Sanders’ Latinx ban goes down the community’s generational divide

LITTLE SKIRT, Ark. – One of Sarah Huckabee Sanders His first act as Governor of Arkansas was to ban most state agencies from using the gender-neutral term Latinx, tapping into a debate that divides Hispanics along the generations.

Sanders called the word “culturally insensitive”. an order That has prompted complaints from some critics who see it as yet another Republican attack on the LGBTQ community. Her move could have limited impact, however, as the word doesn’t appear to be widely used in the Arkansas government.

It was one of several orders from the 40-year-old former White House press secretary signed within hours of taking office, which were hailed by conservatives, including restrictions on teaching critical race theory in public schools and a ban on TikTok on state devices. The Latinx ban gives agencies 60 days to revise written material to comply.

“One of the things I will not allow as governor is for the government to use culturally insensitive language,” Sanders said as she signed the order.

Sanders’ order adds to the debate over a word that has had little widespread support among Latinos and has even drawn backlash from some Democrats. It comes as Republicans have tried to rally around culture war issues. They’re also trying to gain a foothold with Latino voters, but lagged behind the major shifts some in the party had hoped for it in last year’s elections.

The term Latinx has been coined in recent years as a gender-neutral alternative to Latino and Latina, since all nouns in the Spanish language are gender-specific. Many in the LGBTQ Latino community have embraced the word, but it has been slow to catch on as some Latino personalities find the term unnecessary.

The League of United Latin American Citizens, the oldest Latino civil rights group in the United States, announced in 2021 that it would no longer use the term Latinx. The group declined to comment on Sanders’ arrangement.

Also this year, Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego said his staffers are not allowed to use the term in official communications.

“When Latino politicians use the term, it’s mostly to placate white rich progressives who think that’s the term we’re using,” Gallego said tweeted in 2021.

The Log Cabin Republicans, who represent the party’s LGBT members, praised Sanders’ order.

“The term Latinx is just another misguided product of the modern left’s unrelenting obsession with eradicating gender from American life, an obsession that LGBT conservatives oppose on a daily basis,” said Charles Moran, the group’s president, in one Explanation.

Sanders’ order does not apply to state colleges or other state agencies that are deemed constitutionally independent, such as the Arkansas Department of Transportation. It also allows the governor to grant exceptions to the use of the word.

Several state agencies said they were reviewing their forms to ensure they were compliant. Health Department spokeswoman Meg Mirivel said two bodies unofficially named the Latinx Public Information Coordinator and Latinx Outreach Coordinator will continue to work with the Latino community but will no longer include Latinx in their titles.

Sanders isn’t the first governor to ban or restrict the use of certain words. Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation into law in New York last year Eliminate the word “desperate” from the state school code a term critics had labeled as sexist and racist.

In 2015, then-Florida Governor Rick Scott became elected was criticized after former officials said they were instructed not to use the terms “climate change” and “global warming.” Scott, a Republican who now sits in the Senate, denied that he banned the terms.

Critics of Sanders’ arrangement have said that just because the term isn’t universal among Spanish speakers doesn’t mean it’s insensitive to use.

“Language is always evolving,” said Manuel Hernandez, leader of the Latino LGBTQ group Association of Latinos/as/xs Motivating Action. “We don’t speak Old English. I’ve never met anyone who says ‘your’.”

Hernandez called Sanders’ order “an attempt to wipe out the LGBTQ Latino community.”

Sanders signed the order the day after the Arkansas legislature opened a session that already included newly proposed restrictions on the LGBTQ community. A bill would classify drag shows as adult-oriented businessesand another would ban transgender people from using gender-consistent bathrooms at K-12 schools.

Sanders has also said she would support similar legislation Florida law which bans teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. Critics call it the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Sanders’ order banning Latinx cites a 2020 report Pew Research Centerwho found that 1 in 4 US Hispanics have heard the term “Latinx” but only 3% use it.

Age is an important factor. Hispanics ages 18 to 29 are six times more likely than older generations to have heard of the term — 42% compared to 7% of those over 65, Pew found.

Its popularity has risen since 2016 but lags behind Latina, Latino, and Hispanic, according to the report.

“When you try to categorize a community using the term that they seem to reject, or in some cases even openly reject, it makes sense that this term would essentially go the way of the dodo, which Latinx seem to have done,” Fernand said Amandi, President of Bendixen & Amandi, a multilingual polling company.

Among those using the term is Angel Castillo Reyes, a 21-year-old non-binary student at the University of Arkansas, who uses the pronouns they/they. Castillo Reyes uses both Latinx and “Latine,” another gender-neutral term used by some in the Latino community to describe their ethnic identity.

“I appreciate those terms because I know they don’t come out of a desire to break up,” Castillo Reyes said. “It comes from the feeling of wanting to unite.”

Conversations with older Latinos about gender neutrality can be difficult, Castillo Reyes said. Her parents, evangelical Pentecostals, find the term “ridiculous.”

Castillo Reyes criticized Sanders’ order as unnecessary, but said she felt it would provide an opportunity to discuss the need for gender-neutral terms with a wider community.

“Now that I know Spanish can be used in an inclusive way, it’s like, ‘Wow, I never thought that was possible,'” they said.


Savage reported from Chicago and is a corps member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that brings journalists into local newsrooms to cover undercover topics.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. Sanders’ Latinx ban goes down the community’s generational divide

Sarah Y. Kim

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