Five Democratic Hispanic lawmakers in Connecticut are seeking a ban on the gender neutral term Latinx from official documents, calling it “offensive to Spanish speakers.”
An inclusive gender-neutral alternative for Latino or Latina, Latinx has been adopted in response to gender bias and to support people who do not identify as either male or female.
The proposal follows Sarah Sanders’ decision to ban the term in the state of Arkansas and lawmakers are arguing it is particularly offensive to Connecticut’s Puerto Rican population.
Geraldo Reyes Jr, a CT state representative and one of five Hispanic Democrats piloting the Connecticut bill, said Latinx was not a Spanish word, instead a term rooted in wokeism largely offensive to the Puerto Rican population of the state.
He said “I’m of Puerto Rican descent and I find it offensive.”
Last month, the state of Arkansas, by the direction of Governor Sarah Sanders, outlawed the use of the term Latinx by government officials and in formal documentation. Sanders, a former White House press secretary to Donald Trump, made these changes within hours of becoming Governor.
Sanders cited research by Pew to support her order, claiming “the term is not well known among the population it is meant to describe. Only 23% of US adults who self-identify as Hispanic or Latino have heard of the term Latinx, and just 3% say they use it to describe themselves.”
In Connecticut, Geraldo Reyes Jr says his reasons for seeking a ban on the term are ultimately different to Sanders’, but supports her decision. He said “The Spanish language, which is centuries old, defaults to Latino for everybody,” Reyes said. “It’s all-inclusive. They didn’t need to create a word, it already exists.”
In 2021 The League of United Latin American Citizens, the oldest Latino civil rights group in the US, announced in an email statement that it would no longer use or encourage the term Latinx, suggesting it is “very unliked” by almost all Latinos.
Explaining the etymology of the word, Maia Gil’Adi, an assistant professor of Latinx and Multiethnic Literature at Boston University, said the word was born from Latino and Latina youth and queer subculture in the 1990s. The “x” is an acknowledgement of indigenous heritage.
She said “The word Latino is incredibly exclusionary, both for women and for non-gender-conforming people,” she said. “And the term Latinx is really useful because of the way it challenges those conceptions.”
Others, including David Pharies, a Spanish language professor at the University of Florida, feel the ‘x’ sound following an ‘n’ is unnatural for Spanish speakers. He suggests an ‘e’ to replace the ‘o’ and ‘a’ in gender neutral terminology would be easier for Spanish speakers to pronounce.
Reyes expects the bill to soon receive a hearing before the government administration and elections committee as part of the Democratic-controlled Connecticut legislature.