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Mix Margaret Dylan Jones

W.A. composer, pianist, teacher, article writer


About Mx, with Miss, Mrs, Mr, Ms,

and the singular they


by Margaret Dylan Jones
November 15, 2015. Updated: December 12, 2015 at 11 pm

The new honorific title, Mx or Mix, has been used by transgender people continuously since at least 2002.

In recent years they have taken it up in greater numbers resulting in many banks, governments, credit card companies and other businesses integrating Mx into their customer forms and databases. In May 2015 the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) added Mx to their online version citing the increasing acceptance, by local government and business, of transgender individuals wishing to use the title instead of Miss, Mrs, Mr or Ms.

Having a transgender title is a wonderful development for non-binary people, including androgynes such as myself. We really need a title like Mx when we fill out forms so we don't have to lie and say we're male or we're female. And it's so much better to use Mx in person because having to say you are a Mr or a Ms when you plainly are not is soul-destroying. Using Mx has made a world of difference to the happiness and well-being of many non-binary transgender individuals.

Aims of this article

In this document I aim to provide some clarity on a number of issues around Mx. I tackle some common misconceptions to break them apart and show how they simply don’t make sense when given a little thought.

In this comprehensive article about Mx, my second and by far the largest one found anywhere either online or offline, I look at the way Mx came into being, how it has been used over the last thirteen years or so, how non-transgender people have been reacting to it, and how its use might change over time.

I discuss what the recent addition of Mx to dictionaries means for its future, what kind of people it seems to refer to, and its possible effects on the future lives and well-being of gender-questioning people throughout the English speaking world. And I have a detailed look at the dangers of inappropriate use, as missteps are certainly possible and could be unfortunate.

I've taken the time to explore many issues relating to Mx because much of the commentary to date seems superficial, idealistic or prescriptive, and not well-grounded in real-world experience.

Some readers may have been mislead by bold assertions that Mx is not a transgender title, or alternatively that Mx is for everyone, or they may even have heard the foolish notion that it can somehow be used as some sort of non-title. Anyone who believes any of this, or thinks Mx could be successfully used to conceal their gender may well find, by the time they finish reading this document in its entirety, that they have changed their mind. Better put the kettle on!

I've made this second, much longer document because anyone considering using Mx needs to think it through carefully and thoroughly before making an informed choice. Certainly, not all transgender people will want to use it, though it may be a boon to many in their day-to-day lives, especially those transgender individuals living mostly among non-transgender people.

In the body of the article you will find a list of plurals and full spellings for Mx, Miss, Mrs, Mr and Ms, and a brief discussion of one of my preferred pronouns, the singular they.

The are five appendices to this document. The first three are rough definitions of gender terms as they are used here, details of scanned documents which show my own consistent and extensive use of Mx since 2002, and the early use of Mx in fiction and internet discussions. The final two have resources for allies and some important suggestions for form makers. They're all well worth a read.

In preparing this document I’m very grateful to have had input not only from transgender and agender individuals, but also from some cisgender (i.e. non-transgender) people, because Mx is most certainly also about them. Mx or Mix is not just a title used within the transgender community, it is at a crucial point in the interface between us and society at large. It has been used in correspondence and verbally by governments, businesses, other organisations and cisgender individuals, when they seek to address transgender people with respect.

The more academic readers will observe that I am not well-read in theories of gender and theories of titles and labels, and I do not contribute to their ongoing development as such. Instead, I offer a unique perspective on the use of Mx, being at least one of the earliest and most consistent users of it. I am possibly the only one of the early adopters still around and still calling themself by the title Mx.

Navigation in this article

Click on a heading to jump to that section, or simply scroll down. Click on Top to come back to the beginning.

Introduction
Aims of this article
Navigation in this article
What is your gender anyway?
About my rough definitions
The origins of Mx, and who has been using it
What are titles for?
The exclusivity of titles
People who have no gender
My long and successful use of Mx
Benefits, and what other users say
Theory versus practice
Transsexual men and women: Mr and Mrs
1977, 1982: Nothing to see here, move along folks

Is Mx subversive, revolutionary, or evolutionary?

Plurals

Personal pronouns: the singular they

The advantages of Mx and Mix

Appearances are not deceiving, except when they are

Mx is not a panacea—regrettable mistakes
A case of mistaken identities?
The genderless agenda

How to avoid stating your gender without using Mx

How to address someone when you don't know their gender, without using Mx

Why supporters should not use Mx
What allies can do
More consequences of random use
Mx in dictionaries
Is Mx gender-neutral?
Organisations accepting Mx
Form makers and designers
Summary
Conclusion
Acknowledgements
Links
Media Style Guides
Call out to others using Mx or Mix

Creative Commons copyright notice (CC-BY-NC-SA)
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Headings in the appendices (see
Five Appendices, opens in a separate window):

Appendix One: Rough definitions

Appendix Two: Documentation of real Mx usage from 2002 onwards

Appendix Three: 1977, 1982, Mx in fiction and the Usenet

Appendix Four: Issues for form makers

Appendix Five: Resources for allies


What is your gender anyway?

Most people in the Western world seem to put many gender-related characteristics into one of just two groups: male and female (or masculine and feminine). Since every person on the planet has their own notions of what these terms mean I will not try to describe them here. In any case this binary division is breaking down more and more as time goes by.

How you think of yourself in terms of gender really springs from a feeling or intuitive sense which is innate. From deep within your psyche you self-identify as male, female, or something else such as a mixture or none of these. Your own sense of your gender (your gender identity) may change over time or fluctuate between various genders but it has its own timetable and direction. It's not something you can choose or change—you can only discover it, explore it and live it.

For most people their anatomical sex and their gender identity match up fairly well. But in the case of transgender people there is a major mis-match; or, at least, that is one way of looking at it. My point is that gender is independent of sexual anatomy, and this article is only concerned with gender. Within gender, this article is only concerned with one's own sense of one's gender, and not with gender expression beyond the use of gendered titles and pronouns.

About my rough definitions

Defining gender terms is a central problem in any discussion of gender identity. To minimise the time spent on such quandaries here I have provided some rough-and-ready descriptions of how I use certain terms, just for the purposes of this document. They're in Appendix One (opens in a new window). Many individuals dislike being labelled, especially by gender labels, while others, including some questioning their own gender identity, actively seek out or invent such labels.

I hope the shortcomings of my attempts at making definitions here will not cause offence or make anyone feel their own experiences, whether lived or internal, are in any way regarded as less valid than anyone else's.

Strangely enough, it is practically impossible to define any gender term for use in a wide range of circumstances, and that includes the terms male and female. Sure, you can make a definition for a certain purpose but as soon as you move away from that narrow application you'll find your definition falls apart.

Take for example woman, an adult human female. If a person looks, talks, and self-identifies as a woman, is that enough to call her a woman, or does she also have to be fertile? There are many infertile women. Does she have to have female reproductive organs? Perhaps she's had a hysterectomy. Or does she need female genes in her chromosomes? There have always been women in the world who were born looking female, who grew up as and thought of themselves as women, and who went to their graves never having been pregnant and never having had a period. They may have been genetically male, had a vagina but no penis, no ovaries and no uterus. All their lives from the cradle to the grave they and their families may have been none the wiser, always thinking of them as women. Such people are often very feminine in self identity and appearance. If you define woman as an adult who is genetically female they are not women, but I'd still say they are women. See the open letter Prof. Milton Diamond Writes to Greer.


So, bearing in mind that any definition of these gender terms is inevitably going to be inaccurate, of limited application, misleading, possibly controversial and a little bit wrong, I have produced a few brief descriptions of these terms in that first appendix:

Cisgender man, cisgender woman, cisgender person (i.e. most people)
Transsexual person (a term apparently losing currency, but it serves a purpose here)
Transgender person (here not including transsexual; in this article it means non-binary transgender)
Intersex person
Androgyne
Agender, genderless, non-gender identity
The gender binary
Non-binary gender

In this article I've used transsexual separately to transgender because members of these groups are likely to have different needs and attitudes in regard to titles in general and to Mx in particular.
The origins of Mx, and who has been using it

A fiction writer used Mx in a short story in 1977, and it was discussed briefly and sporadically in early Usenet newsgroups from 1982 (see heading '... Nothing to see here,' below). But who has actually been using Mx in the real world, in every day life?

Apart from myself in 2002 and before that a person in Victoria, Australia, there may have been many other people all over the English speaking world who were using Mx around the turn of the century. If so, I hope they will contact me. In more recent times the use of Mx has grown rapidly in the UK and the US.

Probably the most well-known high profile user is Mx Justin Vivian Bond. This multi-talented performing artist, who sings in a genuine voice without miming, is transgender and began using Mx in 2011.

Mx Bond blogged "I … adopted Mx because it implies a mix which is the least offensive and most general way I’ve been able to come up with to find a prefix that clearly states a trans identity without amplifying a binary gender preference, or even acknowledging the gender binary at all. You may call me Justin, or Vivian or 'V.'"

V said to Katherine Rosman, of Business Day Live, "It sounded like an obvious description of what I was: a mix of genders…"

This is very similar to how I use and pronounce Mx (as Mix). But I also think Mx has the potential to encompass a little more than this.
What are titles for?

