Oxford City Council is considering doing away with the terms “Mr” and “Mrs” as they are “not inclusive” of transgender people. The move comes as part of an equalities review conducted by the council.
Following the recommendation of a panel of councillors, the Labour-run Council is set to include the gender neutral term “Mx” on official forms and documents while it considers whether to scrap the gender-based pronouns.
The councillors insisted that it would help to make the council as “inclusive as possible,” the Daily Mail has reported.
The decision to add “Mx” has found favour with LGBT group Oxford Pride, but the group’s chairman Rob Jordan said he did not support scrapping ‘Mr’ and ‘Mrs’ as to do so would remove choice.
“This is a progressive step that can only be welcomed,’ he said.
“By giving someone the option to use the title they already use every day in official forms and other areas it shows the council is listening to people. But the thing about removing titles completely is you are taking away choice, rather than just adding it.”
But not everyone is impressed. Former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe slammed the change as a pointless waste of taxpayers’ cash.
“It’s just another example of political correctness,” she said, asking: “Haven’t Oxford City Council got anything else to worry about? It’s a waste of time and money and achieves nothing.”
Miss Widdecombe added: “The English language evolves and develops all the time but this is just nonsense.”
The decision follows a review of equality and diversity within the council, after it was discovered that some LGBT staff were reluctant to reveal their sexuality in internal surveys.
The review further found that, although the Council had more black and ethnic minority employees than ever before, they were ‘clustered in the lower wage jobs and almost non-existent in senior roles’; additionally, it noted that women were also under-represented at management level.
“There’s more to do to complete the long march to equality,” said scrutiny committee deputy chairman Tom Hayes, who led the review. He added that ongoing monitoring of the different groups among the staff helped the council to tackle discrimination.
Oxford City is not the first council to have introduced gender-neutral pronouns on its forms; Brighton and Hove City Council already includes “Mx” on its forms, following complaints by activists in the city who said that only offering “Mr” and “Miss/Mrs” forced people to choose between binary options. The council also allows people not to enter any title at all on online forms.
More recently Brighton Council came under fire for asking four-year-olds to choose their own gender ahead of starting school in September.
The move by Oxford Council is also likely to find support with local headmistress Caroline Jordan of the independent girls’ Headington School in Oxford and president of the Girls’ Schools Association, who recently told the Sunday Times that teachers should refer to “pupils” or “students” rather than “boys” or “girls”.
“I feel that every year there are more young people posing questions around their gender identity,” she said.
“I do not want anyone to think that girls’ or boys’ schools are invested in one way of being a girl or one way of being a boy.
“My view is that where you can use gender-neutral language about people that is a good thing.”
Responding to her comments, John Marston, head of nearby boys’ school St Birinus School in Didcot said: “We refer to our students as students. We are a community centred around educating the whole young person and value each and every student as a learner.”