The rise of the gender-neutral title option, "Mx"
Over the past couple years, a new honorific has gradually been added as an option for various official documents in the UK: along with Mr, Mrs, Ms, and Miss, people now have the option to choose the gender neutral Mx. According to the Daily Mail, Mx is now an acknowledged and accepted title for high street banks, drivers licenses, the Royal Mail, government departments, and various universities including Oxford and Cambridge. The change is a huge win for transgender, gender fluid, and non-binary individuals, and we’re applauding the UK for making such an awesome and inclusive addition.
And now, Mx is even being considered for the next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary — which just goes to show the title’s importance and legitimacy. If accepted, it would be the first update to honorifics in recent history, and it couldn’t have come at a more pivotal time. According to the Transgender Law and Policy Institute, an estimated 2-5% of the population identifies as transgender and/or experiences gender dysmorphia — and, even more importantly, non-binary stories are being told now more than ever. Normalizing these stories helps contribute to normalizing the people behind them, and officially acknowledging Mx is the perfect next step towards making that a reality.
“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, an assistant editor at the OED, told The Sunday Times.
According to the Daily Mail, Mx has actually been around since the 1970s, when it first appeared in an issue of the US publication Single Parent Magazine as a call to action to replace all honorifics. The term eventually evolved to become closer associated with those who don’t explicitly identify with either male or female, but has only recently gained momentum over the last few years.
Even though trans visibility is gradually on the rise, violence and discrimination against transgender individuals is still very much a reality. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, one in five transgender people will be homeless at some point. Non-binary peer support organization FORGE estimates that 50% of transgender individuals will have experienced sexual violence in their lives. A report on hate crimes from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) found that an overwhelming majority of LGBTQ+ homicide victims in 2013 were transgender. These are inexcusable and heartbreaking statistics with even more inexcusable and heartbreaking consequences for far too many people. As a society and as individuals, fighting against transphobia is absolutely essential.
We should never make assumptions about someone’s gender identity to begin with, and the UK’s adoption of Mx is the perfect reminder that being considerate of others is an easy choice. Language is ever-evolving and always adapting to our needs as a society, and Mx is the perfect example of just how flexible it can be. Small changes can have a big impact on how we view, treat, and communicate with others — and there should always be room in our language for more empathy and kindness.