‘Mx’ in Brighton

Got all excited when I read a student essay telling me that Brighton is introducing ‘Mx’ as a title and making it the only title to be used in all council paperwork. Sadly, it seems they decided not to do that. Instead, they’re adding it as an additional title for those who reject the gender binary. Still good, but not as good to my mind as dropping all titles that tell you gender or marital status. It does, however, come along with a broader commitment to being trans-friendly, and that’s great.

16 thoughts on “‘Mx’ in Brighton

  1. They’ll get there, I hope. This reminds me of the times in recent history when ‘Ms’ was perceived as announcing that a woman had been divorced. Nonsense of course but some people still perceive it that way.

  2. In the UK, that is the dominant understanding of ‘Ms’, at least among my students. I was shocked, at first, to discover all of my *feminism* students using the title ‘Miss’. But they didn’t even know what ‘Ms’ was supposed to mean. And they weren’t divorced.

  3. I have to say that the prevalence of “Miss” and “Mrs” in the UK was one of the bigger pieces of culture shock that I experienced when I first arrived. So weird.

  4. Wow. I had no idea ‘Ms’ ever had suggested that a woman was divorced. If that’s the dominant understanding among students, I think that’s a new thing – it definitely wasn’t the way it was understood among students twenty years ago!

  5. I guess I am confused as to what the advantage of adding Mx is rather than just removing the space to add a title altogether. What information does Mx convey? Or at least, what information does it convey that we ought to want conveyed on official forms?

  6. Rebecca, my one thought is that people are often quite attached to their habitual salutations and prefer expansion to removal. In the way that “Ms” in the US was a way of signalling feminism (or at least women’s libber), adopting Mx can signal pro trans (perhaps by being trans or perhaps by solidarity).

    In particular:

    And patients will be provided with the option to use a non-gender specific honorific or to decline to provide one on National Health Service systems.

    The council report wants to add the honorific Mx as an option for those claiming council benefits. And the panel recommends all on-line forms are examined to look at the possibility of additional options, leaving blank or entering the title the individual feels is appropriate to them.

    I think, assuming that the trans community didn’t express a wish for it to be reserved for trans people, that I would opt for Mx over blank (which is my default now).

    (If you enforced everyone not having an honorific, that’s ok. But failing to have an appropriate honorific is dissing.)

  7. I’m with Rebecca here. The right move forward is to just remove the useless titles, rather than introduce a neutral one.

    However, I take Bijan’s point that if that’s not on the table, a neutral title is a big step forward in the meantime.

  8. (If you enforced everyone not having an honorific, that’s ok. But failing to have an appropriate honorific is dissing.)

    Clearly. Which is why I said why not just get rid of that space altogether. I don’t see what benefits there are to catering to people’s love of ‘honorific’ titles.

  9. Well, I can think of two benefits:

    1) as I said before, there’s a tactical rease; there might be less resistance/backlash to adding titles (plus opt out) instead of enforced removal

    (I was able to find some examples)

    2) I can imagine that, for some people, honorifics are part of their gender identification (which is why it’s important to open “Mr” and “Ms/Miss/Mrs” to trans men and women).

    To put it another way, so long as it’s inclusive, fair, self-defined, non-discriminatory, and optional, is there a strong benefit in removing it altogether?

  10. There is a surprising (to me) list of similarly accommodating public bodies here: http://lottelodge.tumblr.com/post/6915059166/misc-a-uk-summary

    It’s probably too late to worry now, but isn’t it a problem that the sounds “miks” and “misk” are too easily mistaken for “miss” in spoken conversation?

    How about ‘cousin’ or ‘coz’ as an ungendered alternative to ‘sir’? (In terms of formality, it’s sort of halfway between ‘sir’ and ‘mate’, I suppose.)

  11. [edited– makes reference to deleted spam post]

    I can see why a person who has long felt deprived of an honorific would be pleased to be included. Having been decidedly feminist since I was twelve years old, I have enjoyed using “Ms.” all my adult life. The little things really can mean a lot, especially when the little thing recognizes that you exist.

  12. Another reason the Mx title is a good means to removing titles altogether is that it conveys little information that Mr or Ms, as has been pointed out.

    Once it ceases to specify gender and marital status, this information (when relevant) must be stored elsewhere anyway, so that it would before long become easy and more efficient to omit altogether on forms, paperwork, etc.

  13. Query how the Council reckoned that “Mx”, which hardly seems to have standing even as a neologism, could properly be described as an “honorific” at all (per Wikipedia, “a word or expression with connotations conveying esteem or respect when used in addressing or referring to a person”).

    I agree with Rebecca that there seems to be no advantage to adding “Mx” over removing the titles. However, I can’t agree with the suggestion that there are no benefits “to catering to people’s love of ‘honorific’ titles.” Isn’t the point of courtoisie to cater in some way, according to the conventions of the community, to the people whom you are addressing?

    The most absurd of several absurd things in this story is the notion that this is somehow the role of the Brighton & Hove Council. Let the import of that sink in for a second and you won’t know whether to laugh or cry. One could be forgiven for wondering whether the somewhat infelicitous precedents of governments leaning on their constituents to adopt more enlightened honorifics (Kamerad, Tovarisch, Citoyen …) hold any lessons for, or for that matter about, the Council.

    On the amusing side, one surmises that Mister Mxyzptlk from the old Superman comics might become Mx Mxyzptlk in the brave new Brighton.

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