into construction. The list goes on and on.

So you don’t speak Spanish. How do you view Spanish as an attribute of your identity? How important is it?

I do not speak Spanish. I think knowing another language is always helpful because you are able to communicate with more people, but me not knowing Spanish doesn’t make me less Mexican. Spanish people are quick to bring shame to those in the community who do not speak the language. I genuinely do not care about knowing Spanish. I don’t think it makes me any more or less Mexican to know the language. I’m doing just fine.

Would you say your culture is “better” than someone else’s who is of a different ethnicity or country?

I do not believe that my culture is better than anyone’s. There is no such culture that is greater than the rest.

Does cultural appropriation bother you? 

Cultural appropriation is never okay. I don’t need white people wearing sombreros for Cinco de Mayo or trying to be Cholos on Halloween. It’s seen as something fun to do, but there has never been a time when doing that was respectful. Cultural appreciation is always welcomed. Anyone is welcomed and encouraged to learn and respect the different cultures. Learn from the people. Try the food. Learn the language if you’d like. It’s so beautiful to have people from other cultures coming together to explore each other’s backgrounds and livelihood.

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