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Trans health secretary leading the fight against coronavirus says she has ‘no time for intolerance’ amid transphobic attacks

Nick Duffy July 29, 2020
Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr Rachel Levine pushed back at transphobic attacks

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr Rachel Levine pushed back at transphobic attacks

Dr Rachel Levine, the health official leading the fight against coronavirus in Pennsylvania, has hit back at a series of transphobic attacks directed at her.

Pennsylvania’s secretary of health, Levine has become a well-known figure in the state during the pandemic, directing state-wide measures to tackle the virus and fronting press briefings.

Her no-nonsense medical approach has won her many admirers, but her growing profile has also led to a series of vile anti-trans incidents. In the past fortnight alone, a local fair put a man in a dress as a “parody” of Levine, while a restaurant added “Levine balls” to its menu alongside transphobic references to the official.

Levine has largely avoided responding to the torrent of abuse, which has also been directed at her by right-wing media and some Republican politicians.

But before her regular press briefing on Tuesday (July 28), she took a few minutes to address the “multiple incidents of LGBTQ harassment, and specifically transphobia directed at me”.

Dr Rachel Levine warns transphobes: ‘Our children are watching.’

Dr Rachel Levine made clear: “Frankly, I do not have time for intolerance.

“My heart is full with a burning desire to help people, and my time is full with working towards protecting the public health of everyone in Pennsylvania from the impact of the global pandemic through the COVID-19. I will stay laser focused on that goal.”

However, she also warned that “our children are watching what we do, and they are watching how we act”.

She said: “I want to emphasise that while individuals may think that 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.

“Your actions perpetuate the spirit of intolerance and discrimination against LGBTQ individuals, and specifically transgender individuals.

“It was only one month ago that the Supreme Court prohibited discrimination in the workplace due to sexual orientation and gender identity. But LGBTQ individuals can still be denied housing and public accommodations in most places in Pennsylvania without local non-discrimination ordinances.

“In addition, the most vulnerable among us continue to suffer, and transgender women of colour are more likely to suffer, violence, and even murder. We have not made progress, unless we have all made progress.

“It is in this space that these acts of intolerance live and where we need to continue to work against them to the perpetuators of these and the perpetrators of these actions.”

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr Rachel Levine pushed back at transphobic attacks
Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr Rachel Levine pushed back at transphobic attacks

Addressing those who have directed transphobia towards her, she said: “If your apologies are sincere, then I accept your apologies, but an apology is the beginning, not the end 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.

“We all need to foster that spirit of acceptance and welcoming to LGBTQ individuals and celebrate the wonderful diversity of our Commonwealth.”

Governor of Pennsylvania calls out ‘relentless vile slurs’ aimed at trans official.

The governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, previously hit out at the “relentless series of vile slurs” directed at the “highly skilled and accomplished” official.

He said: “Dr Levine is a distinguished public servant. She’s committed to keeping Pennsylvanians safe and healthy, even those who direct hate-fuelled attacks at her.

“I’m proud of the work she has done in her five years serving Pennsylvanians, and especially during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Hate has no place in Pennsylvania. I’m calling on all Pennsylvanians: Speak out against hateful comments and acts, including transphobia, when you see them.”

More: Dr Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania

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