A CLUMSY attempt to mock grammar in a Rugby Labour candidate’s leaflet has prompted an apology from a Conservative agent after it was pointed out the language was correctly used in reference to a candidate who does not identify as male or female.
A Twitter post re-tweeted by Rugby Conservatives accused Labour of manufacturing quotes on Dunsmore Ward candidate Beck Hemsley’s campaign leaflet because advocates used the pronoun ‘they’ in reference to Beck.
But the now-deleted tweet’s author had not noticed the same leaflet describes Beck as non-binary – meaning they do not identify as male or female.
The tweet, posted on Wednesday April 18, read: “3, apparently educated people, advocate a vote for your candidate. With only 1 candidate do all three call her ‘they’? If you are going to manufacture quotes at least do it properly!”
Beck, who is standing in next month’s local elections, described the tweet as ‘transphobic, whether deliberately or not’ – but added they would give the author the benefit of the doubt.
They said: “I can only assume they – note the singular pronoun – were acting out of ignorance rather than malice. That said, transphobia – whether unconscious or deliberate – can be incredibly harmful to transgender people.
“It is disappointing, but not unexpected. The responses we have heard on a local and national level to Lily Madigan’s position – the first transgender woman to be a woman’s officer in the Labour Party – demonstrates transphobia and trans-ignorance are cross-party issues.
“When I made the decision to stand as a candidate in these elections, I had to make a choice: to be in or out of the closet. I wanted to stand up to fear and give hope to other non-binary people and people questioning their gender identity.
“I would like to consider this tweet an opportunity to educate, to increase awareness and improve the visibility of non-binary people.”
They added they were disappointed on behalf of the three advocates quoted on the leaflet. “It disrespects them to claim their comments were manufactured, simply because they were respecting my pronouns,” Beck said.
The tweet was posted from the personal account of Alex Hall, an agent for South Warwickshire Conservatives, and re-tweeted by Rugby Conservatives.
Alex, who emphasised the tweet was not sent in a formal capacity, told the Observer he thought the leaflet’s author had used quotes from a ward with multiple candidates, and had neglected to alter the pronoun.
He said: “I had not noticed the candidate describing themselves as non-binary and therefore that the pronoun ‘they’ was in fact entirely appropriate.
“When I received notifications which described the Tweet as transphobic I was horrified that someone had misinterpreted it in such a way.
“I immediately explained my error, that no offence had ever been intended and apologised for any that was caused as well as deleting the tweet.”
The apology was accepted by the Rugby Labour Party, along with a plea to keep the election clean – “something to which we can all aspire,” said Alex.
He concluded: “It would be hard for anyone to objectively see the original tweet as anything other than a mistaken use of singular and plural pronouns and believe the call from our political opponents to keep this election clean is entirely correct.’’