"Gender," "sex," "identity," "preference," "expression" -- those are a few relatively simple concepts critical to talking about LGBT issues.
"Him/Her" is not one of them.
That lesson was learned the hard way by one Kansas City Police Department employee on Friday while live-Tweeting a police stop of a female "possible prostitute."
The Tweet was part of KCPD's regular #kctweetalong campaign, which places a live-Tweeting public relations person in a squad car along with officers, a takeoff on the ride along offered by some police departments to curious civilians and reporters.
Late Friday night, the officers stopped and talked with the "possible prostitute" on Independence Avenue, a street known for its drugs and sex trade. Although the interaction itself sounded benign -- the officers suggested the woman find employment at a nearby Sonic -- things went south after police checked her ID.
The PR flak then Tweeted: "Wait. That prostitute was, in fact, a man. Not doing anything against the law at present so they let him/her go."
That Tweet was deleted, but it was screen-grabbed by another Twitter user.
The insensitive pronoun usage drew immediate criticism on Twitter. But KCPD didn't appear to initially understand what was so problematic with the Tweet.
@KPicle 1/2 Certainly wasn't intent. Everyone was surprised at what her ID card said, and that made officers especially worried because— Kansas City Police (@kcpolice) December 20, 2014
@KPicle 2/2 violence that can and has been perpetrated against tran. prostitutes— Kansas City Police (@kcpolice) December 20, 2014
PROMO, Missouri's statewide LGBT advocacy organisation, reached out to KCPD to offer additional training on addressing transgender men and women, says Kyle Piccola, senior field organizer for Kansas City region.
"The Tweet itself we feel was in poor taste, and calling a trans person 'him/her' is clearly inappropriate," says Piccola. He added that in this case, "we didn't think that talking about the gender was even appropriate. The media person was not culturally aware with trans issues."
Piccola tells Daily RFT that the relationship between the KCPD and LGBT community has been largely positive, and he credits an official advisory commission and officer training on LGBT issues. However, that training wasn't extended to the department's civilian staff, an oversight he hopes PROMO and KCPD can correct together.
"We don't think the Tweet was out of malice," Piccola says. "We really love the KCPD and we think they are very much behind the LGBT issues in Kansas City."
The KCPD later apologized for the Tweet's language, writing that it "conflicted [with] our values."
1/3 During Fri's #kctweetalong, we posted tweet that was offensive to LGBTQ & KC communities & we apologize for it.— Kansas City Police (@kcpolice) December 21, 2014
2/3 KCPD works tirelessly to educate ourselves on & serve all of our community. We're committed to building culture of respect & inclusivity— Kansas City Police (@kcpolice) December 21, 2014