“I just felt like it was getting to the point where it’s embarrassing,” Tom Pashby tells me from their home in Brighton. The student and campaigner had just received two parcels from a major household retailer – both of which used the wrong titles.
When ordering, there had been no option to select a title which applied to them as a non-binary person. “That was the thing that tipped me over the edge,” they continue. “I couldn’t select a different title, because it was Argos and they don’t [offer Mx], but you’ve got to choose a title to get a delivery.”
“I’ve been publicly non-binary and campaigning on this kind of thing for a fair amount of time. But I’m still just at the mercy of corporations to decide whether or not they’re going to address me properly.” A couple of weeks later Tom was also unable to order a coronavirus test – again as a result of being unable to select the correct titles – and so their campaign was born.
Why do people use Mx, and what does it mean to them when they see brands using it on forms? @Jon_Cornejo shared this about their experience of not having Mx as an option on forms
— Include Mx (@Include_Mx) February 24, 2021
Include Mx, which was launched in November 2020, is a micro campaign that approaches businesses and organisations to ask them to include Mx as an option on forms. Mx is a gender neutral honorific that was first coined and used in the 1970s. It’s used by those who do not identify as a particular gender, as well as those who do not want to reveal their gender.
“I have only recently come out as non-binary, but have always felt uncomfortable by the lack of inclusive title options on forms,” says campaign supporter Jon Cornejo. “There’s something that can be quite upsetting about not feeling represented in these spaces, feeling othered because what you identify with hasn’t been considered.”
There’s something that can be quite upsetting about not feeling represented in these spaces, feeling othered because your identity hasn’t even been considered.
Speaking about the importance of the campaign, which has already convinced several household names such as Next, Wilko, and River Island to make the change, Tom says it’s about preventing “bureaucratic barriers” to services for people.
“I think a lot of organisations do it habitually, rather than actually being made the thing,” they continue. But Tom also thinks it’s vital for a wider campaign and awareness as it’s putting the pressure solely on non-binary people. “That takes a lot of energy and it does take a level of emotional investment.”
“The NHS is quite a good example of this. I got a quote from somebody representing NHS England saying how important it is to include Mx. But I get called Mister in my interactions with my GP still. And that’s partly because I haven’t got the mental energy to challenge it yet.”
The campaign has also earned the backing of Labour Shadow Minister Alex Sobel, who put a question on the topic to the Government in February 2021. However, equalities minister Kemi Badenoch said that it was down to individuals to “decide what title they want to use on forms, and organisations are free to decide the best way of collecting titles for their needs”.
Both Tom and the Green Party have urged the Government to reconsider the campaign, which stresses that individuals are often unable to use the honorifics that match their identity due to the restrictions put in place by such forms. Tom also says there’s a wider equality significance to making Mx used more widely.
“If you see Mx [on a form], that’s going to, hopefully, stay in your brain and make you think ‘there are people that use this title to exist’. Hopefully, there’s also people that will think ‘oh so this is that gender neutral title, so people are using this title’. Literally, just acknowledging the existence of people who use the title, I think it’s quite a big thing.”