Titles are as much for describing a person to you as they are for indicating how you should or could interact with them. Mx signals to you that the person is not a Mr or a Ms; that is, they are not binary gendered, not exclusively male or female. As with the other common titles it's an advance warning or early indication of something fundamental about that person, which could be important to the way you will want to interact with them. Like those other titles, you are only advised of a very limited set of factors about what the person is like, and what they are not like.

Hearing or reading a title, any title, gives notice of the personal pronouns to use. If I see Mr, I’m going to use he; and a Miss, Mrs or Ms will be she. This is often all true regardless of whether the person is cisgender or transgender et cetera.

But what if the title is Mx? The right pronoun may well be the singular they, but it could be he, she, or any one of a long list of novel transgender personal pronouns which have been invented. When I see Mx I am alerted not to take for granted that a person with a feminine name, or feminine appearance, should automatically be called she. I’ll need to pick up the correct pronoun, which I can ask them for. It may well be stated on their website or their Facebook.

Without this advance warning from seeing Mx I might be stumbling in the dark as to what pronoun to use and so will have to guess. Often with a transgender person it will be the wrong pronoun, causing the serious offence of misgendering. Everyone hates this, both the people saying the wrong thing and the people hearing it, which can feel like little daggers piercing the heart. Many non-binary people tire of constantly correcting people they meet and simply suffer this in silence. I find using what is clearly a transgender or agender title for myself, Mx, greatly helps the people around me to use more appropriate pronouns.

It seems titles are very important; all adults have one, and we are often asked for ours when we fill out forms and make online applications. They exist in many languages. In English they are very numerous if you count courtesy, religious and formal titles in addition to the common or honorific titles like Mx and Mr.

They don't define people in any great detail (and how could you define a person anyway?) But using Mx makes it obvious that the person in question is an out and proud transgender or agender individual—that is the basic message the person is sending.

Importantly, a title provides a way of addressing a person with respect, something the world always seems to need more of.

Titles related to a person's function, such as Rev, Dr or Prof, have the additional purpose of showing where a person sits in an organisational or work sense, at the very least. But what of common titles, such as Mr or Miss? The traditional common titles are all gendered: they tell you if the person is male or female, but, as we all now know, that hides the fact that some people simply are not exclusively male or female. In part this fact was brought home to myself and many other people by learning about and getting to know intersex individuals, who are born with one or more of a large number of variations in sexual genetics and/or sexual physiology (such as the example above of women, born looking completely female, who are genetically male).

Even if we had not had the example of intersex people it should still have been obvious that many individuals are not exclusively masculine or feminine in their personalities, and in their own self-identification. So if the common titles are always at least partly for establishing gender, we need a new one, such as Mx, for those individuals who are not exclusively masculine or feminine.

But why else would anyone want to know? Marketers know in great detail who will be interested in their goods or services, starting with gender and then moving on to a long list of other more easily definable characteristics such as age, education, marital status et cetera. Like many people I have only grudging respect for marketers, especially because they fill my email inbox with all sorts of things I'm not interested in, and perhaps there is a point there: if they knew even more about me they might stop bothering me with irrelevant items. Maybe, maybe not.

Individuals who are single and perhaps available for a new relationship, or even just someone looking for a simple friendship (perhaps for playing sport or enjoying music), would like to know if the person they are about to meet could be a good match, which usually depends in part on gender. But is that a good enough reason for everyone having a gendered title? Or a title which shows their marital status? I'll leave that as an open question.

A couple of weeks ago I played piano at an artist's studio, part of a weekend event involving 14 open studios. Driving home afterwards I noticed the makeshift road sign with three lines of text: Open Studio, Artist, Judy Kotai. This made me think that personal labels can have quite a few important functions depending on the circumstance. Nobody would have wanted to know if these artists were married or not, and knowing their gender would not have been important. But the designation 'Artist' was of great value. These creative individuals find such labels both useful in some ways and limiting in others, and absolutely unavoidable.

Some people are very proud of their gendered honorific title, or their title as an artist or pianist, for example, and enjoy using it. I'd say it speaks to the need for identity in a general sense, which is a need we all have. In fact, we all have many identities if you count our roles in our family, at work, and in our recreational pursuits.

Cisgender Judy Kotai with Mx Margaret at piano 2015
Cisgender artist Judy Kotai,
with Mx Margaret at the piano

Titles are so ubiquitous they must serve some essential, or at least, very useful, purpose. This makes me think they are not going to disappear any time soon. Since androgynes like myself and other non-binary people can't honestly use the traditional titles, we need our own. It would not be enough for me to have a title which effectively meant 'no title,' so I am glad I have something positive which means 'this is the sort of person I am,' even if that necessarily leaves a lot to discover. Or perhaps I like it precisely because it does leave a lot to the imagination.
The exclusivity of titles

Titles, like any form of label or category, are both exclusive and inclusive at the same time. For example, I think we can agree Mr includes married men and unmarried men. And widowers, and men who were born female. But it excludes all women.

Likewise, Mx has been used in ways that include a variety of non-binary transgender or agender identities, which to me seems a very good way to use it. But any title necessarily must have its limits, and I doubt if transsexual people will want to use Mx simply because they identify strongly with either a masculine or a feminine identity. Despite having said that, I would be the last person to criticise a transsexual man or woman who used Mx because they thought it was appropriate to their own understanding of their gender, or thought it was a good practical solution for them.
People who have no gender

As an androgyne I often feel genderless. That is, often I think of myself as having no gender identity. But this can change in an instant and I may suddenly feel I'm a mixture, or on rare occasions I may identify weakly or strongly as a man or as a woman.

I recall, many years ago, frequently having the notion that I really should be a woman, or should have been born female. In fact that was much of the time for many years. And for a few days each year I used to have an intense feeling that I really should be a man. This has slowly changed over the years and now I'm probably more of the genderless type or mixed type most of the time. So, androgyne I am.

However, some non-binary individuals report they have no gender identification as a permanent state. That is, they don't think of themselves as masculine or feminine, and not as some sort of mixture. Though they are agender themselves, most seem to accept that most other people do have some sense of having a gender. On the other hand a few, probably just a few, would like to see gender as a concept disappear completely. I think they should not hold their breath on that one because most people enjoy being men or women and are proud of that. That's not to say their own genderless nature and experience is not very real; there is no question agender people deserve our respect and careful consideration.

Individuals may have aspects about their nature which are innate but their expression and exploration of their nature and their way of living in the world constantly changes. To think otherwise ignores the reality of daily life.

Many people questioning their own gender identity will often spend years, even decades, wondering what they are really all about. If they can adopt the use of Mx, regardless of whether it only refers to mixed gender or also includes no gender, that may make their lives and their journeys of self-discovery much less fraught with difficulty, especially when you consider that many non-binary people find they are not consistently transgender or agender but fluctuate between these two over a period of days, weeks, months, years or decades.

If Mix finally settles as the full spelling of Mx it could be the perfect title for more than just those individuals who are themselves mixtures. That's because Mx could be seen to refer to a mixture of a great variety of non-binary gender identifications, in which case it would certainly and easily encompass both agender and transgender people. Among these people a great many different gender labels are currently in use, each one providing a different nuance to the concept of gender identity. Mx could become an umbrella title for all or most of these many different types of transgender and agender identities, and this is how I think of it when I use it to refer to myself. I'm Mx Margaret Jones, an androgyne. Someone else may be Mx Mary Smith, who is agender, or is transgender, or is genderqueer, et cetera.
My long and successful use of Mx

To the best of my knowledge I'm the earliest adopter of Mx still using it, and only the second person to use it consistently in a personal and/or public context. By using internet searches, communication with others known to be currently using Mx, reading anything I could find about it online, and the wide distribution in many English speaking countries of my previous article and my video (82,000 YouTube impressions with a very high view rate), I found dozens of transgender people using Mx in several countries. However, all this has failed to find anyone else using Mx prior to myself or the person I heard was using it at the time I took it up.

I feel a great responsibility, therefore, to relate the story of my own real-world experience of Mx over such a long time span.

I briefly mentioned my own use of Mx or Mix in an earlier article, which also has a discussion and useful information about the entry in the OED. I began using Mx after hearing about that person using it in Victoria who was both transgender and intersex (I wish I could recall their name or who told me about them). I thought "What a great idea, as an androgyne this suits me perfectly." Since then most of my bills have come addressed to Mx Margaret Dylan Jones. Elsewhere online I have scans of these bills or official documents (see Appendix Two, opens in a new window) and some are featured in my video
New Mx title now in OED.

In July 2004 millions of Australians watched ABC television's popular George Negus Tonight (GNT) programme as they broadcast a seven-minute feature on me, titled "Mx Jones." They consistently called me 'Mix.' The transcript is still online at http://www.abc.net.au/gnt/people/Transcripts/s1158647.htm

When I perform live as a pianist or accompanist I'm introduced as 'Mix Margaret.' That includes playing for community choirs, and accompanying school students in their public or private performance exams and their eisteddfod competitions. People address me that way with no hesitation. In all these years I have not had any problems using Mx, except for a few times when computer operators found their programs could not accommodate a new title, but I believe that is now changing fast, especially in the UK.

