Since its emergence, the term “Latinx” has been unpopular with Hispanics. Yet despite this opposition, progressive activists and organizations continue to use it as a means of identifying people of Latin American heritage in a supposedly more sensitive way.
The term’s origins remain a subject of debate, although its users argue that the word “Latino” reinforces the patriarchy while the “x” recognizes nonbinary people. According to the Wall Street Journal, it made its debut in academic literature a decade ago in Puerto Rican psychology periodicals as part of an effort to “escape the gender binaries encoded in the Spanish language.” Since then it has been adopted by many progressives as part of their ever-expanding twenty-first-century lexicon. Yet a growing convergence among politicians on both the left and the right suggests this may be about to change.
Last month, Hispanic Democrats in the very blue state of Connecticut proposed legislation that would ban the term Latinx on all government documents. The bill’s sponsor, State Representative Geraldo Reyes Jr., called Latinx a “woke” term that insults the state’s large Puerto Rican community. “The Spanish language, which is centuries old, defaults to Latino for everybody,” he said. “It’s all-inclusive. They didn’t need to create a word, it already exists.”
Meanwhile, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the former White House press secretary and now governor of Arkansas, signed an executive order just hours after taking office that banned the term from official documents. The act was mostly symbolic, given that Latinx was never widely used in Arkansas anyway. However, the move points to a growing pushback among political leaders about the term’s usage in public life.
In an op-ed following last year’s midterm elections, Bloomberg‘s editorial board similarly warned Democrats they should be more concerned over Republicans’ gaining ground with Hispanics. “Democrats need to stop taking Latinos for granted and start focusing on what they actually care about,” Bloomberg wrote. “A good example is the au courant term ‘Latinx,’ which is ubiquitous among party professionals but which only 3 percent of Hispanics adopt for themselves.”
Nevertheless, some on the left refuse to back down. In a recent column for the Los Angeles Times, the writer Gustavo Arellano argues that the “conservative war” on Latinx should be ignored and predicted that the opposition would lead to a rise in its popularity. “The argument by conservatives that they’re opposed to ‘Latinx’ because Latinos don’t care for it is laughable, considering a majority of Latinos want amnesty for immigrants in the US illegally, yet the GOP is as build-the-wall as ever,” he writes.
Other supporters of the term include the Biden White House. Last month, they described the president’s pick to join the Inter-American Foundation “as one of the top forty Latinx experts in US national security and foreign policy by the Diversity in National Security Network and New America.” In December, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke used the term five times while announcing a settlement over claims of discriminatory housing practices in Hesperia, California.
Polling data surrounding the issue makes for grim reading for its proponents, however. According to a Pew Research survey from 2021, just 2 percent of Hispanics refer to themselves as Latinx. Worse than that, around 40 percent find the term actively offensive, while 30 percent said they would be less likely to support a politician or organization that uses it.
As one Cuban commentator pointed out, the term sounds more like a pornographic niche than the entire population of Latin America. That comparison might be a bit uncharitable, but the fact remains that Latinx is disliked by Hispanics on both sides of the political divide. With a surge of bipartisan support, it could soon be cast aside.