The US State Department is offering free counseling to employees who may have been “hurt or upset” after a system-wide email glitch assigned random and incorrect gender pronouns to State Department staff last week, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
Employees were reportedly “triggered” after receiving emails from colleagues last Thursday that included random pronouns in the “From” line.
According to the State Department the randomly assigned pronouns, which had women getting male pronouns and men getting female pronouns, were due to a “pronoun glitch” in the State Department’s email system.
During last Thursday’s State Department briefing, Associated Press reporter Matt Lee got into a heated exchange about the pronoun glitch with Deputy spokesman Vedant Patel, who appeared to be unaware of the problem.
Lee demanded to know why the State Department was assigning pronouns to employees rather than giving them a choice in the matter. He noted that people were being assigned the wrong pronouns and described the debacle as “ridiculous.”
In an email to State Department employees on Friday, Kelly Fletcher, the department’s chief information officer, encouraged those triggered by the pronoun glitch to contact the Employee Consultation Service for the State Department to arrange to “speak to a professional counselor.”
According to Fletcher, the State Department was testing a feature to allow staff to include preferred pronouns in their “Global Address list profile.” While testing the feature, pronouns were randomly assigned to employees, but the test “inadvertently went live.” She assured State Department staff that once the new feature is active, it will be the employees who choose which pronouns to use in their profile.
Fletcher explained that the pronoun feature in the State Department’s email system was designed to provide employees with more inclusive options and “not to make decisions for them.” She acknowledged that the glitch “had the opposite effect,” and apologized for any harm it caused.