It seems everyone finds using Mx or Mix to address me makes perfect sense. I don't even need to go into long explanations, I just say "My title is Mix, spelt m-x or m-i-x." It's really simple, that's all there is to it.

Either side of 2000 I spent many years heavily involved in trans community groups but for me the issues of coming out as transgender and then figuring out how to make my own way in the world as an androgyne are now in the distant past. In part I attribute my successful life since then to the use of Mx. I live and work among the general cisgender population who know me well, respect me as a person, and respect me for my work. I've been happy and productive as a music teacher and pianist; as a taxi driver, operator & dispatcher (in Perth and in a remote mining town); as a disability support worker, mental health worker, supermarket staffer, and as a security officer. For over four years dozens of families have placed great trust in me as a continuous house sitter.

I've practically never had a problem being accepted as a transgender androgyne working in these positions in many companies, dealing with thousands of customers (when driving taxis) or cooperating as a team member with hundreds of work colleagues. In five years of full-time taxi driving, half of it at night, there were only two occasions when grumpy passengers made derogatory comments about my transgender status, and I do recall being flatly rejected by another disability organisation because I'm transgender, but these stand out as the exceptions which prove the rule. I was even headhunted by one firm, and when deciding to move on I've often been asked by employers to reconsider. I still get overtures asking me to come back.

Mx Margaret in pink top, 2004
Mx Margaret as taxi driver, in pink top, 2004
Benefits, and what other users say

Mental and physical health outcomes are poorer for transgender people as a group. There are many reasons for that, but certainly one daily kick in the teeth is having to use the wrong title (and the wrong pronouns). It can be a strain when you are constantly using a title that seriously doesn't fit you, or you're trying to avoid using any title at all. It's bound to have effects on you in subtle and deep ways, perhaps making your subconscious think you are unworthy, or you don't really exist because while you are called a 'Mr' or a 'Miss' you are not that, maybe you are a fraud. For some people "I think, therefore I am" is not enough. It needs to be "I think I am a Mx, therefore I am a Mx." Ah, now that feels better.

In private correspondence with others using Mx I've found a surprising uniformity in how they feel about Mx and how they use it, despite most of these individual users having never had any contact with each other or even knowledge of each other, and having read very little about it. This strongly suggests Mx has natural attributes which really suit its use as a transgender title. It's easy to say and very practical; these and several other advantageous characteristics will soon see it spread even more widely among transgender individuals. The transgender community may really be on to something good with this title.

Mx Bond, or V, said in private correspondence in reference to a draft of this article "The part about being forced to lie about our identity was especially resonant." (October 2015)

Another user of Mx wrote to me thus (anonymous, November 2015):

"My own gender seems to be very fluid. I began exploring [my gender identity] 10 years ago, which led me down a rabbit hole of exploration full of excitement, finding myself, questioning everything, coming up and struggling with the paradoxes of myself and my gender expression.  

"I began a journey of medically transitioning [many years ago], identifying as a FTM transsexual. Though I felt whole, the reality of my life came back and slapped me hard….my son was in high school and not taking the transition well and I was challenged with the identity of being a mother, and not wanting to let go of that identity, one that I was proud of, ... [I am] the sole provider for him. 

"After coming out to everyone in my life, clients, family, friends, I chose to discontinue my medical testosterone and pause on my transition. So many questions and no-one to seek with answers.  My mental health was [not good] …

"I had a friend (a curandera or faith healer) who walked me through it. I came across the term Mx I believe in an online article. Which seemed to fit. I was a mix. Two spirited. Gender-blurred, an in-between. I liked the title and it helped me navigate those challenging years where I felt like I was in nowhere land, I put it as a title on FB and soon people started calling me that.  

"I guess [I use Mx] to give my gender a title, to others but also to myself.

"[I use it on the] internet, and friends will write that title out on invitations or introductions. I plan to use it in formal legal papers as now it is recognized.

"I pronounce it 'mix.'

"It's been good, seems to sum up where I am, [in six years of using Mx] I haven't had a bad experience with it.

"I've noticed heteronormative cisgender friends and acquaintances must look it up and cue in on it. I no longer get intrusive questions about my gender, more like they drop hints that they understand etc. and we move on."

For my own account, around the time I began calling myself an androgyne and took up using Mx, I found I could stop having to constantly wonder what I was. Now I knew I was a 'Mx,' and so did all the people around me and all the people and organisations I had dealings with. That was a big weight off my mind, it's something that non gender-questioning folk don't have to deal with. They don't wonder day and night if they are a man, or woman, they just take it for granted and run with it. They express it, sometimes consciously and sometimes not consciously. They live it. Now I can do that, too. I can get on with my life (and since 2002 I have). I can focus on many other important things, such as work, family and creative activities.
Theory versus practice

Some argue over what Mx was intended to mean and who was supposed to use it but that is pointless. Words only get their meaning from how they are used and who uses them.

This point was aptly noted
by a person calling themself Bruce, in a post in a 1982 Usenet thread about gendered titles: “Discussions of how language ought to be are interesting, but standard usage is the real authority.” See Appendix Three: 1977, 1982, Mx in fiction and the Usenet (opens in a new window).

Let's not worry too much about exactly what sort of transgender identities Mx should denote. The 'x' can easily be interpreted as a wild card so it could refer to all sorts of transgender types. There is a long list, growing constantly; the latest I heard was the lovely galaxygender, which is a sort of ‘big mix’ of everything. The 'x' could also remind people of the word 'intersex,' if they know it. Most intersex individuals do not consider themselves in any way transgender, but a few do. So it's easy to imagine those few may like to use Mx, and some already do, as did the first user I ever knew of all those years ago.
Transsexual men and women: Mr and Mrs

People using Mx are not likely to be transsexual. Presumably, most transsexual men or women find the traditional titles such as Mr, Mrs, Miss and Ms are the appropriate ones for them. At the risk of generalising, they seem to embody the traditional genders of male or female, and I for one think that's great. I like some gender differences. Vive la différence! I don't advocate the end of gender as we know it for people who have a binary gender identification, which must be most of about seven billion people.

My understanding is that transsexual individuals know themselves to be exclusively either men or women in terms of their inner identity, but they’ve been born with a body which has the opposite anatomy and physiology. I say 'opposite' because many, but not all, transsexual people seem to have a fairly binary view of gender, or, at least, of their own gender experience, just the same as most people in the world. I respect that just as I respect the experience of many cisgender people who also think of themselves as exclusively binary.

The average Jo or Joe in the street knows there are men, and there are women. Jo and Joe often find it difficult to see how one could change into the other. So do I.

On the other hand, in my experience Josephine and Giuseppe never seem to have a problem with the idea that two things, or two groups of characteristics such as male and female, could be mixed. And why should they? All sorts of other things regularly get mixed, and perhaps they feel a little mixed themselves at times. You can mix dog breeds, you can put a black bonnet or hood on a white car (which seems to be in fashion where I live), and you can graft lemons with other citrus trees.

Even small children don't seem to have any problem with this concept. They sometimes ask If I'm a girl or a boy (meaning man or woman). I simply say, "No, I'm not." Many androgynes could tell you the same true story.

But just as you can’t change a dog into a cat, you can’t change a man into a woman or vice versa. People who seem to make this transition have not changed their real selves at all—they’ve only changed some features of their bodies and the way they appear, and perhaps the way they talk et cetera. If you are a woman born in a male body you’re still always going to be a woman. I don’t know why some people find this so hard to understand.

In a paper published a year ago researchers at the Medical University of Vienna claim to have found differences in brain structure in transgender or transsexual people, compared to non-trans people. The reproductive organs of the unborn child develop earlier than these gender-marking brain structures, when hormonal levels which influence such development may have been different. The difference in developmental timing combined with a change in hormone levels along the way may well explain how some individuals can have the brain structure for a particular gender identity which is different to their body's physiology. See Networks of the brain reflect the individual gender identity, another link for the same, and White matter microstructure in transsexuals and controls investigated by diffusion tensor imaging.

One may speculate that this causal explanation may eventually be found to apply to many types of transgender people, not only transsexual people. In any case it does lend weight to the claim of the latter that they are really men, or women, but born with female or male physiology, respectively.

So, far from being delusional, the claim of being a woman born in a male body or a man born in a female body, is exactly the opposite—it’s a profound truth. And this truth is undeniable on a personal level. These individuals were born with a brain which was destined, as young people and adults, to give them some sort of transgender, transsexual, or agender identity.

Were bigots born with bigoted brains? Possibly, but I doubt it. They just need to get over it.
1977, 1982: Nothing to see here, move along folks

An article or short story by fiction writer Pat Kite, published in 1977, seems to be the earliest use of Mx in print. A man and a woman at a party are having a conversation about gendered titles. The woman says:

“… 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.  That would solve the gender problem entirely.”

Methinks calling both sexes Mx would not solve any problem at all. And I don’t know if Pat Kite thought so, either. This is, after all, spoken by a fictitious character.

