Before a coronavirus news briefing in Harrisburg on Tuesday, Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine responded to a series of transphobic attacks directed against her.
“While these individuals may think that they are only expressing their displeasure with me, they are, in fact, hurting the thousands of LGBTQ Pennsylvanians who suffered directly from these current demonstrations of harassment,” Levine began, according to PennLive.com.
Among the anti-trans incidents was a man who dressed as Levine for a dunk tank at a local fair, an off-color menu item mocking Levine at a tavern and a radio host who repeatedly called Levine “sir” during an interview.
“Your actions perpetuate the spirit of intolerance and discrimination against LGBTQ individuals and specifically transgender individuals,” Levine said of the incidents. Social media has also been littered with transphobic remarks about the secretary.
Levine is one of the most senior transgender government officials in the country, according to WCAU-TV in Philadelphia.
“We have not made progress unless we have all made progress,” she added. “It is in this space that these acts of intolerance live and where we need to continue to work against them.”
Levine said she would accept sincere apologies but added that they are only the beginning of the conversation.
She also thanked Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, the Democrat who appointed her, for his support and the progress she said the LGBTQ community has made under his administration, according to PennLive.
Levine, one of the main faces of Pennsylvania’s coronavirus response, has faced criticism during the outbreak. A few months ago, she moved her 95-year-old mother from a nursing home while saying others could return to nursing homes after recovering from the virus.
“My mother requested and my sister and I, as her children, complied to move her to another location during the COVID-19 outbreak,” Levine said in May.
More recently, state Republicans criticized her for not attending a hearing for floundering restaurant owners asking for financial support, according to KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh.
“Why not come forward and answer our questions?” state Rep. Martin Causer, R-Coudersport, chairman of the state House Republican Policy Committee, asked the station. “Why not sit in front of this House committee and talk about the governor’s order and answer members’ questions?”
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