A non-binary councillor walked out of Newham’s full council meeting after fellow councillors repeatedly misgendered them.

Danny Keeling, who uses they/them pronouns and is the leader of Newham’s Green party, left the meeting on Monday, February 27 to ‘cool off’ after the council’s chair Winston Vaughan referred to them multiple times as ‘he’.

Cllr Vaughan said: “I’ve been informed that I’ve been misrepresenting the councillor.

“I should have said ‘them’ rather than ‘he’. So I do apologise for that. And I think that’s what affected him, is it? Them, sorry. So my apologies to him. To them. Sorry.”

As the council discussed the budget for 2023/24, Cllr Keeling was misgendered again by Cllr Zulfiqar Ali, the cabinet member for finance and resources, causing them to walk out of the meeting.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service after the meeting, Cllr Keeling said: “I just went downstairs for a couple of minutes to cool off because I’ve just had enough of it.

“It’s such a repetitive thing that’s happening all the time and it’s bullying, I’ve made a complaint about it.

“I’ve spoken to the chief executive and I’ve spoken to HR because I genuinely want to ensure that we stamp it out as an institution at Newham Council.”

They added: “The chair should be facilitating a safe space for all councillors, all genders, all races – everybody.

“If we have the most trans and non-binary residents in the country, [the council] is representing them and they don’t know how to talk to them. If they don’t know how to communicate with their own residents, then this is detrimental to their own roles as well.”

“This is a common occurrence and it happens in public, full council and outside of full council as well,” they told the LDRS. “When we passed the transgender motion last month, I called them out on it as it happens far too often.”

As Cllr Keeling walked out of the meeting, Cllr Nate Higgins said: “We’ve now seen Cllr Keeling misgendered again to the point where they’ve now left the room because they feel unable to participate in one of the most important parts of being a councillor.

“You have a microphone, you have the power here to make this a safe space for trans and non-binary members, we have one now and in the future hopefully we will have more of them as part of this council.”

Newham Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz then took to the stand to apologise to Cllr Keeling and said the council must ‘do better’.

Ms Fiaz said: “Colleagues, all of us really must do better. I have had to learn to do better and I know it can be hard but when someone asks you to respect them as a human being and as an individual and to not misgender them, we have to try really hard.

“As mayor I would like to apologise profusely to Cllr Danny Keeling for being repeatedly misgendered during council proceedings this evening, it’s been wrong and it’s caused hurt to the degree that h… I’ve even made a mistake and it just demonstrates how easy it is to make a mistake no matter how consciously hard you are trying.”

She added: “And for Cllr Danny Keeling they have had to leave this room because they are hurt and they feel harmed and it’s clear that all of us need to commit to proper training on this really important area of [inclusiveness] as a council and as a community.

“We need to ensure that all council colleagues are serious to this commitment in this instance and are open to learning and we will do better, I will do better and I can only again apologise.”