Genderqueer in the UK

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Misc, or Mx: A Gender-neutral Title

Unless you’re a qualified doctor or a professional religious person, your title options are far from non-binary. Ms and Mr add a formality buffer that many companies and organisations like to use, as it makes almost everyone feel more comfortable. The trouble is, when someone is asking us for a title, they’re basically asking if we’re a guy or a girl. The answer is almost always neither.

There aren’t many out genderqueer folk around, but those of us that are working towards recognition and acceptance are generally using one of two titles. (Correct me if I’m wrong, so I can add the others here too.) These titles are also useful to use when you need to address someone formally, but are unsure of their gender. For example, someone has written to you and addressed you as Mr or Ms Surname, but they’ve signed the letter “Sam Smith”. As Sam could be either male or female, or genderqueer, Misc (Sam) Smith is an appropriate response, until Sam corrects you.

Here’s a list and here’s a discussion in the comments about businesses and organisations that are happy to use Mx or Misc. Edit: And here’s a regularly-updated wiki page UK Recognition on the nonbinary.org wiki, and here’s a downloadable PDF of evidence to show to organisations who think it’s not a “proper” title.

Mx (eg: Mx Sam Smith, Mx Smith)

Pronounced Mix. From what I can tell, this one has been around longer. The x acts as a wild card, taking the usual title format of Mr and Ms and putting in an x to remove the gender in the title. (If anyone has a source for this, I’d love to link to it.)

Misc (eg: Misc Sam Smith, Misc Smith)

Pronounced Misk. The roots are interesting. The word miscellaneous comes from the Latin miscellus, meaning “mixed.” I think a lot of genderqueer people would say that they have aspects of various genders at various times. These days, it’s often used to categorise something that doesn’t have another previously defined category. (First page.)

47 responses to “Misc, or Mx: A Gender-neutral Title

  1. kit September 26, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    I’d rather go by no title at all, but would be going by Mx if I got my act together.

    • Cassian September 26, 2011 at 8:45 pm

      Yeah, I’d quite like to have no title. I’m happy enough being addressed by just my surname! But so many companies insist on a title, and then don’t offer a gender-neutral one. Le sigh.

  2. maddox October 7, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    Yep, I quite like these two.
    Now we need to find one for the ma’am/sir phenomenon – everyone seems to insist on using those, even when it’s not necessary.

    • Cassian October 7, 2011 at 8:12 pm

      This came up with me on Twitter the other day, and there were a few good suggestions. My favourite was making “sir” gender-neutral, which apparently is a Battlestar Galactica thing!

      • Chris C October 26, 2011 at 6:00 pm

        It’s been around a long time before BG (even the original series), although it is SF. A number of SF books (particularly militaristic SF) have used a gender-neutral ‘sir’ (or other spellings such as ‘ser’ and ‘sur’) since at least the 1960s (I think CJ Cherryh may have been the first I noticed, but I don’t think was the first in print).

      • Ryan January 28, 2014 at 9:55 pm

        “Sir” as a formal address in military situations has its origins in actual formal military address, and comes from a time when women were not allowed to serve in the military (therefore all commanding officers were “Sir” because they were all men). The language has not been updated since women have benn able to join the military, therefore female officers are still referred to as “sir” or “Mister”. I have seen “ser” as an alternate spelling, but my impression has been that it carries the same connotation.

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  4. Alec Williams November 11, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    I like these, though when I changed my name by deed poll not long ago, I chose Ser as my title. I think there should a range of choice for everyone, including the choice to not have a title at all.

    • Cassian November 11, 2011 at 2:43 pm

      I so fully agree with you! I’d love to have no title. The only reason I back Mx and Misc is that most companies require a title, which is ridiculous. I am just going to tell them all to put Dr until they start using Misc/Mx.

  5. Pippa-Paul February 2, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    I’m just plain excited; I’ve just phoned The Legal Deed Poll Service and discovered Mx. After breast argumentation my view on life style has been given a hefty push towards a female existence, but I still love my male side, and have no intention of changing sex completely and had not given a thought to my title. I changed my name with them last August, keeping my 2 male Christian names first and adding 2 female names. I still want to keep things that way but change the order, so as to start with a feminine name. Mr, Mrs and Miss are just too strong for me. I did have Ms is mind, but find that waves heavy on the female side too. Mx and now Misc. looks like the answer to my problem. Mx looks better on paper, but I think Misc. seems to sound better. Whatever, still looks I have to do the whole Deed Poll thing again, the joys of being an androgenic male, but I am very happy now, and don’t want things any other way.

