Will North Wales’ new ‘agender’ mayor accept your apology?

The real debate here is not about pronouns, it is about misogyny

Apparently, saying sorry isn’t always enough

When Owen Hurcum, a 23-year-old non-binary person was elected Mayor of Bangor, the interest in the North Wales city was global. Hurcum’s tweet celebrating the victory, which garnered over 46,000 likes, was subsequently relayed by US TV network CBS, which described the young politician as ‘genderqueer or agender.’

Calling it as a ‘historic first’, the CBS article discusses the Mayor’s political career, which includes Hurcum’s resignation earlier this year from Plaid Cymru. It reports that Hurcum left the party for continuing “to platform those who promote transphobia”, singling out Helen Mary Jones for her opposition to changes in the Gender Recognition Act.

This, however, was not the full story. When Jones, former deputy leader of Plaid Cymru, spoke at a Woman’s Place UK (WPUK) meeting, she questioned whether a rise in the number of “women and girls wanting to transition to the opposite sex” had been caused by pressure to look a certain way on social media. This speech resulted in Hurcum’s resignation from the party as well as a demand for Jones to not only apologise, but apologise in the right way: “I want Helen Mary Jones to apologise in a way that is not ‘I’m sorry you’re offended. I want a sincere apology and I want her to make an effort to learn about the community and understand why she’s perpetrating transphobia.”

Shortly afterwards, LGB Alliance tweeted out their support for Jones, which angered Hurcum further:

Neither WPUK nor the LGB Alliance are transphobic groups, but accusations can be a powerful weapon when they go unchallenged. This proved to be the case when Jones, who is not a transphobe, nevertheless apologised to the trans community for causing “pain and hurt” over her actions on social media. She also promised to undergo awareness training.

But this apology was not good enough for Hurcum, of course. In a statement, Hurcum dismissed Jones’s statement as merely an “initial step”, that was possibly “tokenistic”.

Which just goes to show that even apologies aren’t enough for certain members of the trans lobby. That a 23-year-old could force a senior politician into giving a grovelling apology and reject it out of hand illustrates not only the arrogance of the individual, but the fear that comes with debating trans issues. It leaves news organisations like CBS and the BBC tying themselves in knots by paying lip service to Hurcum’s pronouns — they/them — because they dare not want to risk appearing transphobic.

But the real debate here is not about pronouns, it is about misogyny. If no one will call it out, I will. Too many 23 year-old-men are dismissive of women old enough to be their mothers. Hurcum should know better and I hope one day he will.

Debbie Hayton

* This article was first published by Unherd on 18 May 2021: Will North Wales’ new ‘agender’ mayor accept your apology?

By Debbie Hayton

Physics teacher and trade unionist.

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