Earlier this week, I wrote an opinion piece offering a friendly warning to Elon Musk about the possible impacts of a recent tweet. In response, he clarified his position in another tweet, but his responses aren’t pleasing everybody. The Human Rights Campaign, in a statement to CNBC, responded to the online debate.
“I absolutely support trans,” Musk said in his initial response to my piece, “but all these pronouns are an esthetic nightmare.” My personal response to this can be found at the end of this story.
The HRC Response
It was another tweet that seemed to have most caught the attention of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), an organization committed to ensuring that all LGBTQ people “are treated as full and equal citizens within our movement, across our country and around the world.” One of HRC’s efforts toward this is to rate employers on their LGBTQ friendliness, and Tesla has a 100-point rating in their Corporate Equality Index, the highest possible score.
In a second response in the thread noted above, Elon Musk defended himself by stating that Tesla has HRC’s highest rating — but this didn’t sit too well with HRC when CNBC asked the organization about it.
The organization’s President, Alphonso David, told CNBC, “Elon Musk’s tweet mocking pronouns is exactly the opposite of what inclusive leadership looks like today. It’s also decidedly out of step with the best practices we advise companies.” He also said, “Musk should apologize.”
Elsewhere in the statement they said, “The CEI is not a cover for poor personal behavior, and HRC condemns Musk’s tweets mocking pronouns.”
The full statement can be found at CNBC.
A 25-Point Reduction in the Equality Index is Possible
While the Human Rights Campaign did not threaten to reduce Tesla’s score in the Corporate Equality Index, I looked further into the organization’s scoring criteria to understand it better and see if a reduction is possible for Elon Musk’s companies. Tesla and SpaceX are both listed, but SpaceX does not have a score. Other companies Musk owns, like The Boring Company and Neuralink, are not listed in the index.
The 100 points are based on a variety of factors, including workforce protections, inclusive benefits, inclusive culture, and corporate responsibility. The more a corporation follows HRC guidelines, the higher their score will be.
At the bottom of the criteria, they do have a “responsible citizenship” penalty of 25 points they may assess on a listed entity. It says, “Employers will have 25 points deducted from their score for a large-scale official or public anti-LGBTQ blemish on their recent records.”
The criteria go on to list things they’d consider a blemish, but the list is non-exhaustive of course (“including but not limited to”). The Human Rights Campaign leaves themselves a lot of leeway on when they are allowed to reduce a company’s score by 25 points, which would effectively take Tesla and SpaceX from an A+ to a C if implemented in this case.
From what I saw elsewhere on twitter, many others did not accept Elon Musk’s response to my initial opinion piece. It seemed to send mixed messages, and some even saw it as doubling down on the pronoun issue. The debate over his tweets was so large that several related topics trended on Twitter.
To avoid losing points in the Equality Index and to improve his companies’ public image, an apology might be the best approach at this point.
My personal thoughts on Elon Musk’s response:
To be clear, myself and many others did appreciate that he stated his support for transgender people. Support is definitely good. On the other hand, doubling down on the pronoun issue does send mixed signals to many in the LGBTQ community, who (perhaps rightfully) called me out on Twitter for accepting his clarification.
We should probably consider the opinions of those openly identifying as transgender first when these issues come up. I will keep that in mind in the future, and would like to thank those who approached me politely for their input. It was educational and I have a lot to think about.
I am also disturbed that some brought Elon Musk and Grimes’ child into the discussion. I didn’t intend for anything like that to happen, but as a mom, I regret that it did. I think children should be left out of these sorts of online discussions. Nobody chooses the name their parents give them, and X Æ A-12 deserves to have a childhood.
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