The next appearance of Mx may have been in twentieth century Usenet conversations. Digging through online records of these conversations was sometimes a fun diversion for me when preparing this article. But mostly it was quite boring, especially because I found very little discussion of Mx. In fact, I found only a handful of mentions, among only a bit more than a handful of very brief and generally superficial discussions of gender titles.

Until I began preparing this article I’d never heard of these Usenet posts, nor the magazine article, but that was no great impediment as these are hardly in-depth or meaningful discussions.

Could the misguided advice that Mx is for everyone have stemmed from a few of these Usenet posts? They can’t seriously be taken to have any prescriptive value for how Mx should or could be used. Apart from just one person saying in an early Usenet post they had used Mx intermittently for very limited purposes (including a quasi-transgender use), they do not show Mx being used effectively, or even ineffectively. Their value is purely academic.

A description of the results of my searches, and links to their sources (including the short story), is in Appendix Three: 1977, 1982, Mx in fiction and the Usenet (opens in a new window).
Is Mx subversive, revolutionary, or evolutionary?

I'm no revolutionary. Or perhaps I am. Now, there's a Mix-ed answer if ever there was one.

Was the composer Claude Debussy (d.1918) a revolutionary? He was not one for explaining his music. Quite the opposite, in fact. He did not theorise about or propose new ways of using harmony, rhythm, melody and texture. Rather, he just did it. To a music professor he said "There is no theory. You have merely to listen… " In his compositions he found some very new ways of making music, which delighted audiences but confounded the critics.

Debussy's musical revolution has been a great success. A hundred years later his music is still adored by audiences and his influence is frequently heard in the works of many other composers and thus enjoyed by millions of people. Modern concert goers find his famous music familiar and engaging, not revolutionary or confronting, especially when compared to the atonal music and 12-tone music of Schoenberg.

The ever-theorising musical revolutionary, Arnold Schoenberg (d.1951), practically invented atonal and 12-tone composition. He said "People should know my tunes and whistle them." And his student Webern said "Sometime even the postman will whistle my melodies." A century later this has still not happened. Much as I admire the music of Schoenberg and Webern, and have even composed music in homage to them, their story suggests that telling the general public what to do or what to like must have its limitations.

With the wisdom of hindsight, Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (1894) is now seen to have heralded a huge and fundamental change in music. Debussy's to us rather subtle style had a subversive influence on a vast array of other composers and other genres. It is hard to imagine some other twentieth century styles of classical music without the ground-breaking compositions of Debussy. Now, there's a revolutionary.

Debussy did all that on his own and his music worked well from the outset.
Mx as it is currently used cannot be said to have been invented by just one individual; a number of people over many years tossed it around before it became a useable title. But, similar to Debussy's music, it has worked perfectly right from the time transgender people first began using it as a title in real life, without needing explanations or manifestos.

And like Debussy's wide and pervasive effect on music, Mx is having a subtle but profound effect on the whole notion of gender identity.

Mx was first used or revealed by a fiction writer, and radical commentators now want it to be used in various ways, but I think evolution is a better explanation than invention or revolution for its origin and continuing success. Mx is filling a niche, it's being used because it satisfies a strong need among some transgender people for a title to use in everyday life and be proud of. It arose as a small modification of the traditional honorifics and is based on an existing word. If it works well in the jungle of competing gender titles it will survive.
Plurals

It seems to me that Mx is naturally an abbreviation of mix or mixture. But what about the plural? Obviously, Mixes.

The best descriptions I've found of traditional titles and their plurals come from a couple of sites. From grammar-monster.com:

Miss., Mrs., and Ms. are all contractions of the word Mistress.

Some plurals:

Mr. is Messrs. (pronounced "messers")

Miss. is The Misses. [apparently including the definite article]

Mrs. is Mesdames (pronounced "maydahm")

Ms. is Mss. or Mses. (pronounced "mzes").

To which we may now add:

Mx. is Mixes.

From en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr. :

Mr, Mister, title derived from earlier forms of master. The modern plural form is Misters, although its usual formal abbreviation is Messrs.

In the US titles are usually followed by a full stop (as in most of this section on plurals) but in Australia and the UK they usually are not.
Personal pronouns: the singular they

Quite a few new words have been proposed as pronouns for transpeople, going back many decades. In the section above on who has been using Mx I mentioned Mx Bond, whose solution to the problem of pronouns is to use the letter v, derived from V's middle name, Vivian.

In my case I'm happy to be referred to using the female pronouns such as she and her, or the singular they (they, them, their, theirs, themself). If you were talking or writing about me you might say "Mx Jones wrote an article where they said 'XYZ.' That's their opinion but I don’t agree with them." Easy!

Contrary to popular belief the use of the singular they is not generally considered ungrammatical even if it seems exceptional, and it certainly goes back many centuries. It was only in the nineteenth century that theorists decided he, his and him should stand in place of all humanity. Fortunately, they were not able to stamp out the use of the singular they and it is still easily used and understood today. People constantly use it in everyday speech. If Chaucer, Shakespeare, Austen and many other great writers could use it, so can we. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singular_they (opens in a new window).

Singular they seems an especially good choice for individuals experiencing their gender in some pluralistic way. It works well for myself. Myselves?

Facebook uses the singular they for members who ask to be known as gender neutral (I'd prefer to say 'non-binary' rather than 'gender neutral'—see the heading Is Mx gender-neutral? below). To do this in your Facebook, follow this path (if you begin in Home view start with Edit Profile near the top left): About - Contact and basic info - Basic information. Here you can choose Female, Male or Neutral from the pull-down menu where you are asked “Which pronoun do you prefer?” Neutral will automatically make Facebook consistently refer to you using they, them, and their.

Just above this in the same section (Basic information) you can specify your gender, at the pull-down menu called Gender. Here you choose from Female, Male or Custom, and you also decide who can see this aspect of you. I chose Custom and called myself ‘androgyne’ simply by typing that word in the Gender box, and I chose ‘Public’ from the pull-down menu. For other gender terms available on Facebook see my blog article Facebook now has 50 genders (new window; I believe there are now even more than 50).
The advantages of Mx and Mix

Don’t be misled by thinking my background as a vocal and speech teacher, or my being an offspring of a wonderful and prolific writer and poet, has somehow skewed my attitude to the pronunciation and spelling of Mx as Mix—though they have, of course, informed it. There can be no doubt that ease of pronunciation and aural comprehension (that is, how easy it is to say, hear and understand), are absolutely vital to the continuing uptake of Mx and its long-term future. An awkward or difficult to understand way of saying it, or a difficult to remember full spelling, just won’t cut it, it won’t wash with the masses.

Mx has some valuable attributes and functions. In particular, Mx

  • allows androgynes like myself and other transgender and agender people to be open about our gender;

  • allows us to fill-in forms truthfully, without lying; and

  • is an elegant solution.

Mix as a pronunciation, and as the alternative or full spelling, has some important advantages over other possibilities.

  • Mix doesn’t fall foul of automatic spell-checkers;
  • is almost as easy to use as the abbreviation, being only three letters;
  • is still obviously a title;
  • needs little or no explanation; and
  • retains the meaning or implication of mixture.

Mx is easy to say; everyone already knows how to pronounce it and it’s unlikely to be misheard as Ms. Mx or Mix is already proven to work perfectly in the real world since at least 2002.

The commentator Patrick Shawn Fitzgerald (private correspondence, November 2015) draws a parallel with onomatopoeia, where the sound of a word evokes or matches what it describes. In the case of Mx, the most likely (default) pronunciation exactly matches the full spelling:
“Mx works [in an analogous way to] an onomatopoeia, where the pronunciation of the word is the same as the meaning of it, like “bing” or “ding.” Mx = mix, as in mixture. It’s the perfect honorific for those … whose genders are—for lack of a better term—mixtures of male/female, whether physical or ‘spiritual.’”

The current OED definition for Mx
(in their online version) provides two pronunciations: /mɪks/ (which is Mix) and /məks/. The latter is very close to ‘Mucks’ and ‘Mex.’ It should be self-evident to anyone in North America that the place of ‘Mex’ in the language is already taken. And who would want to be called ‘Mucks?’

The natural default pronunciation of Mix will slowly overtake any other if it hasn’t already; it’s what will survive in the long run.
Appearances are not deceiving, except when they are

Mx is about a person's own sense of gender identity, and that is not wholly dependent on their appearance, presentation or expression. How they make themself look or otherwise present themself is their gender expression. Of course, this usually has a lot to do with how they think of their own personal gender but, essentially, their gender identity is separate to all of that, it’s an internal thing. It’s how they think of themself, which might not match how they look.

Many non-binary individuals radically change their presentation to match what is between their ears—this doesn’t change who they are in their own terms, in their own minds. But some non-binary people do not change their presentation, for all sorts of reasons. For one thing, it can be enormously challenging on a whole range of psychological fronts, let alone socially, medically or financially. Or they might well ask indignantly “And why should I?”

There are many terms to describe this kind of situation and most of us have been there at some point. There must be many people experiencing their gender like this, and many of them prefer not to change their gender presentation at all. Their internal gender identity differs from their appearance, making them mixtures in another sense.

