5 State Lawmakers Propose Ban on ‘Latinx’ From Official Connecticut Government Use

5 State Lawmakers Propose Ban on ‘Latinx’ From Official Connecticut Government Use
The Connecticut State Capitol is pictured during a rolling car rally against COVID-19 lockdowns in Hartford, Conn., on May 4, 2020. (John Moore/Getty Images)
Caden Pearson

Five Hispanic lawmakers in Connecticut have proposed a bill to eliminate the term “Latinx” from official use in the state government.

The proposed bill (pdf), introduced by Democratic state Rep. Geraldo Reyes Jr. of Waterbury, seeks to prohibit the use of the term “Latinx” by state agencies and state employees in official communications and forms of the state agency.

Reyes said the term “Latinx” is not a Spanish word, but rather a “woke” term that can be considered offensive to Connecticut’s substantial Puerto Rican community.

“I’m of Puerto Rican descent and I find it offensive,” Reyes said.

The term “Latinx” has been used by some social commentators in recent years as a “gender-neutral” alternative to the Spanish words Latina and Latino. It originated in left-leaning social and academic circles under the umbrella of inclusivity.

Maia Gil’Adi, an assistant professor of “Latinx and Multiethnic Literature” at Boston University, said the term Latinx originated from Latino and Latina youth and LGBT culture in the 1990s, with the “x” symbolizing a connection to many individuals’ indigenous heritage.

“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.”

The five members whose names are on the bill, including Reyes, are all Democrats and part of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus in the legislature. They are Reps. Christopher Rosario from Bridgeport, Juan R. Candelaria from New Haven, Robert Sanchez from New Haven, and Minnie Gonzalez from Hartford.

Term Considered ‘Offensive’

The term has been officially rejected by Real Academia Española, a Madrid-based institution that governs the Spanish language, and by the League of United Latin American Citizens, the oldest Latino civil rights group in the United States.

Reyes said that the centuries-old Spanish language already used “Latino” as a default gender-neutral term.

“It’s all-inclusive. They didn’t need to create a word, it already exists,” he said.

In January, Arkansas’s newly elected Republican governor, Sarah Sanders, banned the use of the term “Latinx” from official use as well. Reyes stated that he was inspired to do the same after Sanders’s decision, but he believes that their motivations for the ban may differ.

“This has been offensive and derogatory to all Puerto Ricans, and it’s something that hasn’t sat well with a lot of people here for a while,” Reyes told CT Insider. “When I found out that [Sanders] banned it on her first day in the office, I saw that as an opportunity for me to do the same thing.”

The proposed bill has been sent to the Government Administration and Elections Committee, which is controlled by Democrats, during the current legislative session.

Adam Joseph, who is the spokesperson for Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont, said the governor’s office will be paying attention to the discussion surrounding the bill as it moves through the legislative process.

Research Shows Term Not Popular Among Latinos

Data from market research firm ThinkNow, based in Burbank, California, challenges the widespread use of the term “Latinx.”

The company’s 2019 research shows that 98 percent of Latinos don’t identify with the term Latinx and prefer to be identified as Hispanic, followed by Latino/Latina, and then by their family’s country of origin.

The term Latinx was only preferred by 2 percent of Hispanics, with no one over 50 preferring Latinx. A study by Pew Research showed similar results regarding the percentage of Latinos and Hispanics who use the term.

Following criticism of ThinkNow’s methodology, the company said it did a follow-up study, doubling the sample size to 1,000; but found that the term Hispanic was still preferred by the majority.

“Doubling the base size from 500 to 1,000 respondents had little to no impact on the results,” the company stated.

Additionally, the company found that the term Hispanic was also preferred when describing ethnicity by the LGBT population it sampled.

“Latinos not only prefer to identify as ‘Hispanic,’ but almost 60 percent of respondents either dislike the term ‘Latinx’ or find it offensive,” the company stated. “But the reality that the Hispanic population overwhelmingly dissociates from the term ‘Latinx’ is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Arkansas Gov. Bans Term

In signing her executive order on Jan. 12, Arkansas Gov. Sanders cited research by Pew Research in 2020 that found just 23 percent of U.S. adults who self-identify as Hispanic or Latino had ever heard of the term Latinx.

The Pew Research survey was conducted among 3,030 U.S. Hispanic adults in December 2019 as part of the yearly National Survey of Latinos.

Sanders’s executive order (pdf) prohibiting the term Latinx from official use in the state government came just hours after she was sworn in as the new governor.

The order states that ethnically insensitive and pejorative language “has no place in official government documents or government employee titles,” and that the government “has a responsibility to respect its citizens and use ethnically appropriate language, particularly when referring to ethnic minorities.”

“One can no more easily remove gender from Spanish and other romance languages than one can remove vowels and verbs from English,” the executive order states.

According to the executive order, unless they receive an exception from the governor, all state-run organizations, departments, and agencies must examine the use of the term Latinx in their official documents and submit a report to the governor with the results of their analysis.

Katabella Roberts contributed to this report.