Updated to 4 July 2016
The new honorific title ‘Mx’ was added to the Oxford English Dictionary recently. Some transgender and intersex people are now using Mx instead of Miss, Mrs, Ms or Mr. But there are some problems with it, not the least of which concerns the OED’s definition (more briefly discussed in my YouTube video New Mx title now in OED. See also my major article on this subject at About Mx, with Miss, Mrs, Mr, Ms, and the singular they).
(Note that in this blog post, the way I use ‘transgender’ refers to ‘non-binary transgender,’ and does not include ‘transsexual,’ simply because the latter, ie binary transgender people, will probably have a different perspective or attitude to Mx.)
To my mind Mx is an abbreviation of Mix or Mixture just as Miss, Mrs, and Mr are or were originally abbreviations of Mistress, Mistress (you read that correctly), and Master, respectively.
Many years ago I was a very early adopter of Mx (or Mix) after hearing that an intersex person in Victoria, Australia, was using it. Unfortunately I don’t recall their name.
As an androgyne, choosing to use the title Mx in 2002 was an excellent decision. For well over a decade most of my bills have come addressed to Mx Margaret Dylan Jones, or something similar. That’s credit cards, tax bills, bank statements, utilities etc. Mx or Mix is used in some sheet music publications of my classical piano music. At live performances where I play piano solo or accompany choirs or student soloists I’m introduced as “Mix Margaret…”
The sky has not fallen in and not once have I encountered a problem with it, apart from when computer operators find their software is just a bit too binary, but that is slowly changing.
In 2004 a seven-minute profile of myself was broadcast nationally on ABC television by the George Negus Tonight (GNT) programme. They consistently called me ‘Mix.’ (See the link at the end.)
However, I fear the inclusion in May 2015 of Mx in the Oxford Dictionary online version may now, for the first time, present some headwinds for me. It’s clear they have failed to adequately define the meaning or use of Mx, and they’ve come up with a poor pronunciation for it.
On October 3, 2015 at www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/mx#Mx they had this definition:
A title used before a person’s surname or full name by those who wish to avoid specifying their gender or by those who prefer not to identify themselves as male or female. (This is unchanged at July 4, 2016)
Their definition suggests Mx is used to avoid stating one’s gender. The phrase ‘… those who prefer not to identify themselves as male or female’ may at first seem liberal and up-to-date with contemporary thinking but it’s not about modern notions of gender identity at all. It’s tantamount to denying the existence of any other gender besides male or female, which flies the face of the views of many researchers and academics.
Based on the way people are using it Mx definitely refers to various types of transgender or intersex identities, however difficult to define or however loosely defined those may be. As far as I can tell the only people using Mx are certain intersex and transgender people who, like myself, far from trying to conceal their gender are trying to make it clearer.
Any cisgender (i.e. non-transgender or non-intersex) person using Mx to refer to themself will be considered by others to be transgender or intersex, which is certainly not what they’re wanting. Using it to avoid specifying one’s gender is not going to work and like posting nude selfies on the internet it may be impossible to completely undo. Mx will inevitably continue to refer to an atypical gender identity, and that will be a gender which is not exclusively male or not exclusively female.
BUT WHAT IF YOU ARE GENDERLESS?
I’ve often heard individuals say they do not have a gender. Sometimes I feel like this myself and I suspect many people occasionally do not feel like they have a gender. For example, not every man using Mr always thinks of himself as typically male. So I wonder if, perhaps paradoxically and showing its versatility, Mx may also serve to denote a person who is consistently genderless, as many otherwise transgender people consider themselves to be.
The online dictionary provides four examples which one assumes are meant to clarify their definition and illustrate how Mx is being used:
‘the bank is planning to introduce the honorific ‘Mx’ as an alternative for anyone who feels that they don’t, for reasons of undetermined gender, fit into being either a Mr, Mrs, Miss or a Ms’
‘A council is to include the title ‘Mx’ on its official forms to be more accommodating to the trans-community.’
‘To me, Mx Bond embodies the very best kind of girl a boy could ever grow up to become.’
‘Brighton & Hove council adopted the trans-friendly Mx title in 2013, after an inclusivity panel made the recommendation.’
However, these are all transgender or intersex uses and not cisgender at all. So their examples are consistent with my experience and usage, and with my observations of how others have used Mx, but they quite clearly contradict the Oxford Dictionary’s own definition!
BUT HOW DO YOU SAY IT?
The Oxford Dictionary provided two pronunciations (you can listen to them spoken at their site):
Pronunciation: /məks/ /mɪks/
I suggest in practice /məks/ would soon become ‘mucks’ or ‘mux.’
