Gender neutral titles

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A gender neutral title is an alternative to the gendered honorifics Miss, Mrs, Ms and Mr, for people who don't fit the gender binary and therefore don't feel that a gendered title fits their identity. It is used in formal situations when it is inappropriate to refer to someone by their first or last name only.

For the most part, gender neutral titles without qualification/career connotations are not recognised by the general public or businesses/organisations. Activists and supporters are working toward awareness and acceptance of alternative titles. The generally accepted gender neutral titles are associated with qualifications and careers, such as Dr (Doctor) and Rev (Reverend).

For some nonbinary folk, being referred to with a gendered title can trigger gender dysphoria.

Contents

Changing your title

United Kingdom

A UK-specific Statutory Declaration template for title change to 'Mx'

A Deed Poll can be used to change your name and/or your title free of charge, if you can get two witnesses together.

A Statutory Declaration of title change (see image of template to the right) can be drawn up and presented to a regular solicitor to witness/sign for a cost of approximately £10.00 (this usually includes a couple of legal copies); having the solicitor draw the document up for you may incur a much higher cost (£70.00+). You do not usually need to make an appointment for this service as the process only takes a few minutes.

The Deed Poll Service notes that “There's no need to follow any formal procedure (such a executing a Deed Poll) if you only wish to change your title. You simply need to start using your new title and notify all the record holders that you have changed it.”[2]

List of gender neutral titles

Here follows an alphabetical list of gender-neutral or specifically nonbinary titles that are alternatives to Mr. and Ms.

Ind

Examples

Ind. Sam Smith.

Ind. Smith.

History

The Ind title was coined by Torin "MinimalistFish" Unrealisk in early 2014, a genderless individual who goes by the Ind title. Unrealisk proposed it in a post to a social blogging website, Tumblr.[1]

Meaning

According to the one who coined it, Ind is short for "Individual".

This title may be more appropriate for those who do not feel "mixed gender" implied titles meets their gender-neutral standards. Ind was designed to be entirely free of gender, thus making it an attractive option for agender and gender nonconforming individuals. For more information, see the post in which it was coined.[2]

Kaiet

In fiction by Janet Ganus, Kaiet is the gender-neutral equivalent of Mr and Ms. The plural form of it is Kaieti, the gender-neutral equivalent of ladies and gentlemen. These titles go with Ganus's gender-neutral pronoun set kai, kaim, kais, kaiself.[3]

M

Pronounced em, like the letter. Meant to be a neutral title that is not based off "mixing" binary genders. In science fiction by Dan Simmons, Hyperion Cantos, all adult humans go by the title M.[4] One potential problem with the neutral title "M" is confusion with the French title "M." short for "Monsieur," which is masculine, not neutral. [3][4]

Misc

Pronounced misk. The roots are interesting. The word miscellaneous comes from the Latin *miscellus*, meaning “mixed,” following the rationale that a lot of nonbinary people would say that they have aspects of various genders at various times.

Example: Misc Sam Smith, Misc Smith.

First mention in January 2011.

Mre

Pronounced mystery or misstree. A play on non-binary gender often being perceived as "mysterious." One potential problem is that it contains the "mister" and "miss" sounds in the beginning. In 2001, Liz Menzel wrote, "As Mr. is short for Mister, and Mrs. was once short for Mistress, how about Mre., for 'Mistree' (or I suppose for 'mystery,' for those who demand their spelling)."[5]

Msr

Pronounced misser.[6]

Mx

How to use: Mx Sam Smith. Mx Smith.

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.[7][8] 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."[9][10]

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.[11] 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.[12]

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.[13]

People began using Mx more often starting around 2000.[14] 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.[15]

In 2015, assistant editor of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) Jonathan Dent said that they are considering putting Mx into the OED.[16][17]

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.

A 2014 survey asked 118 people how they preferred to pronounce Mx. Of the 60 respondents in the UK, the most popular pronunciation was Məx (by 43%). Overall, including those in the UK, the most popular was Mix (42%). Some respondents used Mux or Em Ecks, but no respondents in the UK used Mixter.[24]

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.[25] Mx isn't a title just for transgender people. Mx isn't a title just for nonbinary gender people.[26]

Popularity

In a July 2011 survey involving over 2,000 nonbinary respondents, Mx was the most popular gender-inclusive title, and was second to Ms overall; when a title is mandatory, 37% of respondents chose Mx, though the commentary points out that "lots of people said they had answered according to titles that are often available on forms, and that titles such as Mx and Per are rarely available on said forms."

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,[27] the earliest of which offered it in 2009.[28]

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 [5] 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 [6].

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’)."

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.

Myr

Myr, or myr, used as a gender neutral title, honorific, and proper noun in science fiction books by David Marusek. Its plural form is myren.[29]

Pr

The title Pr is pronounced "per." It is intended as an abbreviation of "person". (source needed)

One written record of its use as a genderless title is from 2001, in a press complaint by non-gendered activist Pr Christie Elan-Cane.[30]

Pr. is also the title given to a Christian pastor.[31]

Sai

Sai. In The Dark Tower, the title "Sai" is a gender neutral title, the equivalent Mr or Ms, as well as the honorifics sir or ma'am.

