London Mayor Sadiq Khan looks to scrap the traditional Ladies and Gentlemen announcement on trains and buses and replace it with a gender neutral phrasing following complaints from a transgender woman who was mocked as she ‘didn't sound like a Miss’.
The 19-year-old Green Party activist Aimee Challenor was told in November that she “didn’t sound like a Miss”, during a call to TfL’s Oyster helpline. Representing the victim, Green Party GLA member Siân Berry challenged Khan to apologise and review Transport for London (TfL)’s trans awareness policies, to which Khan agreed unreservedly and pledged to do more to foster equality, including potentially removing “ladies and gentlemen” from announcements across London’s transport network.
However, Challenor has called on the Mayor to do more to tackle ignorance as she spoke of shock at her identity being called into question. “I just said but I am, I am Aimee Challenor, and they replied ‘but you don’t sound like a miss’. I was just in shock, I didn’t really know how to respond,” she said. “I knew it wasn’t right. London is massively diverse and it’s something we should be incredibly proud of so I knew it had to be raised, if it affected me it could affect anyone, she explained. I wish that person hadn’t done that and I do blame them for it in a certain sense but it also shows the TfL culture, the training isn’t where it needs to be – trans has become public knowledge now.”
The muslim mayor of London, who took office in May this year, handled the situation in a very political fashion: “TfL’s approach is centred on treating everyone equally, while understanding the specific needs of different customers; under this approach it does not offer trans-specific training, but rather ensures that all staff put equality and fairness first,” he maintained. “I have asked for a review of training and procedures to ensure that TfL is always providing a professional, respectful service that is inclusive and sensitive to the needs of all Londoners.”
Berry said the removal of “ladies and gentlemen” would be well-received. “There are many people out there with some degree of gender variance and, with our huge population, a large number of Londoners will be trans and non binary,” as she hoped that “gender neutral announcements will make a difference not just to trans people but to everyone who thinks being greeted as ‘ladies and gentleman’ is out of date.”
In November, TfL’s LGBTQ staff network, OUTbound, flew a trans pride flag above its head office to mark National Trans Awareness Week, which the Mayor cited as one the ways it was working to raise awareness of the needs of the community, along with working closely with LGBTQ charities.
Nevertheless, Challenor, who works as the Green Party’s equalities spokesperson, said there was more work to be done. “His [Khan's] response was better than we would have had this time last year but there’s still steps to be done. To say TfL works with charity groups, that’s a good sign but it doesn’t mean the work they are doing is necessarily focusing on the right areas,” she said.
In July, guidance issued by the Boarding Schools Association called on teachers to learn a “new language” and to address transgender pupils as “zie” to avoid offence after a 170 per cent rise in transphobic hate crimes was reported to the police over the past five years.