Whatever terms are used these people are definitely somewhere in the ‘great mixture’ of non-binary gender types, as I call it. Therefore, it seems to me that a male-presenting or female-presenting person, who was born male or female, respectively, who has an internal identity of transgender or agender, or even transsexual, could at least consider using Mx. But that’s subject to many caveats.

That is, such a decision is complicated and should not be made lightly. I’d like to think it was simple, that anyone could ‘come out’ as transgender et cetera and the world would be happy. However, describing yourself as transgender when you present, or still present, as cisgender may be very confronting to the people around you and the people you deal with on a daily basis. And your boss. So, only for the brave, or the foolish.

Which, I recall, were exactly the words I heard when announcing my own intentions in my 30s.
Mx is not a panacea—regrettable mistakes

Some novel uses of Mx may seem like a good idea at first thought, and some commentators have been running with them and recommending them, but a deeper examination of the practical implications reveals they are unlikely to work in the long run. Mx is not a panacea for all the unresolved or newly-emerged problems of communication found when using common titles.

Just as there is a genuine need for transgender people to have a title which provides a way of stating their gender status openly and honestly, and a way to fill out forms without lying, there is also a genuine need for anyone to be able to withhold gender information when they consider withholding it is necessary to avoid gender-based discrimination. For this reason I advocate the use of something like 'No title' in forms. See Appendix Four: Issues for form makers (opens in a new window).

A title which means 'I don't want to reveal my gender' might have been useful in certain situations where any person needs to fill out a form, and they could be a cisgender, transgender, transsexual or agender person. However, in the long run, I don't think that title will be Mx. For one thing, the fact that the pronunciation of Mx falls so naturally as 'mix’ means that 'mixture of gender characteristics' and/or 'I identify as agender' is most likely to be its destiny.

Even if Jo Public, reading a filled out form, thinks the 'x' refers to indeterminate or unspecified gender she is not likely to assume the person in question is a cisgender man or woman. In this day and age the more likely assumption is transgender, or perhaps intersex.

I can imagine this kind of conversation between a recruitment officer, such as Jo Public, and a cisgender job applicant: "I see you've put Mx as your title. We have a trans-inclusive hiring policy." Or "You've put Mx in the title field, but you're a Mr, a man, right?" Or, perhaps the mere use of Mx on the form will ensure no such conversation ever takes place. Avoiding discrimination requires a lot more than simply using a different title.

There is also the obvious problem of a cisgender person using Mx in person or in public. Let's say a very cisgender-looking person, for example a man called Giuseppe Bloggsnovich, is introduced or introduces himself as 'Mx G. Bloggsnovich.' It's immediately obvious he is masculine, a man. How can he expect Mx to conceal his gender when using it in person? Or on his social media site full of photos of himself? He can't, and the people he has just met will want to address him as 'Mr Bloggsnovich' and use the masculine pronouns he, his and him, especially if they realise he is not at all transgender. If he has previously identified himself in writing as Mx G. Bloggsnovich they will really be scratching their heads, and may wonder if he was trying to deceive them. Alternatively, they may believe that he really is in some way transgender (perhaps either a transman who was born female, or a male-born person who is just about to start taking female hormones). But that is not at all what he, as a cisgender man, really wants them to think.

Recently I've encountered the phenomenon of cisgender individuals being enthusiastically attracted to the mere concept of taking up the use of Mx, without knowing anything about it. I mentioned to a few acquaintances that the OED has just added Mx but before I could say very much about it I saw their eyes widen and heard their voices being raised. From their impulsive reactions and what they then said it seems just the novelty of a new title being put in a dictionary may make a person keen to 'give it a try,' as one person put it.  GIVE  IT  A  TRY?  (and now my voice is raised). Taking advantage of such enthusiasm to promote the experimental use of Mx by cisgender people might be easy, but it would be irresponsible.

Perhaps this initial burst of interest is due to a need to assuage the consternation often felt by many people when filling out forms which require them to choose between titles they don't like. But choosing Mx to 'give it a try' without proper consideration would be a poor decision, and the thrill of the new would soon wear off when practicalities kick in—and they might keep kicking in for that person for years to come.

A cisgender person might flippantly call themself 'transgender,' or use an offensive term, and dress up in some type of drag clothing, for example at a sports club function. To do this for fun and amusement is not uncommon, and reactions and views differ as to whether or not and to what extent this is offensive. A temporary self-description like this might not last beyond the evening's entertainment, whereas a change of title may become a permanent feature, even if only taken temporarily in jest or as a dare. A new title may be kept on file forever in records held by many organisations such as credit history agencies, insurers, finance lenders, rental boards, and government authorities. Even if a person subsequently changes their title back to something other than Mx, a record of the change might be kept in some places. So it's important to make a change to using Mx purposefully and not just for the fun of it or for some other frivolous reason.

Cisgender people using Mx instead of a traditional title for themselves, in an ultimately futile attempt to hide their gender, may also play into the hands of critics and transmisogynists (haters of transgender people) who claim transgender and agender people are really in some sense hiding or trying to avoid being men or women.
A case of mistaken identities?

The UK Deed Poll Service handles all sorts of name changes for all sorts of people, and sometimes the accompanying changes of titles. They have been a leader in implementing the use of Mx, and provide a good example of an organisation responding to the needs of the whole community.

However, their early adoption in 2011 of Mx is an example of how simply adding Mx to a list of available titles in an online form is not sufficient. It needs to be done with some care otherwise it may easily produce unintended results. Prime among these are 'forced errors' where customers, for various reasons, choose the wrong title, adversely affecting the quality of the data collected. There is no doubt getting this right will require ongoing review in the light of experience as the finer points of form design get tweaked to accommodate the new title and other developments.

The Service has told me:

"It is only this year [2015] that we have noticed cisgender people asking for Mx to be their new title when they are only changing their surname. Their forenames continue to identify gender."
I believe the cisgender people referred to here, if they are indeed cisgender, may have made a mistake or may have somehow been misled. Or they may have used Mx inadvertently because of a design aspect of the UK Deed Poll Service's online application form. It seems entirely plausible that they came to the online application form just for the purpose of changing their surname, entered a new surname, and then clicked on the wrong title before hitting ‘Enter.’

On the other hand, they may have done this deliberately, thinking that changing their title to Mx by deed poll would help them avoid revealing their gender on many other forms. Methinks purposefully changing their title to Mx is not going to help these men or women achieve the aim of concealing their gender unless they also plan to only use initials for their forenames because, according to the Service, their forenames "continue to identify gender."

It's also possible the people referred to here are in fact transgender or agender, not cisgender. Or perhaps they currently present as cisgender but are secretly gender-questioning and have adopted Mx as part of a plan to come out as transgender soon. It seems unsafe to assume they are cisgender just because they have not changed their first names.

The Service continued:
"But the overwhelming majority of people who apply to us [and use Mx] are still changing their first name usually to a gender-neutral first name..." and "I have just looked (randomly) at one month this year (which was January) and all but one of the deed polls issued that month for a change of title to Mx, had a change of first name."
That was eleven out of twelve people changing their title to Mx who also changed their first name to something that was definitely either gender-neutral or of the opposite gender. (The gender types of the names were confirmed in private correspondence with the Service.)

So it seems most, and possibly all, of the UK Deed Poll Service's Mx users have a non-binary gender identity. The few apparent cisgender individuals who used Mx may well have preferred to use 'No title' but this choice was not available on the Service's application page; in addition to Mr and Mrs etc, the form offered Mx and Other. 'Other' does not really imply 'No title,' it could be used appropriately by someone from a non English-speaking background whose honorific title is not listed, or an applicant might think 'Other' is for use by non-binary and intersex individuals. In the absence of 'No title' in the list, a cisgender person trying to avoid stating their gender may find Mx is the only choice left. I'm hoping the Service will add 'No title' or something similar to this list to avoid inadvertent or mistaken use of Mx.

Note that it is not normally necessary to use a deed poll or any other legal document or process for an adult to change their title. It’s usually very easy. After thinking it through very carefully and making the decision to use a different title, they just start using it, and tell everyone they know and all the businesses and government agencies they deal with. Generally, they are not committing any offence by changing from one title to another as long as they are not doing so for fraudulent purposes. If they change their title due to some material change of circumstances, such as getting married, getting divorced, or transitioning from male to female or vice versa, then failing to advise insurance companies, for example, could be an offence. (I'm no lawyer, and laws vary from country to country and place to place, so you ought to check with your favourite lawyer or attorney.)

Transgender people are using Mx to be open and honest. They are using it to be proud, showing they are sure of their gender and certainly not ashamed of it. A cisgender person deliberately using Mx to avoid revealing their gender has a very different intention; I suggest at the very least that's a strange way of using Mx, and it probably will not even work for that purpose.
The genderless agenda

It sometimes seems there is a move to make society at large quite genderless. While most agender individuals are very happy that most other people on the planet have some sort of gendered self-identity, there seems to be a desire among a few for the whole world to become genderless.

