Titles such as Mr. and Ms. have long been embedded in our language, but as society and language evolve, so does our understanding of gender identity. Understanding the importance of using inclusive titles is a cornerstone for communication that honors everyone’s identity and humanity.
The Evolving Landscape of Gender Identity:
Gender expression extends beyond the binary concepts of male and female. People identify along a spectrum that encompasses a range of gender identities. It is essential to acknowledge and respect this diversity in our language and communication to cultivate a world where everyone feels seen, accepted, and understood.
Titles and Gendered Assumptions:
The use of Mr. and Ms. has been a general practice for addressing individuals. However, these titles can reinforce gender assumptions, which can overlook the broader range of identities someone can hold. Our lens is formed by our history and range of social identities. Assumptions made from only our point of view and experiences limits our perceived reality and potentially skews our understanding of the true identities of the people around us.
To address the limitations of Mr. and Ms. titles, the non-binary Mx. emerged in the 1970s as an inclusive alternative. Mx. – pronounced “mix” – is a gender-neutral title that can be used for people who do not want to be identified by a single gender, or for anyone who doesn’t want to be identified by gender. It provides a way to address individuals without making assumptions about their gender.
Using Mx. in Communication:
When unsure of a person’s gender identity or if they use a non-binary title, Mx. can be an inclusive choice. It is essential to listen and learn from individuals about their titles and pronouns. Creating an environment where people feel comfortable expressing their identities – by sharing your own pronouns and not making assumptions – fosters a more inclusive and supportive community.
Honoring Self Determination:
While Mx. can be a good option when someone has told you that’s how they identify or when you don’t have information about their gender identity, it’s crucial to remember that everyone has self determination around how they’re addressed. Some folks may use the titles Mr. or Ms., while others may use gender-neutral titles like Mx., regardless of how they identify. The key is to be respectful and adaptable to individual needs.
Practical Tips for Inclusive Communication:
- Share Your Own Pronouns:
When meeting someone new, consider sharing your own pronouns and title, which can provide an opening for them to share theirs, if they want to.
- Use Mx. by Default:
When in doubt using Mx. can be a thoughtful and inclusive choice.
- Update Systems, Forms and Documents:
Organizations should consider updating their systems, official forms and documents to include options for Mx. and other gender-neutral titles.
- Educate and Raise Awareness:
Promote awareness about inclusive language and the importance of respecting diverse gender identities within your community or workplace.
Our language should reflect our commitment to inclusivity. By incorporating Mx. as a gender-neutral title and respecting individual identities, we create communities and workplace cultures where team members know they belong.