Flags flown at two town halls to celebrate International Women's Day were branded "transphobic" amid a flurry of complaints.
Flags which read: "Woman, noun, adult human female" were flown at Southport and Bootle town halls on Monday.
The slogan was widely criticised on social media as a recognised symbol of a "transphobic hate group".
Sefton Council apologised and said it removed the flags as soon as they realised they were causing offence.
'Call to arms'
The flags were given to the council to use as part of its celebrations for International Women's Day on Sunday 8 March.
The authority would not confirm who provided them or say what checks were made.
A similar billboard poster put up by activist Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull in Liverpool in 2018 bearing the word "woman" was taken down after complaints it was transphobic.
She denied the allegation, but has strongly rejected the idea that trans women were women.
Ms Keen-Minshull said her main concern was that the word "woman" was "being appropriated to mean anything".
Joss Prior, a trans woman living in Liverpool, complained about the flag and said the term "adult human female" was a "deliberately esoteric dog whistle aimed at undermining the confidence of trans people and a call to arms for anti-trans trolls and hate groups".
Adrian Harrop a campaigner for LGBTQ+ and also from Liverpool tweeted that the recognised symbol of a "transphobic hate group" and had no official connection or relationship to International Women's Day.
hi @seftoncouncil 👋🏼 the flag you’re flying at the moment is a hostile transphobic dog whistle, recognised as a symbol and brand of one of Britain’s most outspoken and visible trans-antagonists, and the leader of a transphobic hate group.pic.twitter.com/3qsSieK3T7— Adrian Harrop (@AdrianHarrop) March 2, 2020
A council spokesman said the authority apologised "profusely" for any offence caused.
"We were asked to support International Women's Day by flying a flag above Bootle and Southport town halls which we did.
"However, we [were] made aware of a potential issue regarding the messaging on the flag and took them down.
Sefton has a proud history of supporting LGBTQ+ rights, he added.
"We will continue to celebrate the diversity of all our communities and residents across our beautiful borough."