Encouraging cisgender people to use Mx to avoid acknowledging their gender, thus undermining the whole concept of gender, would suit such an outlook. If the use of Mx by cisgender people ever did become widespread the only logical result in the long run is that Mx would become quite meaningless. Mx would be a Clayton's title. (Does that reference work outside of Australia? That is, a title you have when you're not having a title, like a drink you have …) Mx would become useless if anyone and everyone was using it, ultimately rendering it a non-title and perhaps leading to the extinction of all common titles, which may suit those people who would like to see the world become genderless.

By definition, a title must distinguish between different types of people, otherwise it has no purpose. It simply can't work as a title if everyone uses it. Encouraging cisgender people to use Mx is either misguided or simply not well thought through. And it’s potentially done at great cost to the transgender community because Mx could be lost as a viable title.

I hope agender people will join me in promoting a more sensible and responsible use of Mx, because we (transgender and agender people) have so much in common and so much to gain. Even those individuals who do not wish to use Mx themselves stand to benefit.
How to avoid stating your gender without using Mx

Apart from the title place-holder 'No title,' there is currently no generally-accepted term for 'I don't want to reveal my gender.' Nor, I think, will there ever be one. But finding ways to avoid gender-based discrimination is a laudable aim.

I suggest the only way any person can avoid revealing their gender in forms is to not tick any box for male or female, not provide any title, not indicate their preferred pronouns, not write anything with other gender clues, and not display their first and middle names if they show gender (instead, they could use initials). Easy! Not.

Just using some sort of non-gendered title, or even a non-title such as 'No title,' will not suffice. (But there may be some point in form makers including ‘No title' because it accommodates the need felt by many to try to protect their identity in this way, and will also minimise mistaken use of Mx.)

Using a non-gendered title in person will obviously not do the trick, either. You are sprung as your gender even before you open your mouth to speak, as the fictitious Mr Bloggsnovich could attest.

I hope form makers will find and implement some way of making it easier for anyone, transgender or otherwise, to opt out of stating their gender, starting perhaps with something like 'No title' but including other measures.

In any case, the ultimate aim in this circumstance should not be to somehow deny one's gender, but to eliminate gender-based discrimination, which has next to nothing to do with titles and will persist even if a cisgender person uses Mx or a transgender person uses 'No title' or 'Other.'
How to address someone when you don't know their gender, without using Mx

Misgendering is offensive. Certainly, you should only ever use Mx to address a person if you are quite sure they already use it to identify themself. The fact that the person in question has used Mx to refer to others with respect is no guarantee they would also like to be addressed using Mx, regardless of whether they are cisgender or an out-and-proud transgender person. You don’t write “Dear Miss Schwarzenegger” unless you know for certain the person you’re writing to is a woman, because they might not be! If you mistakenly address any person with Mx who does not use it for themself, rather than feeling respected that person is likely to be offended.

How to address someone when you don't know their gender has long been a conundrum, but many workaround solutions continue to suffice. I suggest "Hello" when addressing someone in person, and perhaps adding their name. And "Hello Margaret Jones" or "Dear Margaret" when it's in a letter, or using something similar.

If there was an actual title for this, letter writers would be missing out on some creative opportunities, for example "Dear local constituent," or "Greetings to our new neighbours," which are more to the point, more engaging and carry more information than "Dear Madam/Sir" ever could.

In any case, after using Mx as an initial non-title title, the letter writer would still need to decide whether to use male or female pronouns, so the problem would continue. Somehow, we have all survived without using Mx or something else as a non-title and the sky has not fallen in. Using Mx for this purpose would lead to more problems, not less.
Why supporters should not use Mx

For a cisgender person to use Mx as a sign of support doesn't make a lot of sense and would not be helpful. Supporter use could be confusing to the general public and counterproductive to the interests of promoting transgender or non-binary recognition and legitimacy. It may also carry dangers for the supporter.

Methinks Mx will continue to be seen by the general public as denoting some sort of non-binary transgender status. I can imagine it might even be used for alerting friends and family in advance that one is about to reveal one is transgender.

A supporter using Mx will have the same problems as someone posting nude selfies on the internet: it may reach unintended places and be impossible to completely undo.

Transgender and transsexual people sometimes encounter problems at customs and other checkpoints, especially if official documents, old records and the person's appearance do not match. A cisgender person traveling abroad who has used Mx in the past may find it comes back to haunt them and makes for quite a bad trip.
What allies can do

Transgender and agender people have many friends and allies, with more and more as time goes by.

Allies can help in a great many ways, both big and small. They can help us by challenging ignorant off-colour comments behind our backs. Even better than this, they can act proactively by mentioning us in a good light before a work colleague makes an idiot of themself. And, especially, they can become educated about our lives and our issues, and help spread that learning.

To promote appropriate use of Mx see the extensive list of ideas and suggestions in Appendix Three: Resources for allies (new window).

It’s not worth engaging in heated debates with bigots or trolls; best just to move on and leave them to it. Work on educating those who are willing to at least listen.

Allies can help us become more well-known in person as ‘real people’ instead of as interesting news items on a slow news day. If our individuality and diversity can be brought out we may defeat the stereotyped images which have hurt us, like any other minority or marginalised group.
More consequences of random use

A physical commodity or a skill may be valuable because of its scarcity.

A title is not quite like that because it can be replicated at no cost. But its value or utility still depends on it having some sort of limited availability or applicability. As a meaningful title Mx will disappear if all adults can use it, instead of only certain types of adults, such as non-binary people.

If, through widespread random use by cisgender people, Mx came to mean 'I don't want to reveal my gender,' how would that affect the use of it by transgender and agender people? I suppose the non-binary user of Mx would then be seen to be trying to hide their gender—exactly the opposite of how we currently use it. Its widespread adoption by cisgender people would not only make Mx next to meaningless as a title, but also by giving it the non-title implication of concealment, it would reverse the meaning we understand it to have today.

So what began, in practical terms, as something powerful that could lead to the betterment of non-binary transgender people (both as individuals and as a group), could instead, by misuse, lead very much to our detriment. In effect we would not only lose our own gender-affirming title, we might be seen as devious people trying to hide our genders, or what is possibly even worse, strange people trying to avoid being 'real' men or 'real' women.
Mx in dictionaries

Dictionaries, by their very nature, simply report or describe how words are currently used, and some dictionaries also record how usage has changed over time. The main point about any new word is how it is being used in the real world, not how anyone thinks it should be used.

To date, Mx as a title has been used almost exclusively by, and to refer to, various transgender or agender individuals, some of whom were also intersex. I’m not aware of a single confirmed case of a cisgender person using Mx, whether consistently or intermittently, except for one who mentions occasionally using it in a Usenet post decades ago. And that one Usenet user is really only of historical interest.

However, the definition given in the Oxford English Dictionary online version when Mx was added earlier this year is not simply descriptive of how Mx is really being used, it also has a prescriptive element. Despite this, the four recent examples they give of the use of Mx by organisations or individuals are all unambiguously transgender uses, so they all clearly contradict the prescriptive element of the OED's own definition. That part of their definition does not reflect current or recent practice, nor does it reflect earlier practice.

There are significant dangers in dictionaries publishing prescriptive definitions that are not based on how Mx is really being used. This may mislead individuals and organisations into using Mx in ways that are not based on example, not recognised by the general community, not well thought-out, and which may have unintended and regrettable consequences.

Dictionary makers should not develop or change a definition based on simple errors in the way a word is used. The occasional cisgender person who inadvertently chooses Mx from a pull-down menu or a list of radio buttons online has hardly made a correct or informed choice, especially if there are design flaws in the form which dramatically increase the likelihood of getting confused or making the wrong choice for other reasons. Or perhaps someone's eyesight was poor or the room light was dim when tackling a hardcopy form with a pen that hardly worked. Mistakes like these can hardly be counted as legitimate uses of Mx. Unfortunately, because Mx as a title appears on many forms and is seen by a great many people to whom it is fairly new or completely unknown, the rate of false positive-type errors will be much higher than for other new words.

Once a major dictionary, such as the prestigious OED, defines a new term other dictionaries are likely to be heavily influenced by it (whether directly or indirectly). This can result in confirmation bias in favour of a particular way of defining or describing a new word, especially when one is suggested by an interest group whose preferred definition is in line with the false-positive errors. Thus, a second dictionary will replicate a faulty definition. With each new replication by another dictionary the out-of-touch-with-the-real-world definition will become more entrenched, which is a disservice to the language and society at large.

I hope dictionary makers will avoid relying on information from interest groups and will instead do their own research, especially with something as important as a new title. I hope all dictionaries in future will simply report the use of Mx as it is at the time, and perhaps describe how it may have changed.

I'm not privy to the OED's sources and to date they have not replied to my email eight weeks ago, on September 21, 2015, apart from an automated reply acknowledging receipt.

For more detail on the OED's Mx entry see another article: Androgyne using the new Mx title since 2002, now in OED (October 7, 2015, new window).
Is Mx gender-neutral?

