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'Latinx' has been growing in popularity, but one effort in CT aims to put 'Latine' in the spotlight

State Representative Geraldo C. Reyes Jr. speaks at a press conference on COVID-19 vaccination for teachers February 25, 2021.
Tyler Russell
Connecticut Public
FILE, 2021: In expressing his approval of the bill he sponsored, Geraldo C. Reyes, Jr. said, "We were able to the table and agree that if a body of people do not wish to be labeled and called such, they have every right to speak on it, respectfully.”

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A bill aiming to change how the state refers to Hispanic people has advanced to the state Senate.

If approved, the bill would direct the state to use the terms Latino, Latina, and Latine in official documents and communication.

State Rep. Geraldo Reyes, D-Waterbury, is a co-sponsor of the bill. Initially, he sought to prohibit the gender neutral term "Latinx." He said it lacks roots in the Spanish language and doesn't reflect part of the queer Hispanic community. However, the gender neutral word "Latine" has existed for decades to identify people among this group.

"The high percentage of 99% of Latinos do not understand that word [Latinx], and do not recognize why it exists. And it's not official or recognized by Spain,” Reyes said. “People can call themselves whatever they choose. But that's the respect given to the majority Latino Americanos, here in the United States, and in the world should be given respect to be called what the majority wants.”

According to Pew Research, 3% of the U.S. Latin American population used the term Latinx in 2020.

Nelson Rafael Feliciano Roman, who goes by Rafael, is the founder of the Afro-Caribbean Cultural Center, and a member of the Greater Waterbury Pride, a coalition of 15 organizations that defend LGBTQ+ rights in Connecticut.

He identifies as a Latine. During the bill hearings, he engaged with legislators about the term Latine and it being used decades ago by the queer community in Latin American countries to describe how they identify.

Roman said the use of Latine as a gender neutral term is increasing within the LGBTQ+ community because it's origins within the Spanish speaking community are clear.

“Because we couldn’t find the origin of Latinx, Latine has picked up steam," Roman said.

"We were able to come to the table and agree,” Reyes said. “That if a body of people do not wish to be labeled and called such, they have every right to speak on it, respectfully.”

After the conversation with the Hispanic LGBTQ+ community, the bill was amended to direct the state to use Latino, Latina, and Latine. But, it does not prohibit the use of Latinx.

Reyes believes the Connecticut Senate will support the bill. He has heard from other legislators across the Northeast, and other parts of the nation, contemplating similar bills..

Roman is pleased Connecticut has adopted a term that better represents the Hispanic transgender and non-binary community.

"I used to be the biggest proponent of using the term Latinx,” Roman said. “Until, I was in queer spaces. I am a Latine, queer man, but [also] Boricua. Like, who came up with that word [Latinx] for us?”

Roman said he is thankful state legislators are open to having more inclusive conversations around gender and identity.

Maricarmen Cajahuaringa is a journalist with extensive experience in Latino communities' politics, social issues, and culture. She founded Boceto Media, a digital Spanish-language newspaper based in Connecticut. Maricarmen holds a Bachelor's in Social Work from Springfield College, and a Master's in Journalism and Media Production from Sacred Heart University. As a reporter for Connecticut Public, she is dedicated to delivering accurate and informative coverage of the Hispanic/Latino population in the region. Maricarmen is an experienced and passionate journalist who strives to bring a voice to the stories of her community.

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