Is ‘Filipinx’ a correct term to use? Debate for ‘gender-neutral’ term for Filipino sparked anew

June 24, 2020 - 8:33 PM
SEA games
The Philippine flag at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan during the opening ceremony of the 30th Southeast Asian Games (The STAR/Michael Varcas)

The term “Filipinx” suddenly trended on local Twitter last Monday after Filipinos discussed the purpose of its usage instead of the historically correct “Filipino” to represent the Philippines.

While it’s not commonly used among Filipinos in the country, Filipino-Americans overseas have been using the controversial term to refer to the Filipino members of the LGBTQ community living in the United States and other Western nations.

Some journalists in the US even use “Filipinx” to refer to Filipinos on social media. Lenika Cruz, a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, used Filipinx to address her Filipino followers on June 22.

“Filipinx friends, I made really good chicken adobo for dinner today, please clap,” she said.

It was unclear what triggered the online buzz on Filipinx.

Before the term landed on the top trending list of Twitter Philippines, Twitter user @cinemamuses posted a comic strip depicting a debate on the usage of “Filipinx.”

“To all the americanized filipinos who still use filipinx, TUMIGIL NGA KAYO. filipino is already a gender-neutral noun!!! get in touch with your roots rather than succumbing to western-centric views. pwede ba???” the Twitter user wrote.

Days after, Filipinx landed on Twitter and the online user was surprised her post then gained traction.

Meanwhile, most of the conversations on both the microblogging platform and Reddit Philippines included opposition on the usage of the term both online and offline.

They argued that the words “Filipino,” which refers to the nationality and the national language, and “Pilipino,” which refers to the residents, are already gender-neutral in the first place.

“Since when did ‘Filipinx’ became the gender-neutral term for ‘Pilipino’ when it’s already a gender-neutral term? No female calls themselves ‘Filipina’ as their nationality,” one Twitter user said.

The user also argued that the Filipino language doesn’t even offer “gender-specific pronouns.”

When addressing the third person point of view, Filipinos use “ikaw” regardless of the sexual orientation.

“Learn the vernaculars first and stop using us for your neutrality narrative. Our language has always been neutral for every sex/gender. Use Filipino/Pilipino. Stop using ‘Filipinx,’” the user said.

Twitter user Charlie Sartre, meanwhile, perceived that Filipino-Americans in the United States might only be using the word to “distance” themselves to Filipino culture to sound quirky.

“When Fil-Ams use Filipinx, or Pacific Islanders, it’s like you keep distancing yourselves from a culture you only wanna be associated with when it sounds quirky. It’s also mind-boggling when you reject the notion ‘Filipino is a gender-neutral noun’ when it is,” the user said.

One Twitter user who introduced herself as a Filipino immigrant in the United States argued some Americans recognize Filipino/Filipina and Pinoy/Pinay as gender-conforming terms.

“Filipino/filipina and pinoy/pinay are recognized as gender-conforming terms (even though they aren’t) because that’s simply the society in the United States,” she said.

Other online users, on the other hand, questioned the need for the debate on Filipinx, citing that the debate is “nuanced.”

Why Filipinx?

A blog called Formation of a Filipino-American in June 2017 said that the term “Filipinx” came from a movement among Filipino immigrants who identify themselves as members of the LGBT community.

“The term Filipinx is born out of a movement to create space for and acknowledge genderqueer members of the Filipin* diaspora in the white-centric binary places their parents decide to move to (e.g. the United States). The term is also seen as a way to decolonize our colonized identity,” the page said.

The word itself, however, is also adapted from the “Latinx” society to refer to people in Latin America who are also members of the LGBTQ community.

Reddit users, meanwhile, viewed the “Filipinx” usage as a culture of Filipino-Americans in the US.

Screenshots by Interaksyon

To end the confusion, one Twitter user suggested using “mamser,” a colloquial coined term from ma’am and sir, when addressing Filipinos on social media.