Q: Alex, your recent share from Laverne Cox included the phrase “trans folx.” Is this a thing?
A: Good question! It is a thing. I’ve exclusively seen it from queer and trans people, usually people of color.
In 2014, Trans Folx Fighting Eating Disorders explained: “Folx might be a more regional California term, but we use it to indicate Q/T/gender-diverse community and to denote a politicized identity.”
So it’s basically a coded way of saying “folks like us”—that is, a within-community expression used by people who are radically non-conforming in terms of gender and/or sexuality and for whom their identities are deeply, radically political.
In May 2017, Reddit user truetrans offered this additional helpful take:
. . . People organizing and theorizing in queer, trans, and other people of color spaces use Folx instead of folks. The X is to designate gender nonconformity, gender neutrality, and/or gender nonbinary sentiments. It is a way to replace folks with a word that invokes mental imagery and association with queer/trans people.
The thought is that when we simply say “folks” people think of “men and women, gender conforming people.” When these communities use the word “folx” it signifies a recognition that in that community there are people outside of binary gender systems and heterosexual norms.
Many people have claimed that the purpose of folx is to be “more inclusive” or “more gender neutral” than folks. I believe this is an urban legend that likely originated as a back-fill sort of explanation from people who consciously or unconsciously associated the word folx with the word Latinx and tried to apply the same logic, even though it doesn’t make sense.
The word folks is not gendered or exclusive in any way. As far as I’m aware, folx was never meant to be about gender neutrality and it was never meant to replace or improve on the word folks. It was meant to be a coded way to communicate “folks like us” among people with radical politics who defy gender and sexual norms.
Note: This post was updated on August 3, 2018, to add the quote from truetrans, and on April 15, 2021, to add the final two paragraphs.
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