One of the country’s biggest councils has been praised for introducing gender neutral titles on forms.
Oxford City Council told The Independent it has approved plans to include ‘Mx’ as an option on paperwork, alongside traditional terms such as Miss, Ms, Mrs and Mr. The change was made following recommendations from the council’s Equality and Diversity Group as a means of making the council more trans-inclusive; including non-binary people who can prefer the ‘Mx’ title as it does not denote a gender.
Councillor Tom Hayes, Vice-Chair of Oxford City Council Scrutiny Committee told The Independent: “The council’s workforce has been changing to look more like the diverse communities that it serves. Good policies have helped to bring this about and tackle discrimination but further improvements are possible. In particular, the Council can take practical steps to build a workplace that’s friendlier to transgender employees, and how we gather together personal information on employees is central to that.”
LGBT advocates have welcomed the move and say they hope it helps encourage other councils and institutions to embrace the ‘Mx’ title.
Sarah Gibson, Assistant Editor at Beyond the Binary, which promotes inclusion for non-binary people, told The Independent: “It is great to see Oxford City Council making positive steps to include non-binary people. The existence of non-binary people is still largely ignored but there is a strong impetus for change with increasing numbers of non-binary people and improving awareness.
“More and more organisations are adopting the gender neutral title 'Mx' in a similar way to the now commonplace 'Ms'. Something as simple as being able to use the correct title can have a large impact on someone's life.”
A spokesperson for LGBT rights group Stonewall told The Independent: “It’s vital that organisations are inclusive of all service users and customers, which includes people who don’t identify as ‘male’ or ‘female’, who are often excluded and erased from mainstream society.
“There are a number of ways which companies can do this, for example removing gender labels and options or providing more options, for example with options like ‘Mx’ or blank boxes for self-identifying. Stonewall will continue to work with organisations across the public, private and third sectors to help them ensure that their customers and service users are accepted without exception.”
‘Mx’ is increasing in use as a gender neutral alternative to terms which reflect the traditional gender binary of male/ female. Some people who are non-binary, or do not identify with either traditional gender, prefer the term as they identify as gender neutral, or as being a mix of genders. Some cis, or non-transgender, people also opt to use the title as they feel paperwork can often be overly and unnecessarily gendered.
The gender neutral title is currently an option on paperwork at a number of high street banks, government departments, universities, Royal Mail and on drivers licenses.
Brighton and Hove City Council became the first local authority to include ‘Mx’ on their forms in 2013. However, Oxford City Council is believed to be the largest council to do so to date.
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