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Two States and the Controversy over the word “Latinx”

Latinx is a newish, gender-neutral, pan-ethnic label that some people use to describe the U.S. Hispanic population. A 2020 study by Pew Research found only 23% of individuals identifying as Hispanic or Latino/a had heard of the term, with just 3% of those surveyed using it to describe themselves. Nevertheless, many conservatives have made it clear that they do not like the word. Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee barred "Latinx" from state documents right after taking office this year. Huckabee, who is not Hispanic or Latino/a, asserts it is "ethnically insensitive and pejorative language." She made this assertion around the same time that she prohibited public schools from teaching "critical race theory."

Several Democrat lawmakers in Connecticut have introduced legislation to remove "Latinx" from state documents. These lawmakers are members of the Black and Puerto Rican caucus. They believe the term is "offensive and unnecessary." The New York Times quotes State Representative Geraldo Reyes Jr. stating, "The Spanish language has been around for 1,5000 years, and it identifies male, female and gender neutral.” Spanish is one of many languages where words are gendered.

For transgender individuals, “Latinx” provides an opportunity for inclusion as it is for anyone “who identifies as trans, gay, bisexual, cisgender" and everyone else. U.S. Representative Ruben Gallego, interviewed for the New York Times article, also objects to the word. He says outsiders have imposed it on other communities, and he has asked his staff not to use it. The Pew Research Center finds poll respondents prefer to define themselves according to their country of origin, such as Mexican American. Moreover, many individuals see the terms "Hispanic" and "Latino" as American inventions and are not how they identify themselves.