Elon Musk should apologize for mocking gender pronouns, says HRC

Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and chief executive officer of Tesla Inc., arrives at the Axel Springer Award ceremony in Berlin, Germany, on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020.

Liesa Johannssen-Koppitz | Bloomberg | Getty Images

In a series of tweets this week, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk mocked people who list the pronouns they would like others to use to describe them in their online bios. Now, a group that gave Tesla top marks as a great place for LGBTQ people to work says he should apologize.

Companies are under greater pressure than ever before to create an inclusive environment and support a diverse workforce. The practice of displaying pronouns on social media and in executive bios is used by people who wish to show respect for or who identify as trans, gender nonconforming, gender-fluid, non-binary or intersex. (They are represented by the T and Q in the acronym LGBTQ.)

Apple execs Tim Cook and Greg Joswiak use pronouns in their Twitter bios, for example. And Facebook‘s settings allow users to customize their gender info and preferred pronouns, or opt not to display them if they prefer.

Musk’s initial tweet included the words “when you put he/him in ur bio” alongside a picture of a soldier rubbing bloody hands on his face.

After fans and detractors alike criticized the tweet, he defended himself by tweeting, “I absolutely support trans, but all these pronouns are an esthetic nightmare.” He then pointed out that Tesla had the number one ranking on the Corporate Equality Index, an annual list of the best places for LGBTQ people to work.

That prestigious list is compiled annually by the Human Rights Campaign, a charitable foundation focused on equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Now, that group says Musk should apologize.

“Musk’s insensitive comments stand completely contrary to what HRC’s Workplace Equality Program works with companies each day to create — providing employees a safe, inclusive, and fair work environment,” the group wrote in response to an inquiry from CNBC.

The organization’s President Alphonso David emphasized, “Elon Musk’s tweet mocking pronouns is exactly the opposite of what inclusive leadership looks like today. It’s also decidedly out of step with the best practices we advise companies.” He also said, “Musk should apologize.”

Tesla and Musk did not immediately return a request for comment.

Musk has been accused of being transphobic in the recent past. In July, he tweeted that “pronouns suck,” but he deleted the tweet after his partner, Canadian musician Grimes, confronted him.

Here’s the full statement from the Human Rights Campaign:

The Corporate Equality Index (CEI) is a comprehensive measurement of workplace non-discrimination policies, practices and benefits critical to the full protection and inclusion of LGBTQ workers. Tesla scored a 100 on the 2020 CEI based on this crucial foundation of inclusive non-discrimination policies and benefits.

No benchmarking tool can fully account for the day-to-day experiences of LGBTQ workers. The CEI criteria alone are necessary foundations for LGBTQ inclusion but do not represent the entirety of what it takes to ensure a fully inclusive and welcoming environment. The CEI is not a cover for poor personal behavior, and HRC condemns Musk’s tweets mocking pronouns.

Musk’s insensitive comments stand completely contrary to what HRC’s Workplace Equality Program works with companies each day to create—providing employees a safe, inclusive, and fair work environment.

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