The New York Times, Washington Post are getting on-board with gender-neutral language

The gender-neutral honorific 'Mx' is catching on with mainstream media.

The gender-neutral honorific 'Mx' is catching on with mainstream media.

It seems respectful gender-neutral language is finally starting to catch on with mainstream media.

Last week in a much-discussed piece amongst activists and word-nerds, the New York Times used the gender-neutral pronoun 'Mx' in an article about staff members at the city's anarchist book shop, Bluestockings.

The article began with the following paragraph:

"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." 


Despite some reports, it's not the first time the Times has used the honorific 'Mx' in its pages: it was used three times in a June 2014 article about a US college accepting transgender applicants, and, this year, the paper further investigated the term in its much shared 'Me, Myself and Mx'.  

Speaking to The New York Observer about its use of 'Mx', the Times' associate managing editor Phillip B. Corbett explained that the pronoun had not yet been officially adopted into the paper's style guide, and its usage was still being decided on a case-by-case basis.

"In referring to people who don't identify as male or female, I think usage is still evolving, and there's not one settled or widely recognised set of guidelines," he told the site, adding "The two main goals are to be respectful to those we write about, and to be clear to our readers."

The Washington Post, meanwhile, made its own newsroom announcement this week that the paper will allow writers to use "the singular they" in order to "refer to people who identify as neither male nor female" and to "avoid both the sexist and antiquated universal default to male pronouns and the awkward use of he or she, him or her, and the like".

Add to this the fact that 'Mx' was just last month added to, and, as the UK's Independent reports, it's currently being considered for addition to the Oxford English Dictionary - and it seems non-gender specific terms are closer than ever to entering general usage.

As The Observer hopefully notes, "it is worth remembering that it wasn't long ago that newspapers defaulted to generic male pronouns and women were identified by marital status".