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Hallam mayor blasts local organization's transphobic jab at Health Secretary Levine

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

A derogatory social media post about state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, who is a transgender woman, is causing an online uproar after the Hellam Recreation Facebook page shared it.

The post, shared this past week by the organization, includes an image of comedian Jeff Foxworthy, known for riffing on "redneck" culture, above a photo of Levine speaking in a news conference with Gov. Tom Wolf.

The text mimics the setup of Foxworthy's jokes, stating "If you are ordered to wear a mask by a guy who wears a bra, you might be Pennsylvanian."

The joke was in reference to Wolf and Levine's recent mandate for all Pennsylvania residents to wear cloth masks when they leave their house to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

An administrator for the Hellam Recreation Facebook page shared this derogatory post making fun of state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, who is a transgender woman.

Hallam borough Mayor Glenn Wascovich shared a screenshot of the post on his personal account and condemned it, stating there should be consequences for a community leader promoting such content on a community page.

Wascovich, who is gay, told The York Dispatch he knows firsthand what it's like to grow up in a community that allows children and teens to be abused because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

He said he doesn't want community leaders to embolden those engaged in this form of abuse by sharing derogatory posts making fun of the state health secretary's gender identity.

"People’s lives are at stake," Wascovich said. "And I don’t want anyone to be targeted, or to be potentially targeted, because they (the Hellam Recreation administrators) refuse to accommodate humanity and educate themselves."

The Hellam Recreation board is an independent community group that organizes an annual carnival, and it's not affiliated with Hellam Township in any capacity, said township Manager Corina Mann.

Mann said the township doesn't give any money to the recreation board and isn't involved in the group's activities.

Hallam Borough Mayor Glenn Wascovich.

Hellam Township and Hallam borough are part of the Eastern York Recreation Authority, which replaced the Hellam Recreation board a couple of years ago as the official recreation wing for the municipalities, Wascovich said.

He also said the director of the EYRA has been inundated with phone calls because the Hellam Recreation Facebook page still links to the EYRA website, even though the two organizations are not affiliated.

An administrator for the Hellam Recreation Facebook page commented on Wascovich's post, saying the recreation post was a mistake and that the person who shared the image meant to share it on their personal account.

As of noon Monday, the post no longer appeared on the organization's Facebook page.

At least two people commented on Wascovich's post that the Hellam Recreation administrator who shared the offending image should resign.

On Monday, one of the administrators told The York Dispatch that no further comment was necessary, and that the posting was an accident.

The administrator then declined to identify himself.

"Let’s just let the issue die," he wrote. "There’s no need to instigate further discussion."

Maggi Mumma, deputy press secretary for the Department of Health, referred to a June statement released by the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs.

The commission stated that Levine has provided critical information and leadership for Pennsylvania during the COVID-19 crisis, only to be met with "some of the most vile and toxic transphobia" the commission had witnessed in years.

That included an incident in which reporter Marty Griffin of KDKA radio in Pittsburgh repeatedly misgendered Levine during a media conference call in May.

"Dr. Levine always serves at the pleasure of the Governor and will continue to serve under his leadership as Secretary of Health," Mumma stated Monday. "She remains laser-focused on protecting the health and well-being of Pennsylvanians as we navigate this ongoing pandemic."

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