Providence City Councilman Michael Correia announced that he is resigning from a leadership role after being caught referring to Black transgender activist Justice Gaines as “an it.”
“I would like to personally apologize to Justice Gaines for any hurt that I may have inflicted on her,” Correia said in a statement posted to Facebook. “My words were flippant and inappropriate as a leader and as a person.”
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In recordings that Correia has called “illegal,” he can be heard talking about Gaines, an activist who has run for the city council and is involved in local politics.
The councilmember can be heard speaking to staffers about a newspaper story that reported Gaines might run for office again. The article he was discussing used “she” pronouns to refer to Gaines.
“He’s still working on developing his breasts and everything,” Correia says.
“What was his name before? Justin?” the staffer asks.
“Listen, you got to be careful,” Correia interjects, warning the staffer that Gaines has ties to a local lawyer.
“So what do you call this person if he wins?” the staffer asks. “Councilperson?”
“An it,” Correia said. “It.”
When a local news station played the recordings for Correia and his attorney, he responded, “I don’t think I offended anybody in any way. I hope nobody in the office has offended anybody in any way.”
Correia has refused to resign from the city council, but this past Friday he stepped down from a leadership position as the city council’s Pro-Tempore.
“I am committed to improve and grow as a person to ensure that this will never happen again. I now understand that words can be very impactful and pledge that I will only use them in positive ways,” he said in a statement.
He said that he has met with Gaines since the recordings were made public and apologized to her.
“She accepted my apology for herself, but informed me that my bad behavior was much farther reaching,” he said.
“I was hurt and upset and sad,” she told local news station WPRI 12. “To have a city councilman mocking or making light of my pronouns or what being transgender means, when there are people in his ward who he represents who he’s supposed to be fighting for who are like me, who are trans women, who are non-binary… that’s upsetting.”
“For a city councilor to worry about whether I have breasts, it’s disgusting,” she continued. “When instead he should be focused on making the city a better place for his residents of Ward 6 and the rest of the residents in the city, including transgender residents.”