Oxford English Dictionary goes gender-neutral with Mx
New words are added to dictionaries every year, especially these days when new terms are coined almost every week. But then, linguists believe that language should be flexible.
That’s why for 2015, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) included the honorific Mx to staple titles such as Mr, Mrs, Miss and Ms. Targeted for those who refuse to be defined by gender, particularly the transgender who identifies with neither the male nor the female, the OED explained to the London Sunday Times: “This is an example of how the English language adapts to people’s needs, with people using language in ways that suit them rather than letting language dictate identity to them.”
So for those who don’t want to be boxed into only two genders, Mx, pronounced as “mix” or “mux”, is another honorific you can choose.
Rise of the Mx
But this is not to say that Mx is a new word. Since the ‘70s, it was used by people who refused to divulge their gender. Moreover, in 1977, it was used in the American magazine Single Parent.
The United Kingdom is the foremost country that uses this title, with Mx being tapped by both public and private institutions for documentation like passports, drivers’ license, and bank documents (specifically with the Royal Bank of Scotland). On the internet, it’s also presented as a choice in the roll-down menus for honorifics. However, the use of Mx has yet to be felt in American shores.
Mx as gender-neutral honorific
In today’s gay- and lesbian-conscious era, this honorific mirrors the present generation’s widening realization that genders are neutral. It is most especially true with the recent legalization of gay marriage and the disclosure of so many LGBT-personalities in media with regard to their sexual and gender preference.
Most notable of these transgender are performance artist Justin Vivian Bond—who is outspoken about being called Mx Bond—as well as Caitlin Jenner and Charity Bono.
Shannon Gilreath, a professor at Wake Forest University, said, “The real promise of the transgender movement was not the freedom to figure out ways to become more fully male or fully female, but rather freedom from gender entirely. Loosening the gender grip on language is a step in that direction.”
With Mx knighted by the distinguished OED as an official word, maybe other gender-neutral pronouns like ze, hir and they will be next. After all, American colleges like Harvard are already doing it.