    • Cassian February 3, 2012 at 12:41 am

      I loved reading your story! Thank you for sharing. :D I am SO glad the deed poll folk are into Mx.

      And you’re totally right, re: Mx vs Misc. You describe the way I feel about the two, but so much better. Mx looks nicer, but Misc sounds nicer. Thank you, heh. :)

    • Pippa-Paul February 13, 2012 at 7:15 pm

      Well, I’ve got my Deep Poll papers back. I’ve also been to my bank who have recorded the change Mx and all. Both the bank lady and myself could quite figure out how I should be addressed, be it Mix Jones or what. I thought Mixter had a better ring to it, but we’ve settled on Pippa. Just have to see what other branches I use make of it. Should have my new bank cards in a few days, will try and post pictures for you “Cassian”, I will blank my card numbers out, if you don’t mind.

      • Cassian February 13, 2012 at 7:27 pm

        How pleasing! :) Which bank are you with? And yes, of course, feel free to blank out any information you don’t feel comfortable sharing. :)

  6. Pippa-Paul March 16, 2012 at 1:58 am

    Sorry never did answer your question Cassian, I’m with LloydsTSB. I’ve had my new card back from them, but no Mx, its just title less. The envelop and all other correspondence since are addressed to Mx Philippa-paul, thanks to a big push from a lady at my local branch here in Wimborne, Dorset. Got quite excited on picking up my first mail. However 1st pasted the post with a card was the DVLA with my Driving Licence. I have the picture so next thing is to follow your instructions and try and send it to you. National Lottery, have also recognised MX in a letter from them, but it seems there data base can’t cope with it so I can only be MISS, Mrs or MS. I did try to complete their form using MS, but it kicked me out when I entered my sex as male, even though the Deed Poll Office seem to be OK with a male TG using MS, so it was call them up on the phone time. Argos asked for a copy of my Deed poll, but not heard from them yet, and I’m not sure what’s happening with Tesco, Boots, and a few others that I’ve informed of my title change. Seems they are all at the mercy of their computer programmers, so I may be a long time.

  7. Pippa-Paul March 16, 2012 at 2:24 am

    Help, where do I find Blog post?

    • Cassian March 18, 2012 at 2:13 pm

      What I meant when I said about making a blog post was, make your own blog post on your own blog – but that’s me assuming that everyone has a blog, which of course isn’t the case! So if you’d like me to post photos and scans of things on here, I can do that for you. I will send you an email now, and hopefully we can find a way by email of posting these things online in a way that is private for you.

      Sorry this took ages, Pippa-Paul. :/ Things have been a bit rough here. But they’re starting to feel a little easier, so I’m trying to catch up!

      Cassian

  8. ace alex April 11, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    So cool! I’m about to start using Mx, have signed the e-petition too. Hopefully we’ll get enough for it to be recognised officially :-)

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  10. Rob McDowall May 6, 2013 at 12:39 am

    Did you see – http://t.co/xi11l7dnA5 Brighton & Hove Green’s Cllr’s have had the City Council officially add Mx as a title and for training to be given to all new Cllr’s staff etc. This is a giant leap in the right direction which other Councils and Unitary Authorities can learn from. #solidarity

  11. MKD May 15, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    I think a separate title for gender neutral/non gender specific people (the term gender queer is usually taken offensively) is a good idea, as long as the use of the title remains an individuals decision to take. I think it would in many cases relieve the stress of having to ‘appear’ Mr or Ms when a person is neither/both and in turn having to explain to strangers your personal circumstances concerning gender. In particular it could greatly lessen the confusion often caused for passport holders who’s appearance doesn’t necessarily match the gender stated on their passport. And perhaps even the use of the letter X instead of M or F on passports could also be an important step (or birth certificates of intersex individuals). But again, the decision to use the title Mx/Misc has to be that person’s decision. The key point in this is that we need enough people choosing to use the title Mx/Misc for various things for it to be incorporated into computer systems. This could take years, but I do believe the more it is used, it will become a norm. This change could prove very useful for people in a number of different situations including intersex individuals and transgender people who do not yet appear as the physical gender they intend.

