Spanish is a gendered language, which means that every noun has a gender (in general, nouns that end in "a" tend to be feminine, and nouns that end in "o" tend to be masculine). While some nouns keep their gender when they become plural, others change based on the gender composition of a given group of people.

This approach, however, always defers to the masculine as the dominant gender. For example, if you had a room full of girlfriends, it'd be full of amigas, with the "a" denoting everyone's gender as female. But the entire group's gender changes as soon as one guy enters the room, making it full of amigos; the "o" denotes the presence of at least one man—no matter how many women are in the room. Some members of Latin American communities claim this gendered language reinforces patriarchal and heterosexist norms, so "Latin@" was later introduced as a way to push back against it.

this gendered language reinforces patriarchal and heterosexist norms.

Using “@” as a suffix became a way to represent male and female genders. Instead of amigas or amigos, it was amig@s. But the term, which was adopted by left-leaning activists and even used in academic texts, didn't include genderqueer and gender-nonconforming people. Consequently, Latin@ began to hit its limit, as those who didn’t conform to the male-female gender binary gained more visibility.