The same dictionary’s definition of the word ‘mix’ (not the new honorific title) is identical with their second offering for Mx: /mɪks/. That is, ‘mix.’
The pronunciation is definitely better as ‘mix,’ not ‘mux,’ for several reasons. First, the real meaning of Mx often, though not always, pertains to a mixture of gender characteristics, which should be reason enough. Second, and this is more of an aesthetic preference, ‘mix’ is a much nicer sound. Also, ‘Mux’ sounds the same as ‘mucks,’ and who knows what that is supposed to mean?
The pronunciation ‘Muck’s’ could be misinterpreted as denoting possession as in ‘Muck’s Ackroyd’ wherein people may wonder what an ackroyd is and why Muck has one. With ‘Muck’s Jane’ they may wonder if Jane is a friend or perhaps a daughter of Muck. Granted, ‘Mix’ could be heard as ‘Mick’s,’ but at least mix is already a word and retains its original meaning of ‘mixture.’ Thus, it should not be so confusing.
The use of Mx or Mix as an honorific title is an elegant solution where many awkward alternatives have been suggested over several decades. Like the other titles Mrs, Miss, Ms or Mr, it starts with an easy ‘m,’ is only two or three letters, and I suggest is even easier and nicer to say than Ms.
THE ADVANTAGES of Mx and Mix
- Allows androgynes and other transgender and intersex people to be open about their gender
- Allows us to fill-in forms truthfully, without lying
- Is an elegant solution.
Mix as a pronunciation, and as the alternative or full spelling, has these important advantages over Mux:
- Mix doesn’t fall foul of automatic spell-checkers
- Retains the meaning or implication of mixture
- Is easy to say
- Everyone already knows how to pronounce it
- Is less likely to be misheard as Ms
- Is already proven to work perfectly in the real world since at least 2002.
Of course, using Mx should be optional and not at all compulsory. Many transgender or intersex people will not want to use it. Mx or Mix doesn’t suit all people with an unusual gender identity so it is important that no-one assumes a non-binary transgender or intersex person wishes to be known by this title. Some people don’t want any gender titles or labels of any kind. And I guess most transsexuals would only want to use the traditional male or female titles. If you don’t know you can ask.
For a long time I have called myself an androgyne, meaning a type of non-binary transgender person (not a transsexual). I’m happy to be addressed or referred to as she and her, and also by they and their. Other androgynes may feel differently about how they should be known.
Intersex people are often not aware they have an intersex variation or trait. Even when they are aware they probably consider themselves to be exclusively male or exclusively female in terms of identity, and would not want to call themselves in any way transgender. But a small number have a very different idea of their gender and some like to use Mx or Mix.
WHAT IS THE POINT?
People such as myself really need a title like Mx for use in filling out official forms and many other situations. Very often you can’t open an online account without specifying a title or at least a gender. This forces us to LIE—if we put either male or female we are LYING. This can cause some real-world problems as well as emotional difficulties. If you are a cisgender person reading this, can you imagine going through your daily life constantly being referred to by, and having to provide, the wrong gender title? Then multiply that feeling by a hundred and you might know what it is like for us. It can be a tremendous insult for transgender and intersex people and at the very least it’s an injustice. Constantly hearing the wrong personal pronouns and titles does violence to one’s soul and can have mental health implications.
Mx may not satisfy all transgender theorists. Any title hides a myriad of differences and Mx is no different. How many different types of men are there? Billions! How many different types of androgynes or gender-queer etc. people are there who might use Mx? That’s also an infinite variety.
Mx and Mix do not denote exactly what type of gender identity a person has other than it is ‘other.’ This means not exclusively male or not exclusively female, whatever those terms may mean. Mx and Mix have proven to be of great practical value over at least the last thirteen years or so. Importantly, the general public seems to find them easy to understand and straightforward to use.
I’ve written to the Oxford English Dictionary in a personal capacity. I hope they will amend their entry on Mx soon. (No change as at 4 July 2016.)
See the links at the start for the newer and much-expanded main article on Mx.
Listen to my 1977 Androgyne Prophecy music for free
Watch me play it on a grand piano on YouTube
Watch my YouTube video about Mx being added to the dictionary
New Mx title now in OED
Comment on this blog: mixmargaret.com/blog
Main site: mixmargaret.com
Read the transcript of my 2004 appearance on the George Negus Tonight ABC television programme
Read about me and Mx in my local newspaper September 2015
More about me in the media
2002 IFAS definitions of androgyne and intersex, and other links
More scans of documents with ‘Mx Margaret Jones’