Essex County Council has decided to remove an image appearing to depict a trans person removing a wig from a survey about their local libraries.
The image, featured as part of a public consultation meant to research local residents’ opinion on the future of the libraries, caused outrage. A spokesperson for Essex County Council apologised for the offence it caused.
“We have listened to feedback and the image is being removed,” the spokesperson told PinkNews on Wednesday (January 30).
The survey is offered both as a multiple choice poll and in the Easy Read format, which features clearly written words along with pictures to provide easier understanding to those who may have a learning disability.
At the end of the survey, respondents were asked to describe their gender identity, picking between three options—man, woman, and transgender.
The Easy Read format accompanied each option with a depiction of the gender identity—but while the “man” and “woman” box featured smiling pictures of human beings, the “transgender” one featured the drawing of a person with their hand touching the top of their head, appearing to be removing a wig.
Essex County Council depiction of transgender person faces criticism
Several people expressed criticism of the depiction. Author Liz Miles was among the first to question the choice of the image in a post on Twitter. “A shockingly negative depiction of transgender on the Essex County Council Easy Read Library Survey,” she wrote.
Her tweet gathered several responses from people similarly outraged at the representation of transgender identity. “This is terrible, Essex council. Utterly disgraceful,” one Twitter user reacted.
Shannon Jezzard, a councillor in the Essex town of Harlow, also condemned the image in a tweet: “This graphic on the easy read version of the library consultation is massively offensive—implying that a transgender person is confused as well as infering that a person can’t be male/female as well as trans? don’t invalidate people’s identities. rectify this.”
Following the mounting criticism, Essex County Council said in a statement on January 29 that they were aware of the reactions the survey received.
The statement read: “Firstly we would like to reassure those concerned that the image was specifically chosen to help communicate with people with learning disabilities.
“It was supplied by an organisation called Inspired Services, who work with people with learning disabilities to produce Valuing People Clipart, which is used by the Government and NHS England for easy read publications.
“However, we are sorry for any offence the image has caused and we will now consider whether this image is used in the future.”