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Buffalo, What’s Next?: Redistricting critic misgendered by mayor says incident shows ‘he’s not hearing us’

Arise Shapley gets into heated discussion with Mayor Byron Brown
The Government Channel
City of Buffalo
Arise Shapley (center) gets into a heated discussion with Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, which resulted in Brown walking off the stage, during a public redistricting hearing Aug. 3, 2022. Brown misgendered Shapley, a trans non-binary person, on three different occasions, referring to them as "ma'am."

The speaker who was misgendered several times by Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown during a contentious public hearing on redistricting Wednesday says the exchange shows the mayor “might be listening but he's not hearing us.”

Arise Shapley appeared on Thursday’s edition of “Buffalo, What’s Next?” to discuss the incident, which WBFO captured on video and led to Brown momentarily walking off the stage. Brown addressed Shapley, who is a trans nonbinary person, as “ma’am” on three separate occasions, despite Shapley correcting Brown each time that they are “not a ma’am.”

“Once is understandable,” Shapley told WBFO News Director Dave Debo on the program. “Then it continued to happen when I talked with him and he said it again. So at that point … it literally shows that he might be listening, but he's not hearing us. And he's not understanding us.”

Arise Shapley's appearance on 'Buffalo, What's Next?'
Redistricting critic talks being misgendered by Mayor Byron Brown, problems with Common Council map
Buffalo, What's Next?

After being corrected for the third time, Brown asked Shapley what they would like to be called instead. Shapley told Brown he could call them “a person,” leading Brown to say, “OK, well, ‘person,’ would you like to come to the microphone?”

Shapley said they did not appreciate that response.

“‘Just acknowledge me as a human being and don't try to gender me in the way that you are,’ was really what I was trying to say,” Shapley said. “And he took it and just used it in a way that sounds bad. He did it in a way that was just disrespectful.”

The exchange started after Shapley spoke from their seat in the audience and repeatedly declined Brown’s requests that they use the microphone located on either side of the auditorium. Brown ultimately announced he would not listen to someone “who insists on being out of order” and walked off the stage. He returned two minutes later.

Shapley acknowledged he was speaking out of order, but said the mayor was also “out of order” for the way he repeatedly misgendered them.

“He literally disrespected my humanity at least three times in that conversation,” Shapley said.

The hearing was required by law before Brown can act on the Common Council’s proposed new district map, which has been accused of being gerrymandered and discriminatory toward Black voters in particular. Activists led by Our City Action Buffalo have proposed an alternative map.

Shapley called the Council’s proposed map inequitable. For example, Shapley said it doesn’t make sense for his neighborhood in the city’s Lower West Side to be included in the Fillmore District.

“It largely and disproportionately gives priority to white voters,” Shapley said. “It gives more of a voice to them.”

WBFO had arranged to have Brown on Thursday's show, but Brown’s spokesperson, Mike DeGeorge, said the mayor was unavailable due to a member of his staff dying of cancer Wednesday evening.

You can listen below to the full "Buffalo, What's Next" episode on the redistricting hearing.

Buffalo, What's Next?: Public Voice in Redistricting
“Buffalo, What’s Next?” recaps a particularly contentious mayoral hearing which included both supporters of the plan and others who say it will dilute Black voting power in the city.
Buffalo, What's Next?

Tom Dinki joined WBFO in August 2019 to cover issues affecting older adults.
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