A trans woman in Middlesbrough who tried to change her housing after being harassed by neighbours was refused help by staff, who told her it was her “choice” to be transgender.

Staff of Erimus Housing told Stephanie Elliott Lowther, 46, that they could not help with her request to move away from neighbours who subjected her to transphobic abuse as her gender identity was a “lifestyle choice” that she could opt out of, according to the Northern Echo.

Ms Lowther said: “Erimus has a plaque on its wall about supporting diversity but I came away from there believing that they did not understand what being a transsexual was about.

“I was frustrated and told her that if I had any choice in the matter, I would not choose to be transgendered [sic].”

Ms Lowther sent a complaint to Erimus Housing, who apologised. They have committed to carrying out diversity training for their staff, and Ms Lowther is to help them deliver it.

“I hope this ensures others who go down this route find an easier reception when being dealt with. Only time will tell but it is encouraging to see Erimus tackling this matter head on,” she said.

Saliah Hameed, the Diversity Manager for Erimus Housing’s parent company Fabrick, said: “We are committed to equality and diversity and will not tolerate discrimination on any grounds.

“All our members of staff undergo full equality and diversity training which is regularly updated and this situation has in fact highlighted the need for staff to undergo further even more enhanced training, which we have immediately started to look into.

“In fact we are now working with the customer to determine whether she would be able to help us with these training requirements and give us an even more realistic picture of the issues faced and how these can be handled sensitively.

“This was a genuine mix-up by a member of staff who immediately recognised she had not worded things correctly and apologised.”