Shawn Williams (left) of Hello U of T listens while 1UofT candidate, Andy Edem speaks during March 16 UTSU Executive Debate. Jiayue Li/THE VARSITY

1UofT, one of the executive slates running in this week’s UTSU elections have issued a statement regarding the misgendering of one of Hello UofT’s candidates, Shawn Williams at the March 16 Executive Debate last week. During the vice president, university affairs portion of the debate, 1UofT candidate Andy Edem misgendered Williams while responding to a question from the audience. Candidates for all positions were asked by the moderator to provide their pronouns in advance.

Once corrected by Williams, Edem immediately apologized for the mistake.

“First of all I have to make an apology to you, I’m really sorry. I try as much as possible to use appropriate pronouns or the pronoun that somebody actually prefers, but we’re all human and sometimes we make slip-ups and this is one, so I thank you for calling that out,” Edem responded during the debate.

Though Williams does not believe that Edem misgendered her maliciously, she found his apology unsatisfactory. “Andy’s apology was long, and mostly devoid of substance,” Williams wrote in a Facebook post earlier this week, noting that Edem’s apology failed to take account of the harm she had endured in such a public forum.

1UofT’s statement on the incident was released on the evening of March 20, four days after the debate. “As a team, we would like to offer our sincerest apologies to [Williams], everyone in attendance at the debate (online and in-person), and to others that have been impacted by this act since then,” read part the statement.

The statement also addressed the audience’s reaction at the debate, as several people in attendance clapped after Edem corrected himself. “The applause was unnecessary and inappropriate. Misgendering can be traumatic in itself, the applause only furthers the harm,” 1UofT wrote.

In her Facebook post earlier this week, Williams criticized 1UofT’s handling of the incident both at the debate and in subsequent days.

According to the post, Williams approached 1UofT’s presidential candidate, Madina Siddiqui after the debate’s conclusion to request an apology.

At meeting on March 18 regarding the incident, Williams suggested that 1UofT make a public statement on the grounds that “there were other people in the room who were affected by what happened, and they deserved a response. Second, there are people who just don’t know any better, and who will not realize that anything that happened was a problem unless we explicitly address what happened.”

Williams said that 1UofT had not thought to make a statement before their meeting and that she offered to review any statement they made before its release.

“I made myself more involved in this process than I should have been—after all, I was one of the people who was wronged, wasn’t I? I wanted to approve the statement written by 1UofT before they wrote it because I really really really wanted us to properly acknowledge what had happened, because our peers are deserving of that proper acknowledgement,” Williams wrote.

According to Williams, the draft she received did not address the issues at hand. “Their statement missed the point, and made it seem like they really didn’t understand what problems they were supposed to be acknowledging in the first place… They fucked up completely, but we still had an opportunity to try and do something for those people who were hurt or made to feel uncomfortable, and we still had an opportunity to try and educate people about what had happened.”

Williams told The Varsity that she would prefer not to comment.

After telling 1UofT that there were outstanding issues with their statement, Williams opted to discontinue her assistance.
“I have to speak about this now because it’s ridiculous,” Williams wrote, adding that voters should be aware of the sequence of events following the incident before heading to the polls this week.

Siddiqui said that she had seen Williams’ post. “Through reading it my team and I understand the need to be better allies. That means listening more than talking,” Siddiqui said. “[Williams’] experiences are valid and [we] are learning from them,” she added.

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