HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A group of Hispanic lawmakers in Connecticut has proposed that the state follow Arkansas' lead and ban the term "Latinx" from official government documents, calling it offensive to Spanish speakers.
The word is used as a gender-neutral alternative to "Latino" and "Latina" and is helpful in supporting people who do not identify as either male or female, according to the word's backers.
But state Rep. Geraldo Reyes Jr. of Waterbury, the bill's chief sponsor and one of five Hispanic Democrats who put their names on the legislation, said Latinx is not a Spanish word but is rather a "woke" term that is offensive to Connecticut's large Puerto Rican population.
"I'm of Puerto Rican decent and I find it offensive," he said.
Last month, Arkansas banned government officials from using Latinx on formal documents as part of several orders issued by Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders within hours of her taking office.
Reyes said his motivations might be different from Sanders', but he believes her decision was the right one.
The League of United Latin American Citizens, the oldest Latino civil rights group in the U.S., announced in 2021 that it would no longer use the term Latinx.
"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."
But Maia Gil'Adi, an assistant professor of "Latinx and Multiethnic Literature" at Boston University, said the word actually dates back to Latino and Latina youth and queer culture in the 1990s, with the "x" being a nod to many people's indigenous roots.
"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."
David Pharies, a Spanish language professor at the University of Florida, said another movement would replace the "o" and "a" in many Spanish nouns referring to people with an "e." He said that is something that would be easier for Spanish-speakers to pronounce than the word Latinx.
"Latinx was clearly a solution that was proposed outside the Spanish-speaking world," he said.
It's not clear how often the term Latinx has been used in state documents. A search for the word on the state government's portal returned 945 hits for documents including press releases, blogs, and reports using the word. Michelle Dumas Keuler, an attorney for the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, told Hearst Connecticut Media that it uses the term in any a complaint it submits about housing, employment or other types of discrimination, when requested.
Reyes said he expects the bill to get a hearing before the Democratic-controlled Legislature's Government Administration and Elections Committee during the current session.
Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont's spokesman, Adam Joseph, said the governor's office will follow the debate as the bill moves through the Legislature.