Popular ABC Family show Pretty Little Liars has come under fire for referring to a transgender character as "He. She. It." on social media.
Pretty Little Liars is about five teenage girls – Spencer, Hanna, Emily, Aria, and Alison – who are stalked, harassed, and taunted by an anonymous person known only as "A". The show is in its sixth season.
In the midseason finale earlier this month, it was revealed that "A" is a transgender woman named CeCe Drake, Alison's long-lost sibling.
Some fans were upset with the reveal, criticising the show for playing into a long-running pop culture trope of transgender characters exhibiting sociopathic behaviour.
The official Pretty Little Liars account posted this tweet on Monday night. It was quickly deleted after attracting criticism.
Several people responded to the tweet, saying it was disrespectful and hurtful to use the pronoun "he" and the word "it" to describe a transgender woman.
The same graphic was also shared from the ABC Family account, with the caption "She came. She saw. She conquered." Several fans have responded criticising the use of "he" in the picture.
A spokesperson for ABC Family told BuzzFeed News the tweet was a reference to dialogue in previous episodes, and they initially did not realise how it would be interpreted.
"This tweet was in reference to lines Spencer and Hanna have said in previous episodes venting their frustration about not knowing the identity or gender of their tormentor," the spokesperson said.
"It was spoken by these characters a season before they found out that 'A' was a transgender character."
In Season 5, the following exchange occurs:
Emily: You know that A is always one step ahead of us.
Spencer: Yeah, maybe he... she... it... bitch is.
Hanna also has a similar line in Season 5.
"We updated the reference by including the name Charlotte because it was revealed that Charlotte is 'A'," the spokesperson added.
"Once it was tweeted we realized that it could be misinterpreted, and in no way wanted to offend anyone, so we immediately deleted the tweet."
PLL executive producer Marlene King addressed the Tweet on Instagram. She wrote, "The Pretty Little Liars official Instagram account is not run by the show's creators, cast or crew. We too were upset by the post yesterday and were happy to see that it was removed. I encourage all people to be their true selves. And offer my support to the LGBT community."