June July 2016
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'Mx' Could Be Oxford English Dictionary's First Trans-Affirming Honorific

'Mx' Could Be Oxford English Dictionary's First Trans-Affirming Honorific

For years, trans and gender-nonconforming people have been using the gender-neutral title "Mx" (pronounced "mux" or "mix") to identify themselves in lieu of gender-specific honorifics like "Mr.," Ms.," "Miss," and "Mrs."

As Mx has recently been gaining traction in the United Kingdom, it comes as little surprise that the first dictionary to consider making the word "official" is the Oxford English Dictionary.

The U.K.'s Sunday Times reports that the OED "flagged" the word "Mx" for possible inclusion in this year's edition in response to a "quiet" shift in the nation over the past two years: the addition of the honorific as an option on official documents and databases, including those for driver's licenses, mail, banks, government purposes, and some universities.

"This 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," explained OED assistant editor Jonathan Dent to the Times. The OED decides on which words to add each year based, in part, on how common their usage has become.

Trans advocates are cheering "Mx"'s possible inclusion as a positive step for recognition. "It's a reminder that people are not feeling validated, and it does cause stress. Documentation and forms that don't match the reality of people's existence are part of that," Transgender Victoria executive director Sally Golder told the Australian Broadcast Corporation, later adding, "[The new title] will give flexibility in a lot of ways."

However, not everyone is a fan of the term's growing popularity. As language expert Professor Emeritus Roland Sussex opined to the ABC, "I think that it's ugly. ... The trouble is that you want something that is going to sound OK." While not opposed to the idea of a gender-neutral honorific, Sussex worries the term is unclear and possibly doomed to obscurity. "I'm afraid 'Mx' looks like a half-blown scientific forumula or expression of some kind. And 'mux,' it just doesn't sound very nice. ... [It] seems to me they're backing a bad horse and it's not going to succeed."

"Mx" has also gained popularity in the U.S. in recent years, used notably by out trans artist Justin Vivian Bond. The word's first known usage, according to CNN's Indian Broadcasting Network, came in a 1977 issue of U.S. magazine Single Parent.

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