A Green Party activist has expressed disappointment that Transport for London (TfL) continues to use gendered language.
Aimee Challenor, who is Equalities Spokesperson for the Green Party, was left humiliated after she was told she “didn’t sound like a Miss” during a telephone call to TfL’s Oyster helpline.
The 19-year-old’s experience was put to the London Mayor by Green Party GLA member Sian Berry, prompting Khan to apologise “unreservedly” for the remark and to issue a pledge on implementing gender-neutral announcements across its network.
But Challenor complains examples of gender-specific language across TfL, including recorded announcements, remain.
She also claims a TfL staff member who requested anonymity supplied her with a screenshot of the TfL “rule book” which states: “When using the Public Address (PA) system, you must start all service information announcements with ‘Ladies and gentlemen’, except for routine announcements such as ‘mind the gap’ and ‘stand clear of the doors.’”
Challenor blogged: “Let me be clear, trans and non-binary travellers deserve better than empty promises from Sadiq Khan and Transport for London. On Saturday, the Mayor will be celebrating LGBT and diversity at Pride in London, perhaps he could put actions behind his words, stop showboating and letting down diverse London and visitors.”
Last month Berry asked the Mayor once more about the matter, with Khan replying that he had briefed staff on the changes and was working with a specialist gender diversity charity that had created training workshops for all TfL contact centre managers.
Speaking at Mayor’s Question Time, he said: “I am aware... that some customers may not relate to or feel comfortable with the way that certain station announcements are made. I am keen that TfL addresses these concerns by speaking in a more neutral way when referring to gender.
“TfL has made a commitment to transition from gender-specific phrases like ‘ladies and gentlemen’ which are currently used in announcements, to a gender-neutral alternative such as ‘good morning/good afternoon everyone’.
“TfL has briefed its staff on this, though from time to time, well-meaning staff may still use the term ‘ladies and gentlemen’. If this happens frequently, TfL will issue reminders to staff. Revised phrasing will be applied to new pre-recorded announcements made across the network.”
A spokesman for the Mayor added that following customer feedback, TfL is currently reviewing the language used during live announcements “to ensure that it does not exclude any of its customers.”
Challenor told HuffPost UK she is pleased to hear TfL is working on Gender Diversity Training, but cited the existing rule book as “a significant block to progress.”
She added: “Since my experience last year, I have avoided phoning the Oyster helpline to avoid a recurrence of the issue. It should be noted with the announcements that these are not just the recorded ones, but the ones TfL staff are making live, such as service updates, platform announcements.”
Berry told HuffPost UK: “This is not good enough as we’re still hearing ‘ladies and gentlemen’ every day from staff and it isn’t clear if the appropriate training has been done. How long does it take to record a new announcement –or even just take ‘ladies and gentlemen’ off the beginning of the messages?
“I would be happy to sit and record a few announcements if they need help.”
A Stonewall spokesperson said: “Language is extremely important to the lesbian, gay, bi and trans community, and the way we use it can help ensure all people feel included. We’d welcome gender neutral announcements to be rolled out across TfL, as it would ensure that everyone – no matter who they identify as - feels accounted for.”
HuffPost UK has requested clarification of the language used in the TfL rule book. It notes that to this day several official TfL Twitter accounts continue to use the phrase “ladies and gentlemen” in their online advice to passengers.
Khan and his wife led the London Pride march in 2016. During his campaign to become Mayor, he said:“I stand shoulder to shoulder with London’s LGBT+ community. I know what it’s like to be different, growing up with a skin colour and practising a religion different to most other Londoners.
“But I don’t think it’s a weakness to be different – it’s actually a massive source of strength. And it’s this rich difference that I, as your Mayor, will celebrate every single day I am in City Hall.
“I’m determined to be a Mayor for all LGBT+ Londoners. My manifesto includes specific commitments on tackling hate crime, improved public health and protecting London’s rich and diverse gay heritage and venues”.