6 February 2021
Norwich City Council Urged to Use Mx on Forms
Green Party councillor Nannette Youssef asked a formal question at Norwich City Council's January meeting, querying why the council's online forms did not give members of the public the opportunity to use the gender-neutral title 'Mx'. Having first been told that the amount of time needed to make the changes was preventing them being made, Councillor Youssef was then shocked to hear a cabinet member describe the inclusion of the title as a 'token gesture'.
Councillor Youssef said:
"I'm aware that the council is under intense pressure at present due to a lack of appropriate funding and the pandemic. However, it's unacceptable for a title which identifies people contacting the council to be considered a 'token gesture'. Allowing people the ability to self-identify is of great importance and I hope that the council will soon be able to remove all titles from its forms so everyone can describe themselves accurately."
Tom Pashby, founder of the campaign Include Mx, said:
“It’s fantastic to see Councillor Youssef asking for Mx to be included on Norwich City Council’s forms. Lots of major organisations already support the inclusion of Mx, including NHS England, Brighton and Hove City Council, and M&S.
“Including Mx on forms means people who don’t identify with masculine or feminine gender identities, or don’t wish to reveal their gender identity, can authentically interact with organisations. Organisations that include Mx send a signal that they respect all their service users.
The honorofic 'Mx' appears to have been first used in an American magazine as long ago as 1977 and is not gender specific. It can, therefore, be used by people who are non-binary or those who don't wish to be defined by gender.
Further information from
Councillor Nannette Youssef firstname.lastname@example.org
The question asked by Councillor Youssef and the response given by cabinet member, Councillor Karen Davies
Councillor Youssef: “I have noticed that when applying for various council services, residents are given different choices of title to select from. For example, when applying for an allotment, you could choose from Dr, Miss, Mr, Mrs or Ms, but when applying for a garden waste bin, residents are offered a wider selection: Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms, Cllr, Dr, Rev, Prof. Neither list includes the gender-neutral title Mx, and my recent councillor enquiry elicited a response stating that the council does not have enough officer resource to add this title to the list. However, this omission discriminates against non-binary people. Will the cabinet member agree to consider equalities and safeguarding factors and include Mx in all lists of titles produced by the council, or, better still, to allow people to write in their own choices of title?”
Councillor Davis, the cabinet member for social inclusion’s response: “To be clear, the councillor was not told that there was not resource to amend forms, but that it would require significant amount of officer time to ensure that the multitude of existing web and paper forms which have been developed over the years using different software were all consistent with this change, and that, given current resource challenges, a timescale for doing this could not be provided to the councillor. As a Labour administration, we have a proven commitment to equality and believe that this is best pursued through ensuring that we tackle inequality root and branch, not through token gestures. The council takes its Public Sector Equality Duty very seriously and seeks to eliminate discrimination across all protected characteristics. In order to do so, the language that we use and the way that we gather data can be key, and we are constantly evolving this in line with best practice. So for all new online forms, the council does not include a title field, and has not done so for the last couple of years. As existing forms require updating for other purposes, where they have a title field, we include a free-text field to allow respondents to self-select a preferred title. But, again, given the level of officer time involved, no timeline can be given to amend the title fields in all existing forms. This will be undertaken as part of a wider approach to data collection within our Public Sector Equality Duty and GDPR requirements, to ensure that we are not missing opportunities to eliminate discrimination and advance opportunity for all people with protected characteristics, not just nonbinary people.”