Trump legal adviser purposely misgenders Dr. Rachel Levine | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Trump legal adviser purposely misgenders Dr. Rachel Levine

click to enlarge Trump legal adviser purposely misgenders Dr. Rachel Levine
Photo: Commonwealth Media Services
Dr. Rachel Levine addressing transphobic comments in July
A lawyer affiliated with President Donald Trump and his re-election campaign harassed and misgendered Pennsylvania health secretary Dr. Rachel Levine today. Levine, who is transgender, has repeatedly faced harassment from public figures and internet commenters alike throughout her time leading the state's COVID-19 response.

Jenna Ellis, a senior legal adviser to the Trump campaign, tweeted this morning "This guy is making decisions about your health," along with a three-month old article about Levine, featuring her photo. The article Ellis shared was about a May incident in which KDKA radio personality Marty Griffin repeatedly misgendered Levine on a press call.

Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel tweeted out a screenshot of Ellis' tweet, next to a screenshot of a piece of Trump campaign merch that says "Trump pride 2020" in rainbow colors, contrasting the campaign's supposed support of LGBTQ pride with a campaign representative's transphobic remarks.

Ellis responded to Weigel's tweet, saying "I have a lot of pride too that Donald Trump is your President! Great shirt!"

Gov. Tom Wolf (D-York) tweeted a reprimand of Ellis' comment, calling it a form of hate speech.

"To @JennaEllisEsq and whoever else needs to hear this: Misgendering a transgender person is hate speech and it’s unacceptable," Wolf wrote.
This is only the most recent form of harassment directed at Levine specifically because of her gender identity. In addition to the Marty Griffin incident Ellis tweeted about, Levine has been mocked by attendees of the Bloomsburg fair, by a Scott Township commissioner, the owner of restaurant Portogallo’s Peppers N’at, and dozens of people on social media and in the comment sections of media sites.

On July 22, Wolf issued a statement condemning the "relentless series of vile slurs" directed at Levine.

"Dr. Levine is a distinguished public servant. She’s committed to keeping Pennsylvanians safe and healthy, even those who direct hate-fueled attacks at her," Wolf stated in July.

Levine addressed the incidents of repeated harassment a few days after Wolf.

"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," said Levine in a statement. "I have no room in my heart for hatred and frankly, I do not have time for intolerance."

A few hours after Ellis' tweet, the Human Rights Campaign condemned the Trump adviser's comments, saying "Dr. Levine illustrates character and patriotism while Ellis cannot even define those terms."

“Using a person’s pronouns is a basic level of respect," said the HRC statement. "Despite claims of allyship, Donald Trump, Mike Pence and their staff have gone out of their way to dehumanize and attack transgender and non-binary people simply for existing."

In a statement, Ellis held firm to her tweet, calling criticism of it "both hilarious and tragic."

"I won’t apologize. Our Constitution still protects our fundamental, God-given right to speak and affirm Truth and I’ll continue to stand firm speaking and affirming Truth," said Ellis.