    On a personal note, I myself intend to use the title Mx as far as possible. It is for me, somewhat of a weight off my mind, to know there is another option. And one that would give me far more freedom on a daily basis, rather than having to be prepared to explain myself to strangers. Everyone has right to privacy.

    • Cassian May 15, 2013 at 6:29 pm

      Good luck in getting Mx accepted by the various people who hold your records. :) So far I’ve had some pretty successful forays into letter-writing activism, and a lot of it is on here: UK Recognition

      I’ve never heard of the term genderqueer being offensive. Not preferred, certainly, due to its political somethingorother, but I’ve never heard someone use “genderqueer” as a slur, for example. I can imagine that someone who doesn’t call themself genderqueer might find it objectionable, especially if someone had already been told that they didn’t call themself genderqueer, y’know?

      Anyway, I would be interested to hear more about that, and I welcome comments from anyone who agrees or disagrees with me, or has experience of the term genderqueer being used offensively. This is new to me and I am a curious being.

  12. MKD May 15, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    Thank you for your response. I enjoyed reading your article.

    I have had a few non gender specific persons express to me that the word ‘queer’ is offensive to them. Much like a gay man being called a ‘queer’ is offensive and not socially acceptable, in that sense it is generally seen to be offensive. Was just a point to think about. Though I do myself feel the term to be slightly derogatory and do prefer non gender specific or gender neutral. I believe them to hold far better connotations. I suppose we can put it down to preference.

    The basis of your article has raised many good points and I hope that more people like yourself will enter into discussion about this topic, write blogs, and get the title Mx out there.

    Many thanks

    • Cassian May 15, 2013 at 9:08 pm

      You’re totally right, of course. This had not occurred to me, because I see genderqueer as an entirely new word and had somehow forgotten that “queer” was in it! In that sense, I totally agree; nonbinary is neither political nor triggering, so it’s better in many ways.

  13. bascule May 15, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    Hi, I was really excited to read this post as I’ve never heard of Mx/Misc before – I volunteer at an organisation that supports homeless LGBT people, so i will spread the word there, and will get in touch with my local council about officially accepting these titles. I have used ‘Ms’ for a long time now and am pretty fond of it, especially when people get pissed and tell me I shouldn’t be using it unless I’m divorced…but I would be excited to adopt Mx or Misc for myself as a gender neutral title. I am a cis-gendered woman and feel very strongly that binary gender signifiers are used to reinforce stereotypes that limit social interaction. As my interest in adopting a gender neutral title would be political more than related to my own gender identity, I would be interested to hear whether anyone thinks it would be positive or negative for people who don’t necessarily identify as genderqueer to use Mx/Misc?

    • Cassian May 16, 2013 at 8:33 am

      Personally, I would be 100% comfortable with it. I’ve heard people say that they don’t understand why we even have gendered titles, let alone women having three according to how they relate to the men in their lives! I agree with that. But there are bound to be people who are on the fence or disagree entirely.

      Yes, the current gendered titles are limiting. I think anyone who chooses something that rejects the current system is welcome, for me. I’d love to hear other views though.

      • sharon May 16, 2013 at 9:30 am

        I go without a title whenever that’s possible (I use Ms for forms that require a title but don’t have a write-in option, and . or * for ones that require a title and allow a write-in option.
        I think I’d be inclined to go title-less for genderqueer reasons by now, but my original motivation was the Quaker tradition for avoiding titles in order to avoid markers of differing social status.

      • Cassian May 16, 2013 at 9:35 am

        That is very interesting! Thank you. I’m sitting with my friend who’s been a Quaker for a big chunk of his life, and he says, “yup, the Quakers had it right!”

        Edited to add: You might like to fill in this survey called Nonbinary stats – it asks four questions, about titles and gender identity and so on. It doesn’t ask about gender assigned at birth or biological sex, either. It’s very quick!

