Mx

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Mx (generally pronounced like mix [mɪks], or [məx] in the UK[1]) is meant to be a gender-neutral alternative to the titles Mr. and Ms. Just as the Ms title gives no marital status, the Mx title gives no gender. Mx is the most widely-known of several gender neutral titles in the English language, largely because of the work of nonbinary activists who ask organisations to recognize it. Depending on the individual, people who have nonbinary gender identities may ask to be called Mx, or by a different gender-neutral title, or by a title that is not gender-neutral, or may ask that no titles be used for them at all.

History

It's not yet known who created the Mx title, when, or what their original intentions were.

There is anecdotal evidence that someone went by this title during the 1960s, so it could be that old. In 2014, a news article commenter with the username octopus8 wrote,

"I tried 'Mx' in about 1965. My girlfriend was a strong, and early, feminist and went the Ms route. I found it very hard to get anyone to take it seriously, and needed too much explanation when Ms was, itself, confusing many people."

This commenter, octopus8, says they (their pronoun preference wasn't stated) went by the Mx title around 1965.[2][3] They don't claim to have coined it, and they don't mention what their own gender identity was. If octopus8 really did go by Mx in 1965, then the title may have been coined even earlier.

The earliest known recorded mention of the Mx title was in 1977, in a short story in The Single Parent magazine, volume 20. In this story, writer Pat Kite has a protagonist (a formerly married woman) flirt with a man, to whom she expresses disgust for the title Ms, and explains why she prefers to be called Mrs instead. In this context, the protagonist brings up the Mx title:

"Anyhow, if Mrs. and Miss are to be shortened to Ms., then I think Mister and Master should be changed to Muster... abbreviated Mu. On second thought, maybe both sexes should be called Mx."[4][5]

In a context that indicates that she's being facetious and isn't serious about it, Kite's protagonist suggests using Mx as a title for both women and men, and her conversational partner's response to this idea is described as "horrified." She makes no mention of transgender or nonbinary people. The use of the phrase "both sexes" suggests no awareness of any other sexes or genders. Kite's article doesn't claim to have created the Mx title. Given the tone of the context, it looks unlikely that Mx was coined there, or at least not with the expectation that people would use it. The Mx title may have been created earlier.

Nat Titman found that the earliest recorded mention of the Mx title on the Internet was in 1982, in a conversation on newsgroup net.nlang about gender neutral language:

"While we’re at it, let’s get rid of all this Miss/Mrs/Mr/Ms crap. It wasn’t much of a step to go from Miss/Mrs to Ms; after all, the issue should be that gender is unimportant. How about one generic title for everyone? For instance, M. Smith, M. Jones. But that’s flawed, it might be confused with Monsieur, a blatantly sexist word. From now on, we should all go by Mx, pronounced 'mix' or 'mux.' This will make the world safe for democracy by concealing our genders from the sexist element."

Bearing the signature "Mx. John Eldridge," this message appears to be an accurate definition of the Mx title. The conversation's context gives the impression that it may have been a facetious suggestion.[6] It doesn't include an explicit claim that the writer created the title.

Later in the 1980s and early 1990s, some people posted on the Internet with remarks that they like the idea of Mx. None of them claim to have created it, though some give the impression that they had heard of it elsewhere. For example, in 1985, Lee Gold wrote on net.women,

"I got one netter's [Internet user's] intesting suggestin [sic] that the all purpose honorific should be Mx. (I think it’s nice to use the algebraic 'x' for unknown. Very elegant.)"

This user likes the title, but doesn't claim to go by it, and doesn't say who they saw suggest it.[7]

According to Titman's research, the earliest person found on the Internet earnestly and actively using Mx as their title was in 1998. In a discussion about vegetarianism that was crossposted to several United Kingdom newsgroups, the user Gnome 11 remarked,

"Occasionally I have used the title ‘Mx’ before my name, with the idea that it leaves in question whether I a woman or a man or something in between and gives no idea of my marital status."

This user doesn't mention their sex or gender identity here, and states a preference for leaving that very information undisclosed.[8]

People began using Mx more often starting around 2000.[9] Thanks to the work of activists who asked for this title to be made available, many businesses and organizations began to offer it in their paperwork.

