as some of you will be aware, the harlequin has been libelled by two local labour councillors. below is the draft text of a complaint being sent to sheffield city council and the the labour party. comments and suggestions welcome :)
I should like to make a formal complaint about the behaviour of two of your councillors: Councillor Neale Gibson and Councillor Sophie Wilson. This complaint relates specifically to libellous claims made against my business by both of the above on twitter.
On Thursday 3rd January 2019 my business – The Harlequin – hosted a drop-in surgery for City Ward Green Party councillors. This event was advertised on twitter as well as in other ways. Councillor Gibson replied to a tweet about this event asking how the Green Party felt about this pub’s “transphobic tweets”. I asked Councillor Gibson to provide evidence of these transphobic tweets, to which he replied that “since all your retweet’s [sic] seem to have been deleted, there currently are not any. There was a spate of them over the last couple of weeks”. As I know that I have not made any transphobic tweets, nor deleted any, i asked Councillor Gibson to retract his allegation and apologise. I indicated that I would let the matter drop if he apologised and made a donation to a women’s refuge: neither of these things have been forthcoming, and the libellous allegation remains on his twitter feed, along with his statement that “I read a number of retweet’s [sic] on your account that I think most people would have thought were transphobic. There [sic] now don’t appear on the timeline.”. Again, I strenuously deny having made or deleted any transphobic tweets, and I wonder, if they were so offensive, whether Councillor Gibson saw fit to report my tweets to twitter at the time as offensive content, in which case he will have receipts to this effect?
When asked by a journalist to back up his comments, Councillor Gibson provided screenshots of some tweets from last September (note, not the last couple of weeks as he had previously falsely claimed), none of which were transphobic: one tweet was about women using sinks as toilets when cubicles are busy (this has nothing to do with transpeople); two tweets related to a daughter of a friend of mine coming out as an otter (again, nothing whatsoever to do with transpeople – as the friend himself said: “How on earth can my daughter being an otter be considered transphobic?”; and one tweet was me confirming that we had hosted a meeting by the group Woman’s Place UK – this is a well known women’s rights group, and is not an anti-trans group, and the fact that we hosted the meeting was well known).
Councillor Wilson has continued to level libellous accusations that the pub is “very hostile” to the trans community; she has refused to apologise, and the allegations remain on her twitter feed. Her evidence for this appears to be based on gossip and hearsay (eg, “I remember you hosting a women’s [sic] place and being very hostile to members of the trans community at the time who came to express their concerns about the group”; “I’ve heard many people’s [sic] say the pub was hostile to those in the trans community during the women’s [sic] place meeting and following argument / debate.” ; when challenged and informed that there was considerable hostility on behalf of some transactivists, she said “Sounds like both sides we’re [sic] hostile then”. Again, I strenuously deny that we have ever been hostile to the trans community, and the fact that Councillor Wilson is unable to provide any evidence yet has left the allegation on her feed is disturbing.
When prominent councillors attack a local business with libellous allegations, they not only damage the business itself, they also impact the staff who work there and the community which the business is at the heart of. Furthermore, by weaponising the very real and horrible problem of transphobia by spreading false information, they are contributing to dissent within the trans community, giving the impression that they are happy to use transphobia falsely to undermine their opponents. For example, Councillor Wilson’s claim that “Harlequin are [sic] well known in the trans community for being Transphobic and unwelcoming. Now trans constituents can’t visit cllr Phipps at surgery.” could put transpeople at risk of not accessing valuable help from their local Green Party Councillors.
Thank you for your attention in this matter. Please do not hesitate to contact me should you require any additional information. In the interests of transparency, I should like to state that I have not ruled out taking legal action against Councillors Gibson and Wilson regarding their libellous comments.