Railway firm apologises to non-binary passenger for ‘ladies and gentlemen’ announcement

Lily Wakefield May 14, 2021
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Laurence Coles, a non-binary train guard

LNER apologised to Laurence Coles, a non-binary train guard. (Twitter)

The London North Eastern Railway has apologised to a non-binary passenger for a “ladies and gentlemen” train announcement.

On Tuesday (11 May) Laurence Coles, a train guard and LGBT+ rep for the RMT union, wrote on Twitter: “‘Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls…’ So as a non-binary person this announcement doesn’t actually apply to me so I won’t listen.”

Coles’ friend Charlotte Monroe, who is a “lifelong railway employee” and creator of the Progress Train, the UK’s first-ever Pride train staffed by all-LGBT+ crew, said they were with them when the announcement was made.

Monroe told the London North Eastern Railway on Twitter: “I was sat with Laurence when this tweet was sent. Both of us are non-binary, and we were both alarmed and uncomfortable by the lack of inclusion.

“This comes from an operator that has made a *big* push on LGBTQ+ inclusivity, including prominent Trainbow campaigns.”

“We (that is, railway staff in general) have a duty of care to all of our passengers,” they added.

“Both Laurence and I were ourselves customers of the railway – being rail staff does not absolve an operator of the duty of care or responsibility to be inclusive.

“Raising awareness of issues *is* educating – we shouldn’t be having these conversations behind closed doors.”

Monroe said that while neither they nor Coles thought the conductor was being “deliberately exclusionary”, it was important for the operator to address that passengers were, nevertheless, excluded.

Responding to Coles’ tweet, the London North Eastern Railway apologised, tweeting: “I’m really sorry to see this, Laurence, our train managers should not be using language like this, and I thank you for bringing it to my attention.

“Please could you let me know which service you are on and I will ensure they remain as inclusive as we strive to be at LNER.”

Predictably, many anti-LGBT+ Twitter users were furious about the train operator’s commitment to educating its staff on language inclusive of non-binary folk.

Laurence Fox, who is currently being sued for defamation after labelling a RuPaul’s Drag Race UK star, a Coronation Street actor and the deputy chair of Stonewall as “paedophiles”, tweeted: “Being bullied by a narcissist in the name of ‘inclusivity’ into adopting the terminology of some fake gender ideology is is not only an assault on language, but also perfect Twatter.”

Julia Hartley-Brewer, who is very concerned about changing rooms and has banned the word “cis” on her radio show, demonstrated little understanding of what it means to be non-binary when she tweeted: “Surely if Laurence is non-binary then Laurence is both a boy *and* and girl so got a double mention, in which case surely Laurence should be delighted to get so much special attention. Which is clearly what Laurence desperately craves.”

Coles has been forced to make their Twitter account private following their interaction with the London North Eastern Railway, and has added to their Twitter bio: “If you have come here bc Julia HB or Laurence Fox go away.”

Related topics: non-binary

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