A Pennsylvania man is facing significant criticism after displaying a transphobic sign that appeared to attack Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine.
Brian Dwyer, the owner of the electronic sign at the gateway to the borough of Waterford, Pa., says he has the right to post whatever he wants. Last week, local motorists who saw the sign were presented with a message, reading: “Don’t let a man in a dress rule us, Waterford.”
The sign appears to be a reference to Levine, the Secretary of Health who has come under attack from conservatives for her actions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including orders calling for shutdowns or increased social distancing in areas where infection rates are higher.
While most of the criticism of Levine has been related to her job and reluctance to reopen businesses in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19, a sizable number of conservatives — who already hate Levine and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who appointed her — have also attacked Levine for being transgender.
Brittany Loper, a 22-year-old Waterford resident, objected to the sign and started an online petition on Change.org calling out the sign for its transphobic message.
She asked her neighbors and friends to sign the petition to show support for the LGBTQ community, and has thus far managed to collect more than 7,000 signatures.
“I understand the importance of free speech, but when you have a large sign at the center of our town, your message speaks for the entire community,” Loper wrote in the petition. “It should take into consideration the opinion of the whole community then. I want to take a stand against this blatant hate and show that our town does NOT support this message.
“Please sign if you want to live in a town that supports all of its residents and welcomes people into the town with compassion instead of hate,” Loper continued. “My hope is that if enough people sign this petition and share their anger with the current message being spread, the owner will change the sign. If nothing else, I hope that signing this petition will show that not everyone in Waterford stands for hate.”
Loper told ABC and FOX affiliates WJET and WFXP, which are part of a partnership with YourErie.com, that it was “frustrating” to see the sign in her town.
“It was transphobic and it’s right at the center of our town that welcomes people in. I was sick to my stomach about it just thinking about the members of the LGBT community saw this and felt like they weren’t welcomed and supported in our community,” she said. “It’s hard enough to figure out who you are and stuff. To have that hate proudly proclaimed, I can’t imagine.”
Dwyer, who has not apologized for the message on the sign, has since changed the message to read: “Happy holidays, please wear a mask.”
He told YourErie.com off-camera that he does not believe the sign was transphobic.
Waterford Borough President told the news outlet that Dwyer did not break any regulations by displaying the controversial message.
Reaction on social media ranged from those who supported Dwyer’s freedom of speech, to others who launched their own attacks on Levine, to others who found the sign “distasteful.”
Levine was previously compelled to speak out against the multitude of transphobic attacks against her during a July press conference, calling on Keystone State residents to be more tolerant and accepting of LGBTQ individuals and of diversity in general.
Among the attacks launched against her were a Facebook meme referring to her as a “guy who wears a bra,” a local restaurant naming a dish of “two spicy cheese balls” after her with a description that mocked her gender identity and assigned sex at birth, and a central Pennsylvania fair that held a dunk-tank fundraiser with a man wearing a black-and-pink dress, wig, and glasses who organizers later referred to as “Dr. Levine.”
“To the perpetrators of these actions, if your apologies are sincerely given, then I accept your apologies,” Levine said at the time. “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.”
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