Agony Auncle: I’m not sure what title I should be using legally

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CN Lester is here to answer your problems! If you have anything you’d like to ask about being non-binary, submit your question to beyondthebinaryuk@gmail.com. Read more here.

Dear CN

My preferred title is Mx, but my legal one is Miss. When I’m applying for a job, should I go by my preference or what my passport says?  The job in question is for a trainee dental nurse position with the NHS, but I figured it’d be worthwhile asking generally too.

I am also hopefully marrying my partner in the next year or two and would really like my married title to be Mx. Would this be possible? If so, how? If not, would there be a way for me to take on a legal title other than Mrs?
 
Thank you so much for everything you do. Looking forward to seeing what people ask and share!

Many thanks,

Emma

Hi Emma,

Congratulations on the hopeful upcoming nuptials!

I have to admit, I’ve had to hit the internet for this question – I don’t have a title recorded on my passport, and didn’t know that this was even an option.

The Passport Office themselves have this to say: “It is clear an individual can call themselves any name they wish providing it is not for a fraudulent purpose.” Their main concern seems to be over the fraudulent claiming of hereditary titles* – there doesn’t seem to be any indication that the title recorded on your passport is more legitimate than a title you would use in the rest of your life. They also state that there’s no need to update your passport if you change your title, so I believe it’s fairly clear that the title on your passport shouldn’t restrict your usage of your updated title. (More details here: https://www.gov.uk/changing-passport-information/overview)

I think your question highlights a really important point concerning ‘legal titles’ – and even the broader point of ‘legal names’. Before I amended my birthname, I believed (as I think many people do) that everyone has one ‘official’, legally-binding name – that it’s okay to use a nickname, but you still have to stick with your ‘real’ name for official documents and professional transactions.

The more I came to research my options, the more I realised that this wasn’t the case. Journalist and activist Jane Fae has done some fantastic work in this area, and I would advise anyone considering changing their name or title to look up her writing. As she explains in this recent Guardian piece: “According to the law, you may call yourself whatever you wish: it is not for any organisation to dictate what name or title you may use, unless they suspect you are doing so for fraudulent purposes.”

This doesn’t mean that people won’t be difficult about it – but it does mean that you have the right to use the title that suits you best, and a right to have that choice acknowledged and respected. You’re under no legal obligation to change your title to Mrs after marriage (the very thought is kind of terrifying!). Your name, your choice.

Personally, I have five different titles in use. ‘Mx’ is on my NHS records, my university documents and on most of my paperwork. ‘Mr’ is for the bills and membership forms that didn’t have ‘Mx’ or ‘Other’ as an option. ‘Ms’ and ‘Miss’ are when someone misgenders me and enters those titles of their own accord – and where I haven’t had time to change them yet. And, finally, I use ‘Ing’ for classical music venue bookings forms. I have no idea what it stands for, and enjoy the mystery – if an organisation is going to have 30+ other titles and no ‘Mx’ then I think I deserve to have fun.

Bottom line: the name you use to describe yourself, to move through the world, is your legally recognised name. And if someone has a problem with ‘Mx’, point them in the direction of the Oxford English Dictionary and see what they have to say then.

So much luck,

CN

* Please can someone come up with an impressive gender-neutral title akin to Lord or Marchioness?

Further advice on the legality of name changes in the UK can be found here: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/relationships/birth-certificates-and-changing-your-name/changing-your-name/

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3 Comments

  1. I’m legally Mx, in so far as anybody is legally any courtesy title. Mx is the title on my professional registration, meaning anybody who looks up my serial number finds me working as Mx. It hasn’t hurt me thus far. 🙂

  2. You definitely have a legal right to use whatever name and title you wish, however many will expect to see written evidence of your name in use. A title you can usually pick and choose on the spot with no issue. I have a deed poll which evidences both my name and title and have no issues with it except when Mx isn’t an available option in forms.

    It’s also worth mentioning that the same applies to recorded sex/gender in the UK. Whilst your legal sex/gender is that registered at birth and can only be legally changed via a GRC you are not legally required to use it or identify with it socially. I have changed my recorded gender at my bank and also even changed it to “Other/Indeterminate” on my NHS record via my GP. In both cases I had no issues, I went in person and asked them to change the gender on my records which they did immediately without requiring any sort of evidence or even a reason. The only place I have to use sex listed on my birth certificate is when dealing with the DWP which (illegally?) request to see a GRC; very ironic that the one organisation able to ignore the law is a government one.

    I was also given a new NHS number and brand new NHS record to facilitate the change at my GP as NHS protocol requires since it’s illegal to “out” any person as transgender even if they’re not and all organisations have to take steps to ensure that such sensitive information is protected from both the public and it’s own staff, usually by removing all evidence of your so called “old gender”. All I have to do now is go to my dentist and optician, unregister my old identity/nhs number and register again at some point using my new identity/nhs number.

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