I recently read that, in some parts of Latin America (I don't know exactly which countries), the use of "tú" or tuteo could carry additional connotations beyond the formal/informal way to address somebody.

See for example this reply in ¿Quiénes son los más afectados por el ustedeo?

En Bogotá, Colombia, [...] es muy raro escuchar a un hombre tutear a otro hombre. Cuando sucede es muy frecuente que sea la persona mayor o en una posición jerárquica más alta quien tutea a una persona menor o con menos poder, o que sea una persona adinerada quien tutea, sin que sea correspondido. Muchas veces, los hombres homosexuales también tutean a todo el mundo, razón por la cual (en mi opinión) muchos hombres heterosexuales evitan de utilizar el "tú" en la práctica.

The second time, I saw a claim that the usage of "tú" could imply homosexuality in sites about the Spanish language.

If such claim is true, which are the countries where this happens and why is it so? What is the history of this usage? And why?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Charlie
    Dec 12, 2019 at 15:37
  • @Charlie "If a group of people happen to use some words or expressions more than another group, it's fine to state that", No, to say so is merely an opinion. Another example: Black Americans all say "we be going". HIspanics in the US all say "Thanks God". Those statements are linguistically and philosophically wrong, You have to say something like: I have noticed that [blah blah blah] Please try to leave this comment here. It is relevant.
    – Lambie
    Dec 12, 2019 at 15:37
  • 1
    Moved to chat, but we need to know what Lambie is replied, so I cut/paste: Beginning of the quote: @Lambie we're just students of the language and its usage. If a group of people happen to use some words or expressions more than another group, it's fine to state that, we're just registering how the language is used. Check ukemi's answer below to see how this phenomenon has been studied before. End of the quote
    – Quidam
    Dec 12, 2019 at 16:18
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    Previous comments: "@Lambie I was the first to warn about this post because it could be interpreted as homophobic. The comment about gay people using "tú" is valid only in some parts of Colombia (I edited the question to include that), and it's a personal appreciation of the user who wrote the original answer linked. I can't see why saying that gay people favor the use of "tú" instead of "usted" in some parts can be homophobic. Could you explain that?"
    – Quidam
    Dec 12, 2019 at 16:19
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    By, the ways, I don't see how the use I saw in a forum could be homophobic, if some people use it this way, because they are homophobic, don't make the person asking if such a usage does exist an homophobe. It's completely absurd. And the "Colombia" part should be in an answer, not in my question, as it's part of my question, to ask where. I'm not aware of "Colombia", so it shouldn't be in my question. I am aware that long chatting should be moved in the chat place, but it's difficult to have a part here, and the other part elsewhere.
    – Quidam
    Dec 12, 2019 at 16:20

1 Answer 1


Regional prevalence

Yes, this implication of pronoun use is found in dialects of several central American countries:

Autores como Villegas (1963), Micheau (1991), Castro (2000) y la Real Academia Española (2005) han señalado que el tuteo en algunos países centroamericanos puede ser señal de pedantería o de homosexualidad si es entre hombres.

In parts of Colombia, Guatemala, and Costa Rica, men tend not to use tuteo with other men for fear of being viewed as effeminate or even homosexual (Pinkerton 1986; Simpson 2002; Villegas 1963).

In addition to Colombia,1 2 this phenomenon has been specifically studied in sociolects of Costa Rica,3 4 El Salvador,5 6 Guatemala8 etc.

Origin and sociolectal prevalence

The following paper analyses the occurrence of this phenomenon in Bogotá, Colombia from a socio-linguistic POV:

The use of tú and usted among men is a complex phenomenon. Many factors influence how, when and with whom they are used. Relative social position and due respect affect their use along all social spectra - including the pronouns' use by women. However, among men there is a strong difference in usage when divided by class. Middle and upper class men use tú freely among themselves, but working-class men face a prohibition in tú use, particularly when they wish to maintain the public guise of being heterosexual.

Among working-class men in Tolima, Colombia the words tú and usted are not only contextualization cues for social position and relation but also cue social sexual identity. Contrary to common opinion, sexuality is not a fixed state but a socially constructed identity that is managed through discourse and, in the case of working-class men from Tolima, the T-V distinction is a contextualization cue for sexual orientation. Hegemonic masculine heterosexuality, which is the norm among working-class men in Tolima, is expressed though opposition to perceived feminine and homosexual behavior. This study appears to indicate that the use of tú, while having no inherently feminine or homosexual qualities, is perceived as such by working-class men as they discursively construct their sexuality in opposition to short social distance and perceived intimacy among peers. As such, working-class heterosexual men in Tolima avoid the use of the pronoun tú in favor of the pronoun usted which contextualizes forced social distance among peers and a supposedly more masculine tone of speech.

1. Tú, Usted y la construcción de la heterosexualidad masculina en hombres jóvenes, de clase trabajadora en Tolima
2. ¿Tú o usted? Estigmatización del tuteo en Bogotá
3. Change and continuity in Costa Rican forms of address: tuteo, effeminacy and homosexuality
4. El pronombre "tú" en los grupos homosexual y heterosexual heredianos
5. Voseo to Tuteo Accommodation among Salvadorans in the United States
6. Perceptions of Second Person Singular Pronoun Use in San Salvador, El Salvador
7. Voseo To Tuteo Accommodation Among Two Salvadoran Communities In The United States
8. https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voseo#Voseo_generalizado;_tuteo_prestigioso_en_ambientes_formales

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