Over the weekend, the Gray Lady experimented with gender nonconformity. In an article about the Lower East Side’s radical bookstore Bluestockings, the New York Times introduced one staff member to its readers using the gender-neutral honorific “Mx.”:>
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.
As the Observer notes, this isn’t the first Times article to use the androgynous title — that distinction belongs to this piece on Barnard’s decision to start accepting transgender applicants from back in June. But this recent use comes amid a wave of victories for “Mx.,” which recently gained admittance to Dictionary.com and the official consideration of the Oxford English Dictionary. For those who believe that the default use of gendered honorifics reinforces an oppressive gender binary, these little milestones offer some hope that one day “Mx.” will become the standard title for all journalistic subjects — unless they actively choose to gender themselves.
But for now the Times appears to be reserving the honorific for subjects who insist on it. In a piece on the “Mx.” trend from this past summer, the paper’s standards editor Philip Corbett said, “In my view, it’s too soon to set down any clear-cut ‘style guidelines’ in this area. Our approach on style decisions is generally to follow accepted, settled usage, not to make the rules. But 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 recognized set of guidelines.”
The Times may not want to be the ones who change the rules, but there are emerging signs that the rules they are a-changing.