In 2015, when a transgender woman asked the NatWest bank to list her title as Ms, the bank incorrectly told her they couldn't, and instead should list her as Mx. This human error at the bank came from a misconception that Mx was the only allowed title for transgender people. The bank soon gave her an apology for the mistake.[10]

In 2015,[11] the Oxford English Dictionary added an entry for "Mx".[12]

Alternative pronunciation

There are several different pronunciations of Mx, and it's not known which of these is the original one, as the origins of Mx are unknown. Here are some of the ways people pronounce the title, ordered by popularity according to the Gender Census:[1]

  1. Mix (IPA: mɪks)
  2. Məx (IPA: məks), with a schwa (ə, toneless vowel)
  3. Em Ecks (IPA: ɛm ɛks), spelling out MX
  4. Mux (IPA: mʌks)
  5. Mex
  6. Mixter (IPA: mɪkstər)
  7. Mixture

In the UK the Məx option was the most popular one, compared to Mix in the US, when the results were filtered by country.[13] The UK was the most likely place to see Mx as an option on a form, even though this only happened under 37% of the time. The US was 6th most likely, and Germany - the first of the non-English speaking countries - was 7th.[1]

Pronunciation popularity by language[14]
Language Mix Məx I don't know Spelling out M-X Mux Mex Mixter Mixture
English 52.7% 18.2% 12.7% 5.5% 4.9% 3.5% 2.3% 0.2%
German 35.7% 18.8% 19.5% 12.3% 3.2% 8.4% 1.3% 0.6%
French 39.1% 7.8% 23.4% 17.2% 1.6% 10.9% 0.0% 0.0%
Spanish 43.8% 6.3% 21.9% 6.3% 0.0% 21.9% 0.0% 0.0%
Dutch 34.6% 19.2% 15.4% 11.5% 3.8% 11.5% 3.8% 0.0%
[Blank] 47.1% 17.6% 8.8% 17.6% 5.9% 2.9% 0.0% 0.0%
Swedish 30.8% 19.2% 23.1% 11.5% 0.0% 15.4% 0.0% 0.0%
Polish 33.3% 22.2% 18.5% 0.0% 14.8% 7.4% 0.0% 3.7%
Finnish 39.1% 13.0% 21.7% 13.0% 4.3% 0.0% 4.3% 4.3%
Russian 36.8% 21.1% 10.5% 21.1% 0.0% 5.3% 5.3% 0.0%

Most people who use Mx as their title view it as a gender-inclusive title, however those who don't are more likely to view it as gender-exclusive (i.e. as a nonbinary only title).[1] When the answers of this question were viewed as a nonbinary-binary split instead of an Mx-not Mx, the results are a lot more similar in numbers - but gender-inclusive is still the most popular answer, and there were binary people who used Mx as their title sometimes or all of the time.

Meaning

The x acts as a wild card, taking the usual title format of Mr and Ms and putting in an x to remove the gender in the title.

Just as the Ms title gives no marital status, the Mx title gives no gender.

Mx is a gender-inclusive title that can be used by anyone of any gender identity, regardless of whether they are transgender or cisgender, or nonbinary or binary gender.[15] Mx isn't a title just for transgender people. Mx isn't a title just for nonbinary gender people.[16]

Popularity

In the 2019 Gender Census, Mx was the most popular title, with 31.3% respondents choosing it.

As the result of nonbinary activists asking companies to offer the Mx title as an option in paperwork, this option is becoming more widely available and well-established. As of February 2015, "31 major and respected companies, organisations and governmental departments in the UK" have been shown to offer this option,[17] the earliest of which offered it in 2009.[18]

Two of the most common ways to change ones name in the UK is by Statutory Declaration or via the UK Deedpoll Service; the latter offers the option of including the 'Mx' title as part of a name change, or as a standalone service. Their website [2] includes the following; In October 2011, we introduced the title of Mx (pronounced Mix) as an option for people who do not identify themselves as either male or female and, therefore, feel a gender specific title such as Mr or Miss is inappropriate and unsuitable for them. We are unable to guarantee that all record holders (i.e. government departments, companies and organisations that hold your personal records) will recognise your new title but we believe many will and in time all will. Initially, the problem will be record holders’ computer systems not being able to accept Mx as a title but when a significant number of people request record holders show their title as Mx a tipping point will be reached causing record holders to reprogram their systems to accommodate Mx as a title [3].

