Dr. Rachel Levine responds to transphobic comments: ‘I do not have time for intolerance’

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine on Tuesday broke her silence about people who have harassed and directed transphobic comments at her in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

At the start of a news briefing, Levine said she felt compelled to “personally respond to the multiple incidents of LGBTQ harassment and specifically transphobia directed at me that have been reported in the press.”

Levine, a transgender woman, has gained notoriety during the pandemic as she and Gov. Tom Wolf provide regular updates on how covid-19 is affecting Pennsylvania. With that has come much backlash and transphobia.

“I want to emphasize that while these individuals may think they are only expressing their displeasure with me, they are in fact hurting the thousands of LGBTQ Pennsylvanians who suffer directly from these current demonstrations of harassment,” Levine said during the briefing. “Your actions perpetuate a spirit of intolerance and discrimination against LGBTQ individuals and specifically transgender individuals.”

Levine took to her Twitter account to send out a similar message.

“I have no room in my heart for hatred and frankly, I do not have time for intolerance. My heart is full with a burning desire to help people + my time is full working toward protecting the public health of everyone in PA from #COVID19,” Levine tweeted. “I will stay laser-focused on that goal.”

Several comments on Levine’s Twitter thread were supportive.

Those who have harassed Levine include local officials and, most recently, the hosts of an Eastern Pennsylvania fair.

In June, former Scott Township Commissioner Paul Abel stepped down after he was quoted saying, “I tell you, I am tired of listening to a guy dressed up like a woman,” in reference to Levine at a public meeting.

Also in June, Trafford Councilman Zack Cole wished Levine a “Happy Father’s Day” using her birth name on Gov. Tom Wolf’s Facebook page. Wolf had wished a happy Father’s Day to all Pennsylvania dads. Cole replied: “Happy Father’s Day to Richard Levine as well.” Cole has refused to resign.

Earlier this month, the Columbia-Montour County Fireman’s Relief Carnival, hosted by the Bloomsburg Fair, came under fire after a man wearing a dress and wig sat on the dunk tank pedestal, claiming to resemble Levine.

The Bloomsburg Fair made a post to its Facebook page with a photo of the man and the tank, along with the caption: “Dr. Levine? Thank you. You were a hit and raised a lot of money for the local fire companies. Wonder why so many were trying to dunk you,” followed by a smiley-face emoji. “Thanks everyone that came out to support our local fire companies.”

The post was removed after receiving backlash from activist groups and social media users. Fair organizers later denied the dunk tank stunt was directed at Levine.

Levine said she is willing to forgive those who are sincerely sorry for what they said, but an apology is only the beginning of the conversation.

“I call on you, and all Pennsylvanians, to work towards a spirit of not just tolerance but a spirit of acceptance and welcoming towards LGBTQ individuals,” Levine said. “We all need to foster that spirit of acceptance and welcoming to LGBTQ individuals and celebrate the wonderful diversity of our commonwealth.”

Levine reminded people that only a month ago the Supreme Court prohibited workplace discrimination because of sexual orientation and gender identity. LGBTQ individuals still can be denied housing and public accommodations in most places in Pennsylvania that do not have local nondiscrimination ordinances, she said.

Among the most vulnerable are LGBTQ people of color, youth, seniors and immigrants, Levine said.

“Transgender women of color continue to be not only harassed but are more likely to suffer violence and even murder,” Levine said. “We have not made progress unless we have all made progress.”

Levine thanked Wolf for his support and said Pennsylvania’s LGBTQ community has made “so much progress” under his leadership.

Wolf Press Secretary Lyndsay Kensinger issued a statement in response to Levine’s comments.

“Hate has no place in Pennsylvania, including in the smallest joke, action or social media post. Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine is a distinguished and accomplished public servant. She is committed to keeping Pennsylvanians safe and healthy, even those who direct hate-fueled attacks at her,” Kensinger said.

The Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh stood by Levine.

“It’s unfortunate that people who may be feeling frustrated continue to direct such hateful and vile transphobic comments towards Dr. Levine,” the foundation said in a statement. “We commend Dr. Levine for her resiliency and for her continuing to remain focused on saving the lives of all Pennsylvanians.”

Madasyn Lee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Madasyn at 724-226-4702, mlee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

Categories:
Coronavirus | Local | Pennsylvania | Top Stories

Published at Tue, 28 Jul 2020 21:16:06 +0000

Source: Dr. Rachel Levine responds to transphobic comments: ‘I do not have time for intolerance’.

Categories: News

About Author