'Gender-neutral' implies a very binary view of gender where all gender characteristics belong to only one of two opposing groups: masculine or feminine, as if one were a positive pole and one a negative pole (I will not speculate on which would be which). Such a binary view, once prevalent in the Western world, is fading away as it becomes more obvious that these are not mutually exclusive or opposed and many individuals have characteristics from both groups; such people can not be said to be exclusively male or exclusively female.

I suggest Mx should never be described as 'gender-neutral' because this is so easily mistaken to mean it doesn't specify gender, or that by implication it can be used to avoid stating one's gender. Including the word 'agender' in the description is problematic for the same reason. Some cisgender people automatically revert or default to binary ways of thinking about gender and will easily conflate 'neutral' or 'agender' with 'unspecified' and 'indeterminate,' which would be unfortunate as these, in practical terms, are the opposite of its meaning. We use Mx to openly specify and declare our gender as we have self-determined it.

Some non-binary transgender or agender individuals who use Mx do call themselves gender-neutral. Calling Mx gender-neutral may seem perfectly logical in this circumstance, but the major problem remains that Mx clearly does not mean unspecified or indeterminate.

Mx means gender-neutral but not only gender-neutral, whereas it always means some form of non-binary transgender.

So while Mx is a good title for gender-neutral individuals to use, calling it a gender-neutral title is like calling it an androgyne title—accurate but potentially misleading.

A better description of Mx would be something like 'Mx or Mix is a non-binary transgender title,' with no reference to gender neutrality. 'Non-binary' needs to be in the description because the term 'transgender' nowadays usually includes transsexual, and transsexual people are very unlikely to think Mx is appropriate for them.

Organisations accepting Mx

In my personal experience of it in Australia, Mx has been used for up to thirteen years beginning with formal letters from my medical specialist to my doctor, and from a sheet music publisher directly to myself. It’s on statements from the main telephone and electricity companies, BankCard, AMEX, Medicare, the Australian Tax Office and others.

In recent years in the UK more and more organisations have been accepting Mx. They've been including it in their online or hardcopy account forms and using it in other ways. They include the Post Office in 2009, the House of Commons, various government agencies, several local authorities, the National Health Service, many banks, utilities and universities including Oxford and Cambridge, and a growing number of private firms. Driving licences, credit cards, student cards and other forms of ID can and do carry Mx.

In October 2011 the innovative UK Deed Poll Service included Mx in their online systems, and even added an explanatory pop-up window. This is from their site on November 15, 2015:

"...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...

"If you are changing your title to Mx, no doubt you are also changing your forenames to ones that also do not identify your gender." (Used with permission.)

You can guess I like most of the first sentence, including the pronunciation. The final one is a little curious; I imagine it was included to help clarify their belief in 2011 that Mx refers only to transgender or genderless people, or, at least, not to cisgender people. That's a belief I share though I don't think anyone necessarily has to change their name in order to use Mx.

In private correspondence the Deed Poll Service has concurred that a first name change is not necessary and they will be amending the wording of their site.
Form makers and designers

If a cisgender person filling out an online form wanted to avoid gender-based discrimination they might not want to state their gender. 'No title' would be best but if that is not available and Mx is listed among available titles, the applicant may in confusion or out of desperation choose that.

To avoid customers feeling pressured into making mistakes, these three: Mx, No title, and Other, should always appear together along with the usual titles.

As one of the most important uses for recording a person’s common title is to determine which pronouns to use, perhaps forms could have a new section giving a choice of pronouns. The ability to specify pronouns would prevent a lot of misgendering which currently happens, especially in regard to both non-binary and non English-speaking customers.

Providing a choice of pronouns would be especially useful in the case of individuals choosing Mx. With the traditional titles it is known what pronouns should be used. However, people choosing Mx may have preferred pronouns drawn from the entire list of possibilities. Some transgender or agender Mx-choosers will want he, some will want she, and quite a few will want the singular they. But nothing can be assumed. And then there is the long list of new pronouns, so perhaps a field or box to type them in would be appropriate.

If you are designing an online or hardcopy form please carefully consider how to avoid confusing your customers while still collecting the information you need. See Appendix Four: Issues for form makers (new window) for some useful information on this, and see my blog for ongoing developments: http://mixmargaret.com/blog/category/trans-androgyne
Summary

The inclusion of Mx in the Oxford English Dictionary online version in May 2015 was a seminal moment. Being listed in the dictionary may have been newsworthy, but being included as a new honorific title alongside Mr & Mrs was very special indeed. Honorific titles as a group hold a unique and important place in language, which behoves dictionary writers to take extra care to be accurate when describing their use in society.

Mistaken usage, cisgender individuals perhaps impulsively experimenting with Mx, and online Usenet groups tossing the idea around in a few posts decades ago, hardly make a good basis for a dictionary definition.

Since the dawn of time gender has had a role as a major part of human creativity—we have always had genders and we will always have them. Everyone has their own impressions of what genders are and what characteristics they have, and this is partly culturally based.

Your sense of your own gender is innate, but how you see yourself in terms of gender is only one aspect of your gender: there is also the view of the observer, or other people around you. Their views of you affect how they relate to you, and for a transgender person this can be
greatly enhanced by using an appropriate title.

Mx as a useable title evolved over several decades, initially through being discussed in online groups and later being used by transgender individuals in every day life. Over the last thirteen or so years, and particularly since 2009, its adoption among transgender and agender people has increased exponentially. Clearly, it is filling a strong need among such people.

The claim that Mx is not a transgender title is patently false. Mx has been a transgender title since at least 2002, consistently used by us to mean non-binary transgender and agender.

Over the last year or so the natural dissemination of Mx seems to have encountered teething problems and become a little messy and confusing. This is not surprising, given that the sudden increase in the use of Mx is due in part to it being actively promoted along ideological lines by agender advocates, rather than growing from simply spreading organically among people who have a real and deep need for it.

Mx is apparently still used almost exclusively by transgender and agender people, including some intersex persons who are also transgender or agender. It is probably not used by transsexual individuals. Though a small number of cisgender people may have used it, this could have been due to impulsive experimentation, wanting to experience the novelty of a new title, out of a misunderstanding, or out of confusion when filling out application forms.

The push for everyone to use Mx may be doomed to failure in the long run, but not before many cisgender people suffer and the cause of transgender acceptance is delayed.

A title provides a way of addressing any person with respect. The correct title helps others to interact with them in appropriate ways, including using the right pronouns.

The common honorific titles describe a person only in very general ways, but always including gender. Mx signals that the person in question is an out-and-proud transgender or agender individual.

Intuitively we know what a title indicates even if it does not provide much detail, and we know it's important. Or, at least, that is how it is with most people, and 'most people' determine a lot of things. Theory won't help in trying to instruct the masses in the use Mx, the only assistance will come from the example of practical applications which have been successful.

There is no point debating the fine details of what Mx could or should denote because no title can describe such detail. Just as Mr and Ms do not tell you much about how a person manifests in the world or identifies as male or female, so Mx does not say much about how a non-binary person is non-binary. Mx simply means non-binary transgender or agender, which includes a multitude of non-binary gender identities. Like all titles, it's still very vague on details. This is necessarily so for any title if it is to have general acceptance and be used by large numbers of people.

It can be very important for a transgender or agender person to have a descriptive and meaningful title to use in every day life, rather than one which is for hiding a person's gender. It would be psychologically damaging to be constantly using a title which has negative connotations. They need a positive title which is easy and practical to use, one which helps them be 'out' instead of having to constantly hope they can somehow dodge using Mr or Ms every time the need for a title comes up.
It's too simplistic to say non-binary transgender and agender people can't both use Mx just because those identities seem to be mutually exclusive in theory. That would be to artificially create an unhelpful distinction or conflict between people who have much more in common than they have apart. It would be splitting hairs.

Mx cannot mean both ‘I’m revealing my gender’ and ‘I’m hiding my gender.’ But it can certainly mean both ‘I’m a mixture of genders’ and ‘My gender is one of a great mixture of genders.’ This is logical and
especially practical when you consider that many individuals from both groups, transgender and agender, are using the singular they as their personal pronoun.

The use of the singular they is taking off among these people and it’s a perfect match for Mx.

Titles, like other labels or categories, need to be both inclusive of some things and exclusive of others in order to be useful. However, some commentators seem to have an
agender agenda, wherein every adult in the English speaking world would use Mx.

If Mx were to include all adults, whether cisgender, transgender, transsexual or agender, it would become meaningless.

If Mx became essentially meaningless by becoming the default title for all people, and its use in that fashion became widespread, it might lead to the demise of the entire notion of an honorific title. Why would anyone need a title if all titles were the same? All titles would be useless. The unique value of Mx to the transgender and agender communities would be lost, and common titles as we know them might die out.

The ideological push for a genderless society with no gender titles is at odds with the real world needs of people in their everyday lives. Such a genderless society in the future would be very dull in all sorts of ways and would be much the poorer intellectually and creatively. Indeed, such a development might have many unexpected and adverse effects.

Mx should be a useful addition to society and not, instead, become a detraction by causing the reduced efficacy of all common titles.

