The senior legal adviser to Donald Trump’s reelection campaign misgendered Pennsylvania’s secretary of health.
Jenna Ellis wrote Monday on Twitter, “This guy is making decisions about your health,” about Dr. Rachel Levine. The remark was especially cruel since it referenced an article about how a reporter had used the wrong pronouns multiple times in a conversation with Levine.
Levine is one of the leaders in the Keystone State’s response to the health crisis — who also just happens to be a transgender woman. LGBTQ+ leaders were quick to denounce Ellis for her bigotry.
“Jenna Ellis is a bigot and Dr. Levine is a patriot — plain and simple,” Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David said in a statement. “Dr. Levine illustrates character and patriotism while Ellis cannot even define those terms.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Levine has steered Pennsylvania through this crisis leading efforts to reduce the spread of the virus and keep Pennsylvanians safe and healthy,” David added. “Our nation has and should continue to laud the frontline workers and public servants confronting this pandemic, not attack them simply for living their truth.”
Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Sims tweeted back at Ellis, “This woman is a world-class public health expert who has been saving countless thousands of lives. I realize you may not know what that looks like. She’s also a hero to LGBTQ+ people like me and doesn’t deserve your scorn or mockery.”
In the May interview, Marty Griffin, a reporter from Pittsburgh radio station KDKA, referred to Levine as “sir” at least three times during a press call. The official called the act “really insulting.”
“Please don’t misgender me,” she told Griffin at the time. Griffin later apologized and claimed the misgendering was an accident.
In a March interview with The Advocate, Levine addressed the reality that LGBTQ+ people were being further stigmatized by the pandemic. “It doesn’t make any difference what my gender identity is. All that matters is my professional work,” she said.
“I hope by my being there every day in the trenches with the work that I’m doing, that hopefully demonstrates to the public that members of the LGBTQ community are really just here to work for the public health and for the common good. And hopefully, that means something,” she added.
Ellis was named a senior legal adviser to Trump and his reelection campaign late last year. She comes with a long history of anti-LGBTQ+ activism and rhetoric, including defense of conversion therapy, along with anti-Muslim comments and other extreme right-wing stances, as documented by Media Matters for America.
“Christians cannot follow God and accept or condone or participate in homosexuality or adulterous behavior,” Ellis, a lawyer and frequent Fox News guest who has worked with several Christian right groups, wrote on Facebook two years ago.
When President Barack Obama named New York City’s Stonewall Inn a national monument in 2016, Ellis called the site “a national monument to our open embrace and celebration of sin.” She has also said gay and bisexual men have high rates of HIV because “we cannot escape God’s moral law and His supremacy.”
David pointed to her most recent vitriol as yet another attack on transgender Americans by the Trump administration for politician gain. “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,” he said.
“Trump and his allies have refused to acknowledge the epidemic of violence transgender and gender non-conforming people face, attempted to strip away their access to health care, and blocked these patriotic Americans from openly serving in the military.”