Trans activist ‘hurt and disgusted’ after Democratic councillor secretly recorded mocking her breasts and calling her ‘it’

Councilman Mike Correia

An investigation has been launched into the conduct of Democratic councillor Michael Correia, who was caught on tape referring to a transgender activist as “an it”.

Councilman Correia, who represents ward 6 of Providence in Rhode Island, was heard making transphobic comments in one of four secret recordings sent to local news station Target 12 by an unidentified city council staff member.

In a snippet of a conversation recorded in City Hall, Correia is heard talking about Justice Gaines, a trans activist who often engages with the council and once ran for city council herself.

“She’s considering taking another shot,” a staffer can be heard on the tape, referring to a news article which stated that Gaines might run for council again.

“He’s still working on developing his breasts and everything,” Correia replied.

The staffer then discusses Gaines’ deadname, continuing to use male pronouns. “Listen, you got to be careful,” Correia interjects, reminding them that Gaines is involved with an activist group that includes lawyer Shannah Kurland.

“So what do you call this person if he wins?” the staffer asked. “Councilperson?”

“An it,” Correia said. “It.”

The recordings “hurt and upset” Gaines, who questioned what business Michael Correia had discussing her body.

“For a city councillor to worry about whether I have breasts, it’s disgusting,” Gaines said. “He should be focused on making the city a better place for his residents of Ward 6 and the rest of the residents in the city, including transgender residents.

“To have a city councilman mocking or making light of my pronouns or what being transgender means, when there are people in his ward who he represents who he’s supposed to be fighting for who are like me, who are trans women, who are non-binary… that’s upsetting.”

A spokesperson for the city mayor confirmed that “multiple complaints” had been made regarding Correia’s language, and that he is now the focus of an HR probe.

But Correia says he doesn’t think he offended anyone “in any way”. Rather than apologising for his conduct he is instead focused on what he sees as a potential breach of his civil rights.

“[The recordings] are excerpts of conversations between and among myself and others. It is difficult to give them context since they are only random portions of conversations,” he told NBC 10 in a statement.

“I do believe that these surreptitious recordings are a violation of law and beyond that a grave intrusion of privacy for the hardworking members of the city council staff. They certainly do not deserve that kind of work environment.”