Transphobic slurs continually fired at Pennsylvania health secretary

Harrisburg

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — At the Crossroads Tavern in Morris Township, transphobia was recently on the menu. Patrons were offered a dish that dissed Dr. Rachel Levine, the state’s transgender secretary of health.

“I’m disgusted but not surprised,” said Joanne Carroll, a member of Pennsylvania’s Commission for LGBTQ Affairs.

Carroll says society still doesn’t understand transgender people. She says it’s a medical issue, but many believe they’re making a choice. Carroll insists it’s no choice.

“I transitioned because I didn’t want to die with a man’s name on my tombstone,” Carroll said. “I knew if I kept on trying to live as a man I would kill myself because I couldn’t deal with it.”

But being transgender means dealing with insults and sleights.

Levine knows that all too well. A recent fundraiser at the Bloomsburg Fair featured a dunk tank and a demeaning Levine impersonator. The health secretary saw it, but her only response was that she’s laser focused on keeping citizens healthy.

“I am going to do absolutely everything I can to achieve that, whether people agree with me of if they don’t agree with me,” Levine said. “Their health is still important to me.”

But Levine has become a target for those frustrated by Covid-19 mitigation efforts, like closed schools, restaurants, and bars.

“These are public servants, not public enemies,” said Mike Fraser, executive director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

Fraser says before coronavirus, most citizens couldn’t name their state’s health official. Since the pandemic, however, many of those officials have become targets of public scorn, nasty comments, and worse.

“We had a health official who had on her front yard armed protesters with AK-47’s and her three kids inside. This is not the kind of America we need today.”

As for Levine, there were apologies for the Crossroads menu and the Bloomsburg Fair dunk tank.

But at a time when sensitivities should be heightened, when America is affirming that Black Lives Matter and that NFL teams should not demean Native Americans — the transgender community is still at the back of the proverbial bus. It has not yet reached its crossroads.

“All marginalized communities meet at the intersection of discrimination,” Carroll said. “as Martin Luther King said, ‘If anyone person’s discriminated against, everybody’s discriminated against.'”

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