New York Times Editor on "Mx."

Written by | Miscellaneous

Over at the Gray Lady, Philip B. Corbett, associate masthead editor for standards, addressed questions from readers who noticed the appearance of the gender-neutral honorific “Mx.” in a recent article.

The article appeared in the Metro section and was a profile of Bluestockings, a downtown Manhattan bookstore and meeting place run by volunteers and selling radical and activist lit. (They also peddle “good ‘ole smutty fiction, sci-fi, and poetry,” per their website.) The article introduces Bluestockings staffer Senia Hardwick, then switches to last-name-only identifier after first mention, as per usual Times style:

“‘Are we anarchist?’ Senia Hardwick asked. ‘Technically, yes.’ Mx. Hardwick, 27, who prefers not to be assigned a gender — and also insists on the gender-neutral Mx. in place of Ms. or Mr. — is a staff member at Bluestockings, a bookshop and activist center at 172 Allen Street on the Lower East Side.”

But Times commenters picked up on the unusual use of “Mx.,” says Corbett. The identifier, pronounced “mix,” is meant as a gender-neutral honorific and is gaining popularity in the U.S., largely among transgender people, while already accepted by the U.K. government. One of the highest-profile advocates of “Mx.,” perhaps, is Justin Vivian Bond, whose Twitter handle is @mxjustinVbond. In fact, it seems after searching through years of articles about models of missiles and Miatas, Mx. Bond was the first person to receive the honorific by the Times, in a 2011 roundup of NYC Christmas shows including “the downtown darling’s.”

So does the Bluestockings piece means that Times style includes “Mx.” a choice among “Mr.,” “Ms.,” “Dr.,” etc.?

Corbett says not yet–ish.

“Ask me again in a while. Things are changing fast in this area,” says Corbett. The honorific isn’t in the Times‘ stylebook yet, but that is superseded by “guidelines on transgender references have long advised Times writers to use the names, pronouns and courtesy titles preferred by the subject.” He also explains that when subject preference is Mx., the Times feels an explainer is still necessary for the general reader, as seen in the excerpt above. (Metrosource takes the same approach in language of gender: We use subjects’ preferred terms when a preference is given, and defer to GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide on Transgender Issues for other usage queries. Incidentally, the GLAAD guide is helpful for anyone for everyday conversation.)

The takeaway here is that, like most of us, the Times sees value in consistency of terms while recognizing that language evolves to accommodate an evolving world.

Last modified: July 27, 2017