Pa. health official says she's faced transphobic attacks while handling coronavirus response

Pa. health official says she's faced transphobic attacks while handling coronavirus response
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Pennsylvania's top health official said Tuesday that she’s received multiple transphobic attacks while handling the state’s coronavirus response.

Health Secretary Rachel Levine addressed the personal attacks during a press briefing, in a shift of tone from her usual COVID-19-focused public comments, Spotlight PA reported

“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 suffer directly from these current demonstrations of harassment,” Levine said.

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“I have no room in my heart for hatred,” she added. “And frankly, I do not have time for intolerance.”

Levine warned residents that “our children are watching” and spoke directly to LGBTQ youth, saying, “It is OK to be you,” according to Spotlight PA. 

The Pennsylvania health secretary also posted on Twitter, saying she felt she had to personally respond to the attacks.

“Your actions perpetuate a spirit of intolerance and discrimination against LGBTQ individuals and specifically transgender individuals,” she tweeted.

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Levine, one of the few transgender public officials in the country, is the first transgender person to head a Pennsylvania agency.

Her comments come after a local restaurant included a transphobic food item description targeting Levine on its menu, northern Pennsylvania station WETM reported. A local fair also named a man in a dress and a wig in a dunk tank “Dr. Levine” for a fundraiser before apologizing, NBC Philadelphia reported

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) released a statement last week backing Levine amid the attacks, calling her a “distinguished and accomplished public servant.”

“She is committed to keeping Pennsylvanians safe and healthy, even those who direct hate-fueled attacks at her,” he said. “I’m proud of the work she has done in her five years serving Pennsylvanians, and her success at leading our commonwealth during the COVID-19 crisis is a testament to her intelligence and work ethic.”

Levine said during Tuesday’s press conference that she feels “supported” by Wolf.

“He is the best ally we could possibly have in the LGBTQ community,” she said.