Some members of the Hispanic and Latin American communities in Connecticut disagree with a proposal that would ban the term “Latinx” from the state’s official vocabulary.
The term was created as a gender neutral version of “Latino” and “Latina.”
Several Democratic lawmakers — and members of the state’s Black and Puerto Rican caucus — argue that the term is offensive to the state’s large Puerto Rican and Spanish-speaking population. State Representative Geraldo Reyes, the bill’s sponsor, has said some in the community find the term “Latinx” offensive and disrespectful.
The supporters of his bill want the term “Latines” (pronounced Latin-ehs) used instead. They say it is easier for native Spanish speakers to pronounce than “Latinx.”
However, some community organizers in Connecticut argue the proposal is out of touch with the demographic. According to Pew Research Center, data collected in 2019 shows over 20% of Latino adults nationwide have heard of the term “Latinx,” but only 3% use it to describe themselves.
“We should not be policing the language that people are using to describe their identity,” said John Jairo Lugo, the community organizing director from Unidad Latina en Acción. “Identity is a site to be explored, rather than shut down. Instead, we should be encouraging dialogue and conversation in our communities.”
Lugo said the ban would police how public institutions discuss identity. He is concerned that Connecticut’s push to follow Arkansas would suppress “freedom of expression.” Last month, Arkansas became the first state to ban the use of the word — calling the term “too woke.”
“We should recognize that we’re a large community and one that is not easily described by a single name,” said Stephen Pitti, history professor at Yale University. “That’s always been the case. Terms have been debated for over a hundred years, and what people choose to call themselves should be up to them.”
Pitti said the term “Latinx” has been around for over two decades, and young people were the first to start using the term. He said the terms highlight the many forms of gender expression that people in the Hispanic and Latino community identify with.
This story was originally published Feb. 6, 2023, by WSHU News.