Nat Titman spoke about the origins of Mx and their preferences in question 23 of the Beyond the Binary interview series:

"I liked Mx better when I first saw it being used around the turn of the millennium when it was described as a gender non-specific title that could be used for anyone, where the x was intended as a wildcard that could match any other title, much like the asterisk on ‘trans*’. At that time it had the suggested pronunciation of ‘mux’. It wasn’t until 2002 that I saw people claiming that it’s pronounced ‘mixture’ but could be shortened to ‘mix’ (with others on the mailing list expressing surprise and disagreement with this), and several years more until ‘mixter’ was mentioned.
"In practical terms, I’ve found that in many accents ‘mix’ sounds too much like ‘miss’ when pronounced and ‘mixture’ is even more prone to sounding like ‘mister’, so the original ‘mux’ pronunciation may be more distinctive, although possibly less recognisable as a title (although it’s not that far from the way Ms often ends up pronounced ‘mus’ or ‘muz’)."

Use in fiction

The title Mx has also been used in fiction. In Kayla Overkill's interactive fantasy novel, Undine of Mine, human society recognizes non-binary people, and addresses them by the honorific Mixter.

See also

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 A survey on the prevalence and pronunciation of the title Mx - Gender Census (2018)
  2. Cassian Lotte Lodge (cassolotl). "Mx has been around since the 1960s." November 26, 2014. Blog post. http://cassolotl.tumblr.com/post/103645470405
  3. octopus8. November 18, 2014. Comment on news article. http://www.theguardian.com/world/shortcuts/2014/nov/17/rbs-bank-that-likes-to-say-mx#comment-43834815
  4. Practical Androgyny (PractiAndrogyny). May 4, 2015. https://twitter.com/PractiAndrogyny/status/595329679789260801
  5. The Single Parent, vol 20. https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=IgwdAQAAMAAJ&dq=editions%3ALCCNsc83001271&focus=searchwithinvolume&q=Mx
  6. Nat Titman, "When was the Mx gender-inclusive title created?" August 28, 2014. Practical Androgyny. http://practicalandrogyny.com/2014/08/28/when-was-the-mx-gender-inclusive-title-created/
  7. Nat Titman, "When was the Mx gender-inclusive title created?" August 28, 2014. Practical Androgyny. http://practicalandrogyny.com/2014/08/28/when-was-the-mx-gender-inclusive-title-created/
  8. Nat Titman, "When was the Mx gender-inclusive title created?" August 28, 2014. Practical Androgyny. http://practicalandrogyny.com/2014/08/28/when-was-the-mx-gender-inclusive-title-created/
  9. Cassian Lotte Lodge, "The growing use of Mx as a gender-inclusive title in the UK." Version 2.5. May 9, 2015. http://mxactivist.tumblr.com/post/118514708025
  10. Kate Lyons, "Transgender woman's request to become 'Ms' refused by NatWest." May 17, 2015. The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/may/17/transgender-womans-request-to-become-ms-refused-by-natwest
  11. https://www.gaystarnews.com/article/gender-neutral-title-mx-added-to-oxford-dictionary/
  12. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/mx
  13. https://twitter.com/gendercensus/status/1086715761874345984?s=09
  14. [1]
  15. Beyond the Binary: question 23 - What do you think about Mx?, dated July 8, 2013.
  16. Cassian Lotte Lodge (cassolotl), "The inevitable misunderstanding of Mx." http://cassolotl.tumblr.com/post/119265972310
  17. Cassian Lotte Lodge (mxactivist). "There’s a new UK Mx evidence PDF up." February 6, 2015. Blog post. http://mxactivist.tumblr.com/post/110248930295
  18. Cassian Lotte Lodge. "The Growing Use of Mx as a Gender-inclusive Title in the UK," version 2.4. February 6, 2015. PDF. http://www.polyinpictures.com/wp-content/uploads/mxevidencelowres.pdf

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