A Biden administration State Department official was questioned on Thursday by a reporter who claimed the department recently implemented a "mandatory" policy requiring employees to include their pronouns in their emails.
Associated Press journalist Matt Lee stated that he noticed emails from department employees included pronouns in the "from" field. In a contentious back-and-forth, Lee pressed State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel about the change.
"Have you gotten any emails from any of your colleagues before you came out here … since about noon or so?" Lee questioned Patel.
Patel, who appeared already annoyed with the exchange, requested that the reporter "get to your question."
"Are you able to look at them right now?" Lee asked, referring to Patel's email.
"My email? I'm not going to pull up my email from the podium," Patel replied.
"You don't have to show it to me," Lee stated. "I want to know if you've noticed anything different in the 'from' line, where it gives the sender."
Visibly frustrated, the State Department deputy spokesman told the reporter it "would be a lot better if you would just tell us what your question was" and said that he had not noticed anything different about the emails.
"Within the last hour and a half … the State Department's internal email system — and I tested this, so I know that it's true — has added pronouns to people's — not their signature — but to where it says 'from,'" Lee stated. "Why?"
According to Lee, adding the pronouns to the "from" line was "not something that anybody has a choice about."
"I'm just wondering why and who made this decision," the reporter added.
Patel explained that he was unfamiliar with the "phenomenon" but plans to look into it.
The reporter added that some pronoun allocations are incorrect, calling the policy "ridiculous."
"I'd like to know why this would not be an optional thing. … The problem is that a lot of them, or at least some of them so far, as I've been able to tell, are wrong. They're giving the wrong pronouns. So men are being identified as women and women as men ... and this has nothing to do with whatever transgender or anything like that … but it's ridiculous," Lee stated.
Patel then started to explain that the department supports individuals who want to list their preferred pronouns in their email communications.
Lee interjected, stating, "I don't have a problem with doing it, and if people want their pronouns attached to it, it's fine! But it should be a choice. Not something the State Department imposes on people, especially if it's wrong."
Later that day, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller provided an update on Twitter regarding the use of pronouns in emails.
"The State Department's Bureau of Information Resource Management (IRM) is aware of the recent issues with user profiles on Microsoft Outlook and working to remedy the situation," Miller stated. "This change was unintentional and the bureau is working to correct this immediately."
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