  14. flux May 17, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    I like Mx. and would love to use it. Never heard of or seen Misc. I wish the U.S. would include more options for titles, but really I’d be fine with no title. I’d love to see a neutral substitute for sir/ ma’am. I think that would affect me much more than a title.

  15. Cal Alaera (@Calalaera) May 26, 2013 at 8:10 am

    I love Mx, but I myself tend to use Ser (pronounced “sair”, to rhyme with “hair”). I’m a cisgendered male, but I really resent being asked my gender by people to whom it shouldn’t matter. Ser has much wider exposure as a gender-neutral honorific thanks to being used in literature and video games, and I generally get better acceptance and recognition of it than using Mx.

  16. M H June 13, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    I was delighted when I heard about the Mx. Mine is for VERY different reasons and I am trying to change to a Mx wherever possible. Personally I dont like the Misc. The only other problem I have is that after a title you get a box etc for male or female. I HATE being forced to tick one. SO along with the change of title to a neutral one… can we also work on another box so we do not have to declare being male or female – as I say my reason for being delighted at this change is different to most and and it really does hurt to be forced to tick what I was, and not what I am :(

    • Cassian June 13, 2013 at 11:36 pm

      I’m glad you mentioned the gender thing. :) I think there are a few people who also ask websites and companies and things to have more than two gender options. I like this page on the nonbinary.org wiki: http://nonbinary.org/wiki/Websites_and_social_networks It has a list of various social networks and whether they have only binary gender options or any “nonbinary” or “other” options as well. But there needs to be more; we’re getting there, I think. A new title helps.

  17. Mx. Nathan Tamar Pautz August 17, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    I have heard of “Zir,” suggested as a tile instead of “Ma’am,” or “Sir,” and “Zister,” is listed on the Transcending Boundaries Conference website as a non-gendered term for a sibling.

    • Cassian August 17, 2013 at 7:52 pm

      Verrrry interesting! I like both. But I think they’re probably not so good for people who get dysphoric; zister could easily sound like sister, and zir will get mistaken for sir, and both of those are very gendered. People who don’t know about trans* stuff will hear the words and then their brains will fill in the word they already know. Words that are properly distinct-sounding seem to work best, I think? I LOVE that people are coming up with new words though. We desperately need them. If we can have one word for both male and female cousins the rest of the family/formal words should not be difficult!

  18. Mx. Nathan Tamar Pautz August 18, 2013 at 2:19 am

    You are very right, Cassian. Somebody needs to come up with such words and the community needs to promote them, little by little.

  19. J September 22, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    Was so happy to learn that Mx exists, definitely needs to be used more often. Honestly though, I’ve never really given much thought to neutral titles before. What would always annoy me were forms that used gender instead of sex and only gave male or female. My sex has always been male but I see my gender as both male and female which I term bi-gender. Of course, even when it is sex, it should never be just male or female either because it completely isolates intersex people.

    • Cassian September 22, 2013 at 1:30 pm

      I totally agree, and I have this problem too. It bugs me. In the UK it seems easiest for me to “target” the title issue first, though of course it might not be the same for everyone. I like to hope that my telling people about Mx will lead to people being more open-minded about nonbinary gender and sex further down the line.

      I do a fair bit of telling people that there’s more than two genders, and I get a surprising amount of positive feedback, but I’m not so knowledgeable about or experienced in intersex stuff so I don’t really feel like I can talk about that.

  20. Mr. B December 4, 2013 at 1:29 am

    I’ve usually identified as a cis woman in most areas of my life, but I actually feel genderqueer or gender neutral is closer to fully describing my understanding of myself in relation to gender. Anytime I get to use a title where I don’t have to be immediately labeled as a particular gender, my heart just soars. (When I was in cadets and got to use rank + last name, I cannot tell you how much that made me happy.) However I would personally much prefer to use Mr. as my salutation, because I don’t think it should matter or be anyone’s business which salutation you pick, when given an option, nor your reasons, which may be totally personal. And for me personally, when picking a title for my self, I find ‘Mr’ is closer to how I would like to be addressed. Does anyone have any experience with doing this? It’s tricky, because I do not identify as transgender – but from a gender neutral standpoint, I would rather be allowed to pick my own salutation, and if I could pick I would rather choose Mr.

    Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear! :)

    Mr. B

    • Cassian December 4, 2013 at 10:29 pm

      Personally, I think titles are such a weird thing and they’re not even legally binding, so I would love a situation where anyone can use any title and no one would batt an eyelash/lid (I forget which it is)! Go for it. :D

  21. Ryan January 28, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    I would just like to thank you for posting this article. As someone who does not identify as gender-queer, but who works in mental health and wants to be able to address my co-workers and clients approrpiately and with respect, I am glad that articles like this are out there, so that I can be sure to use correct language.

  22. Dan April 8, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    I’ve only just found this page, two-and-a-half years after it was first posted, but I’m so uplifted by it. Enormous thanks to you all for responding so enthusiastically to it and sharing your own experiences. It makes me feel so much less isolated.

    I’m a male person who’s never really considered himself to be anything in particular genderwise and who has never possessed any libido whatever (though if you put a gun to my head I’d probably say I was heterosomething, purely on the grounds that I’m not gay and that I prefer the company of women both from an aesthetic and temperament point of view). That said, having no libido most definitely doesn’t keep life simple; it complicates life immeasurably and can lead to all sorts of hateful behaviour being directed against you, believe me. Weirdo, freak, misfit, bender, it all gets thrown at you, purely because so many people use themselves as yardsticks of normality and find fault with people who aren’t like them. I’ve also had big problems because of my inability to respond sexually when women make advances in my direction; female friendships are never the same again, with some women even responding vitriolically as though I’d somehow led them on and then scorned them, when actually all I ever am sexually is totally neutral, which sadly most people don’t get. If they find me sexually attractive, they just automatically expect me to find them sexually attractive too…. and when I don’t, things can turn sour.

    Back in the ’80s when the title ‘Ms’ was taking off in the UK, I remember people at work humorously speculating that there’d also soon be a title for people who didn’t want anyone to make any assumptions about their gender whatever. It seemed a far-fetched concept and a totally satirical one as well, but now it just makes so much sense. I’ll certainly be changing my title to ‘Mx’ as soon as circumstance permits, as part of an overall name-change. True, I’ll probably initially feel that if I lived in Brighton rather than the Midlands, my change from ‘Mr’ to ‘Mx’ would be much less of a plunge undertaken in trepidation, but take it I nevertheless shall.

    I just wish there were some way of finding out how many fellow ‘Mx’s there already are in the UK and even in my own home city. It’d be comforting to know that I was part of a community. As it stands, I don’t half feel like I’m going out on a limb, even though it’s the Right Thing To Do.

    • Cassian April 8, 2014 at 8:15 pm

      I just want to say thanks for sharing your story; it’s really interesting. I’m too young to remember when Ms was getting popular, but I’ve often wondered how it all went down since we’re trying to reproduce it with Mx.

      I’m from the Midlands, and I’ve been to Brighton, and wow are they different! I’ll ask around to see if there’s any groups that meet up in the vague Midlandsy area and I’ll post again here if I find anything that might be of interest.

      Best of luck!

      • Dan April 9, 2014 at 6:14 pm

        Many thanks for the positive vibes, Cassian.

        Re. the introduction of ‘Ms’ in the ’80s, most people initially either saw it as a classic bit of Political Correctness Gone Mad or as a sop to women who had a chip about something. Everyone was so convinced that only ‘Miss’ and ‘Mrs’ were ‘normal’ that only aberrant people would consider using ‘Ms’.

        The reality these days (as I see it daily at work) is that women under the age of about 26 happily call themselves ‘Miss’, while ‘Ms’ seems to be the preserve of women over that age. And of course there’s nothing aberrant about any aspect of it. The only people who don’t quite get it are folk from overseas who were never tipped off about ‘Ms’ during their English lessons at school. I had to explain what it meant to a Spanish girl at work and she appeared absolutely staggered, like this was the most eccentric country in the world. But it ain’t. It’s still a pretty stupid country compared with good old Denmark, but it’s slowly moving in the right direction.

      • Cassian April 12, 2014 at 6:13 pm

        I do really like Ms. I think (or hope) that we’ll eventually be a bit like Germany and start removing all the extra titles for women, so a woman can just be, eg: Ms regardless of marital status, age, etc.

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