Ser

Pronounced sair, to rhyme with hair. Used as a gender-neutral version of "Sir" in works of fiction such as Greg Bear's The Way novels, and the Dragon Age series of video games. While the title "Ser" is hundreds of years old, and has been used in a lot of media, it does not always mean the same thing, and is not gender-neutral in all cases. It's also not always equivalent to Mr or Ms, and may imply that a person has a specific profession or status. In the 1400s, "Ser" was "an honorific title usually given to notaries."[32] In the seventeenth century in Tuscany, "Ser" was one of the titles given to physicians, and thus equivalent to "Doctor".[33] In Game of Thrones, "Ser" is the title given to knights, who are exclusively male in that setting, so it is not a gender-neutral title there.[34] Many examples of fiction that uses Ser, but they don't all use it to mean the same thing, as can be seen in TV Tropes's article about Ser and other unusual honorifics in fiction. "Ser" is not to be confused with a similar title, "Sr," meaning "sister," the title given to a Catholic nun.[35]

See Also

External Links

References

  1. Conversation thread between Orion Scribner (frameacloud) and Torin Unrealisk (minimalistfish). 2014-11-12. A Glorious Abscence of Gender (personal blog). Torin Unrealisk. http://minimalistfish.tumblr.com/post/102483931685/torin-unrealisk-thank-you-for-what-you-wrote-about-the Or archive: http://frameacloud.tumblr.com/post/102488535511/torin-unrealisk-thank-you-for-what-you-wrote-about-the
  2. Torin Unrealisk (minimalistfish). "Ind. as a gender neutral title?" 2014-02-15. A Glorious Abscence of Gender (personal blog). Torin Unrealisk. http://minimalistfish.tumblr.com/post/76750503799/ind-as-a-gender-neutral-title Or archive: http://frameacloud.tumblr.com/post/102470317561/ind-as-a-gender-neutral-title
  3. https://web.archive.org/web/20070310125817/http://aetherlumina.com/gnp/references.html
  4. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FantasticHonorifics
  5. https://web.archive.org/web/20070310125817/http://aetherlumina.com/gnp/references.html
  6. [1]
  7. Cassian Lotte Lodge (cassolotl). "Mx has been around since the 1960s." November 26, 2014. Blog post. http://cassolotl.tumblr.com/post/103645470405
  8. 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
  9. Practical Androgyny (PractiAndrogyny). May 4, 2015. https://twitter.com/PractiAndrogyny/status/595329679789260801
  10. The Single Parent, vol 20. https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=IgwdAQAAMAAJ&dq=editions%3ALCCNsc83001271&focus=searchwithinvolume&q=Mx
  11. 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/
  12. 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/
  13. 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/
  14. 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
  15. 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
  16. Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith, "Gender neutral honorific Mx 'to be included' in the Oxford English Dictionary alongside Mr, Ms and Mrs and Miss." May 3, 2015. The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/gender-neutral-honorific-mx-to-be-included-in-the-oxford-english-dictionary-alongside-mr-ms-and-mrs-and-miss-10222287.html
  17. Mary Papenfuss, "Oxford Dictionary may include gender-neutral honorific 'Mx'." May 5, 2015. International Business Times. http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/oxford-dictionary-may-include-gender-neutral-honorific-mx-1499626
  18. Cassian Lotte Lodge, "On the pronunciation of Mx." November 27, 2014. Blog post. http://cassolotl.tumblr.com/post/103744029100
  19. Cassian Lotte Lodge, "On the pronunciation of Mx." November 27, 2014. Blog post. http://cassolotl.tumblr.com/post/103744029100
  20. Cassian Lotte Lodge, "On the pronunciation of Mx." November 27, 2014. Blog post. http://cassolotl.tumblr.com/post/103744029100
  21. Cassian Lotte Lodge, "On the pronunciation of Mx." November 27, 2014. Blog post. http://cassolotl.tumblr.com/post/103744029100
  22. Cassian Lotte Lodge, "On the pronunciation of Mx." November 27, 2014. Blog post. http://cassolotl.tumblr.com/post/103744029100
  23. "Beyond the binary question twenty three." July 8, 2013. Blog post. https://cnlester.wordpress.com/2013/07/08/beyond-the-binary-question-twenty-three/
  24. Cassian Lotte Lodge, "On the pronunciation of Mx." November 27, 2014. Blog post. http://cassolotl.tumblr.com/post/103744029100
  25. Beyond the Binary: question 23 - What do you think about Mx?, dated July 8, 2013.
  26. Cassian Lotte Lodge (cassolotl), "The inevitable misunderstanding of Mx." http://cassolotl.tumblr.com/post/119265972310
  27. Cassian Lotte Lodge (mxactivist). "There’s a new UK Mx evidence PDF up." February 6, 2015. Blog post. http://mxactivist.tumblr.com/post/110248930295
  28. 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
  29. cicadacicada. "New gender-neutral title." http://cicadacicada.tumblr.com/post/13856770096/new-gender-neutral-title
  30. "Pr Christie Elan-Cane v Woman's Own about Accuracy." January 31, 2001. http://presscomplaints.org/case/3431/
  31. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pastor
  32. Girolamo Savonarola, A guide to righteous living and other works. p. 149.
  33. David Gentilcore, Healers and healing in early modern Italy. p. 58.
  34. "Knighthood." Game of Thrones Wiki. http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Knighthood
  35. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_honorifics
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