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New York Times Tries Out Gender-Neutral Honorific ‘Mx.’

It’s a version of “Ms.,” “Mrs.,” “Miss,” or “Mr.” for those who choose not to identify with a gender.

Image via Wikimedia Commons user Anthony Quintano

Last week, The New York Times experimented with a gender-neutral honorific: Mx. It’s just another form of “Ms.,” “Mrs.,” “Miss,” or “Mr.”—but one that makes room for transgender people and those who don’t identify as any specific gender. Here’s “Mx.” in context, in the opening of an article published last Wednesday, November 25:

“Are we anarchist?” Senia Hardwick asked. “Technically, yes.” Mx. Hardwick, 27, who prefers not to be assigned a gender — and also insists on the gender-neutral Mx. in place of Ms. or Mr. — is a staff member at Bluestockings, a bookshop and activist center at 172 Allen Street on the Lower East Side.

“Mx.” (pronounced “mix”) is much more common in England, where editors for the Oxford English Dictionary said they were considering adding the honorific to the definitive record of the English language last May. The English language shifts to accommodate people’s needs and wants, OED Assistant Editor Jonathan Dent told The Sunday Times, “with people using language in ways that suit them rather than letting language dictate identity to them.” A number of British government agencies, banks, utilities, and universities already allow customers to select “Mx.” on official forms.

The Times has indicated, however, that it’s not quite ready to officially change its style rules to accommodate “Mx.”—though that’s partly because the majority of English speakers haven’t made the change yet, either. Philip B. Corbett, the Times’ standards editor, told the New York Observer that “it’s too soon to set down any clear-cut ‘style guidelines’ in this area.”

“Our approach on style decisions is generally to follow accepted, settled usage, not to make the rules,” Corbett continued. “But in referring to people who don’t identify as male or female, I think usage is still evolving and there’s not one settled or widely recognized set of guidelines. In the meantime, we just have to discuss situations case by case.”

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