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Challenging the norms for radical Inclusivity: Unpacking folks and folx from a queer intersectional lens

Introduction

In this moment in time where equality, visibility and representation are increasingly more important than ever, our communities propose new communication tools that evolve and progressively adapt to echo these societal shifts to represent diversity. One particular manifestation of this change is the transition of the traditional term folks into the broader “newer” term folx. The purpose of this article is to demystify, clarify and dig deeper into these terms, analyzing the nuances, repercussions, and debates surrounding their use. My hope is that this will shed light on their meaning, impact, controversy, and importance in fostering radical Inclusivity.


Understanding the Basics: Let’s talk about Folks

The term folks has been a staple in American English for quite some time. It's frequently used in all sorts of conversations, as a more laid-back and inclusive replacement for “people” or “group.” According to the Merriam Webster dictionary (2024), when referring to 'folks,' it often implies a sense of community or shared identity, whether it's within a family, small town, or a regional context. For many Americans, 'folks' is typically considered a warm, friendly way to address a collective group, with no particular attention drawn to individual identities. Its versatility and neutrality give space to convey a sense of affinity and shared experiences across a broad spectrum of contexts.


What does Folx mean?

For a lot of people, the term folx may seem as something new and recent to common daily language. However, folx rapidly made its mark through the 70s, primarily within 2SLGBTQIA+ and activist circles. Folks is already a gender-neutral term, but changing the spelling of the word brings a visible sign of inclusion of Black, Asian, Latine, Indigenous, Queer, Trans and other minoritized communities that have been historically excluded from mainstream usage of folks. 


Folx' is not just a word; it is a recognition of diverse experiences and a conscious acknowledgement of identities that may otherwise feel unacknowledged or invisible. In its core, folx signifies a more inclusive spectrum of identities, affirming their existence and relevance within our societal discourse. In other words, when people, workplaces and other entities use the word folx, they want to be intentional towards embracing a broader, more radical inclusivity.


The Controversy: Is Folx actually more inclusive?

Despite the acclaim for folx as a beacon of radical inclusivity, the term also faces its share of resistance from many communities, which is a very common behavior with neo terminology. The argument is that folks in its original form was already an inclusive term, thus rendering folx redundant. Some critics raise the concern that the implementation of folx may unintentionally hint at a structural and historical exclusivity within the term folks, which was never meant to be the case. 


What’s important to know is that language is ever evolving, changing, as it is not static. It is completely valid to feel uncomfortable when new words arise, and we don’t know exactly what they mean. Learning and incorporating new terms into our daily vocabulary can be very complex. Unlearning to relearn terms that are very ingrained in our collective understanding is even more challenging! However, like we always suggest in our Trainings, reserve the right to change your mind and stay comfortable with being uncomfortable. We are all on our own learning journey and that’s valid.


The Verdict: Folks or Folx

In the debate between folks and folx, the choice isn't about what’s “right” but rather hinges on personal understanding and acknowledgement of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Embracing and implementing folx is a conscious affirmation of respect for Black, Asian, Latine, Indigenous, Queer, Trans, and other minoritized individuals. However, the use of folks continues to serve as a casual reference to people collectively, without any specific focus on gender or racial identities. 


To respect and honor the complex experiences that minoritized communities encounter, it is crucial to understand the implications, purpose, and power of using inclusive language. Rita Mae Brown once said that "language exerts hidden power, like a moon on the tides". With our language choices we can contribute to the larger conversation about equity, inclusivity, and diversity, reinforcing our collective commitment to celebrating, honoring, affirming, and embracing everyone, no matter who they are. Ultimately, WE have the power to make a real difference. 


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