Such an extreme turn of events may seem fanciful and, of course, it is hardly likely. But pressure would be exerted on the mere concept of gendered titles if Mx was used widely in an inappropriate manner. That would be a great pity as Mx has the potential to contribute to society by becoming a distinct and useful title, and in other ways concerned with improving the well-being of a marginalised group and their families and associates.

For many years Mx has been 'road tested' by a number of transgender people, including some intersex and some agender individuals, beginning in 2002 or possibly earlier. It has performed brilliantly, easily facilitating correspondence and personal interaction between these individuals and the wider cisgender community.

The 'road testers,' as I have dubbed them, were not in any way organised and did not even know each other, much less have any plan to test out Mx. They were transgender individuals who simply began using Mx out of their own need for an appropriate title. They report their use of Mx has helped them greatly in maintaining their happiness and sense of well-being. There have been no reported problems with using Mx among these people, apart from not always finding it available in online application forms.

Their experience shows the wider community finds Mx a good title to use for transgender people. It’s easy to understand, easy to say (as Mix), and easy to spell and remember. The plural of Mx falls easily as Mixes. The fact that Mx, as Mix, is based on an existing word may explain why it has been so readily adopted and why it continues to be so successful.

Missteps or teething problems with the uptake of Mx seem to have only begun appearing this year, coinciding with Mx finding its way into dictionaries where inaccurate and misleading definitions have been given which incorrectly suggest that Mx has currency as a term for cisgender individuals to use when they want to avoid stating their gender in forms. It is more likely that the few cisgender people who have used it in this way, that is, in forms, did so in error or because of a lack of more suitable alternatives, such as 'No title.' It is notable that all four examples given in the OED's online definition are clearly transgender uses (unchanged as at November 15, 2015).

Just as the growth in the use of Mx among transgender and agender individuals has been accelerating in recent years, so has its acceptance by a diverse range of organisations been increasing, including many businesses and various levels of government. Mx is now found on a wide range of application forms and on personal identity cards such as credit cards, student cards and railway access cards.

Form makers will play a critical role in the continuing success of Mx. By implementing well thought-out title lists they can minimise the incidence of incorrect use, thus reducing confusion about the meaning of Mx, a vital factor in its further acceptance and continuing utility. This can be enhanced with brief explanations on application forms, and the addition of a new feature allowing customers to specify their preferred pronouns.

Mx is best described as a non-binary transgender title. It is prudent to avoid calling it gender-neutral, or even agender, simply because these terms are likely to be misunderstood as meaning unspecified, which is clearly not what Mx means. The term 'non-binary' needs to be included to make it clear that Mx does not usually, if ever, refer to transsexuals.
Using Mx to avoid revealing gender in forms or in person, and using Mx as a greeting in mail addressed to individuals whose gender is not known, will not succeed in concealing gender and will not solve the problems in correspondence. Mx is not a panacea for every problem related to titles or gender.

Mx, as Mix, may prove to be the perfect title for many types of transgender and agender people, as by the implication of mixture it can immediately conjure up the notion of a multitude of 'other' gender types.

I hope with the wide distribution of the information and explanations in this document that more people who are naturally suited to using Mix will learn of it and will understand how Mx could work for them.

Any transgender or agender person, or any other person questioning their own gender, should feel encouraged to take up Mx—but I hope they only do so after due consideration. It has certainly and greatly benefited myself and many others.

If agender people using Mx alongside transgender people using it to mean 'mixture' seems a bit of a stretch to some, encouraging cisgender individuals to use Mx because it could mean 'I don't want to state my gender' is a much bigger stretch. The latter is unlikely to succeed in the long run and carries many problems with it, while the former has already been shown to work perfectly.

A title which refers to some sort of mixed gender identity is unlikely to find favour among transsexual people. On the other hand, some supposedly cisgender individuals might use Mx preemptively, knowing they will come out at some point in the near future as transgender or agender.

Supporter use is counterproductive, it may have significant drawbacks both for the supporter and for the cause of increasing transgender and agender acceptance in the wider community.

There are many things allies can do to promote good use of Mx, and to help us generally, particularly by getting to know us as individuals and by using their own contacts. See Appendix Five: Resources for allies (new window).
Conclusion

You may have thought that myself and others have spent the last thirteen years or so experimenting with Mx, troubleshooting its implementation, and having the occasional setback among the advances, but that is not at all so. The truth is that Mx, pronounced as Mix and often spelt in full, has always worked perfectly, right from the beginning. There has been no need for fine-tuning, no law suits, no campaign strategy. The word was 'out there,' I heard it, adopted it, and have simply continued to use it, with great success. Other Mx users have told me remarkably similar stories.

Regardless of any theories, using Mx as a transgender person  REALLY  WORKS.  It works for me as part of the foundation of my self-identity, it works for me as a way of being proud, confident, open and honest; and, importantly, it works for the people around me by facilitating their interactions with me.

Commentators may argue over who ought to use Mx but in the end those who really need it will use it and those who don't, won't. Those who choose to use Mx will presumably have at least some degree of gender questioning. Using Mx may be very good for those individuals, but only if it feels right to them.

I do hope Mx is not forced on anyone by well-meaning admirers. The local transgender or intersex shopkeeper, doctor, baker, politician or dentist, even if they are 'out and proud,' might not subscribe to this view of titles, or may not want to use Mx for themself even if they use it for others. It's a very personal thing.

If the use of Mx by transgender people continues to grow and Mx becomes more and more useful in their interactions with the general community such use will, in a delightfully subversive way, help to promote the greater acceptance of the mere notion of non-binary gender identities. This will have major benefits to thousands of transgender individuals and their families around the world now, and many more well into the future.
If this simple solution is adopted widely, if the general public finds it easy to say, easy to write and easy to remember, if society at large embraces Mx and appreciates its simplicity and elegance, it will be the Debussy of transgender recognition. For the next 100 years the 'music' of our daily lives will be appreciated and celebrated.

I call on transgender advocates everywhere, and our cisgender allies, to help spread the word about Mx, in particular its many advantages and benefits for a wide range of transgender and agender people. The many individuals who have used Mx over the last decade or so found it facilitated great improvements in their lives. The continuing uptake of Mx will translate into a much improved understanding and acceptance of us in the wider community.

The inclusion of Mx in major dictionaries, and its increasing use in the wider community, herald a new and better understanding of transgender and agender people in society at large. Just two or three letters could rapidly and fundamentally change the way all non-binary transgender people are seen, now and forever.


© Mx Margaret D. Jones (Margaret Dylan Jones, androgyne), November 15, 2015. Updated with minor amendments on December 12, 2015.
MusB(UWA), DipEd, LTCL, ATCL, AMusTCL, AMusA
www.mixmargaret.com/blog
46 xy. All photos taken or commissioned by MDJ unless otherwise stated.

Excerpting of short segments, including multiple segments, and using them in an appropriate context is welcome, with a link to this page.
Other links are also welcome, and reciprocal links will be considered.

If you write about this article even without quoting from it, please include a link. If you write about this subject, please consider linking to this article if you think it is relevant to your own work. And feel free to email to me the link to your own work using this off-site form: email (new window).

See the Creative Commons notice at the end.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Except as otherwise noted, all the ideas in this article and the accompanying appendices are my own work. However, many thanks are due to these individuals or organisations, and some who wish to remain anonymous, for assisting me in the preparation of this document. They have contributed their experiences, offered feedback and checked over some sections of the article. Please note this does not imply they agree with everything in this document. They are not responsible for anything I have said here.

Mx Justin Vivian Bond, Mx T, Dr Meg-John Barker, Judy Kotai, Patrick Shawn Fitzgerald, and the UK Deed Poll Service.
Links

See my earlier blog post on this subject: Androgyne using the new Mx title since 2002, now in OED, which has more links in addition to those here and more detail about the OED entry.

Watch my YouTube video (October 2015) about Mx being added to the Oxford English Dictionary New Mx title now in OED.

Read the transcript of my 2004 appearance on the George Negus Tonight ABC television programme.

Watch me play my 1977 Androgyne Prophecy music on a grand piano, free on YouTube.

My blog: mixmargaret.com/blog/category/trans-androgyne

Main site: mixmargaret.com

Media Style Guides

Guide for Media in understanding non_binary.pdf, from
http://transmediawatch.org/Documents/non_binary.pdf

http://www.glaad.org/reference/transgender


http://www.transadvocate.com/glossary

http://www.aissga.org.au/MediaPolicy.pdf
(intersex)

Organisation Intersex International Australia Limited (OII)
https://oii.org.au/style

http://mixmargaret.com/androgyne-definition.html
(definitions of androgyne and intersex)

For more about how to refer to androgynes and avoid misspellings and other common mistakes, see
Appendix One: Rough definitions (new window).

Call out to others using Mx or Mix

I would love to hear from other users of Mx or Mix. All correspondence will be strictly confidential and no identifying information will be used without their express permission.
CREATIVE  COMMONS  copyright notice (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

About Mx, with Miss, Mrs, Mr, Ms, and the singular they (including appendices),
by Mx Margaret Dylan Jones,
is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://mixmargaret.com/about-mx-with-miss-mrs-mr-ms-and-the-singular-they.html.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.mixmargaret.com.

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