In Depth

Why some people want to be called Mx instead of Mr or Mrs

The term marks a shift from titles that traditionally denoted a person's marital status, profession and gender

150506-mx.jpg

The Oxford English Dictionary is considering including the gender-neutral title "Mx" in its next edition as an alternative to Mr, Mrs or Miss.

Pronounced "mux" or "mix", the title has featured on official documents in the UK for several years. It serves as an alternative descriptive term for transgender people and those who do not identify with a particular gender, and represents a shift from formal titles that have traditionally denoted a person's marital status, profession or sex.

"This is an example of how the English language adapts to people's needs, with people using language in ways that suit them rather than letting language dictate identity to them," Jonathan Dent, assistant editor on the OED, told the Sunday Times.

Where does the term come from?

The first documented use of the title was in 1977 in the US magazine Single Parent. It was already used in the trans and non-binary communities throughout the 80s and 90s, but the title didn't gain widespread recognition until the turn of the century. "The early proponents of the term seem to have had gender politics as their central concern [and] saw the title as one which could sidestep the perceived sexism of the traditional 'Mr', 'Mrs' and 'Miss'," said Dent.

Who is using it?

In 2013, Brighton and Hove became the first council to include Mx on official forms, just one of a number of proposals aimed at making the city a safer and fairer place for its transgender population. Several government bodies including the DVLA, HMRC and the NHS, as well as banks and universities across the country, have also begun offering people the gender-neutral option.

A full list of companies and institutions that include the Mx option can be found here.

Why it's important

Transgender and non-binary communities and their allies have welcomed the move although many say it is long overdue. "This is a big deal," says blogger Claire Gillespie. "It's the first time in recent history that a change has been made to commonly used and accepted titles [in order] to officially recognise those who don't consider themselves wholly male or female."

The UK's Nonbinary Inclusion Project said the greater recognition of the term was "a significant step" forward. According to the organisation’s SJ Jacobs, as more people have pushed for "recognition and respect," the need for a title has grown.

"For some, seeing that Mx title that they’ve chosen [used] on a letter or bank statement will be very important and help them feel validated.”

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