Marta Kauffman, Friends co-creator, has apologised for misgendering transgender character Helena Handbasket, who was portrayed by Oscar-nominated actress Kathleen Turner.

Kauffman said many of the writing choices around the character were “a mistake”.

In the popular sitcom, which ran between 1994 and 2004, Helena, who was the parent of Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry), one of the show’s protagonists, was continually misgendered throughout the series and was the butt of many other jokes about her sexuality and gender identity.

As reported by The Radio Times in an interview with The Conversation set to air on BBC World Service on 11 July, Kauffmann said: “We kept referring to [Helena] as ‘Chandler’s father’, even though Chandler’s father was trans.”

She added: “Pronouns were not yet something that I understood so we didn’t refer to that character as ‘she’. That was a mistake.”

Turner has since said that she would refuse to accept the role if it was offered to her today. On Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, Turner stated: “Of course I wouldn’t do it now because there would be real people able to do it.”

Kauffman also said that she currently works to ensure that her work environments are safe places.

“It’s very important to me that where we are is a safe place, a tolerant place, where there’s no yelling,” she explained. “I fired a guy on the spot for making a joke about a trans cameraperson. That just can’t happen.”

The reflection on the show’s transphobia comes after Kauffman addressed criticism of the show’s lack of diversity. Subsequently to this, Kaufman donated four million dollars to Boston’s Brandeis University to establish an endowed professorship in the school’s African and American studies department. 

The Friends creator told the LA Times that she has “learned a lot in the last 20 years”.

“Admitting and accepting guilt is not easy. It’s painful looking at yourself in the mirror. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know better 25 years ago,” she added.