Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Demphasizing Gender with the Neutral Pronouns Mx and Their

Heath Fogg Davis, How We're Redefining Gender in the 21st Century

In the United Kingdom, the gender-neutral honorific "Mx" is increasingly being used on driver's licenses and bureaucratic forms such as banking statements. Americans, however, have been slower to use Mx in lieu of Mr. or Ms.


The honorific "Ms." was first introduced in 1901, but it took several decades for it to be adopted by linguistic gatekeepers such as the New York Times, which only began using it in 1986 alongside "Mrs." and "Miss." How long will it take for Mx to take hold on our side of the pond?


New policies, language and forms of address recognizing nonbinary gender identities and classifications are prompting Americans to move beyond the assumption that everyone should assimilate into the categories of male or female. The times are changing, and so is our language. ***


Even the bureaucracy of gender is changing. Washington, DC and the state of Oregon now offer a nonbinary gender option on their driver's licenses, and New York has proposed similar legislation. Instead of M for male or F for female, these policies allow drivers to choose X for "unspecified." California lawmakers have proposed adding a third unspecified gender designation not only to driver's licenses but to birth certificates, too. If passed into law, parents in that state will be able to override the longstanding practice of letting medical professionals decide and record on birth certificates whether their children are male or female based upon the appearance of their genitals at birth.

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