Jenna Ellis, a senior legal adviser to the Trump campaign, is facing criticism after a transphobic tweet in which she misgendered Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania’s secretary of health, who is transgender.
“This guy is making decisions about your health,” Ellis said in the tweet, in which she linked to a news story from May about Levine pushing back against a reporter who had repeatedly called her “sir.”
The Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBTQ rights advocacy organization, sharply criticized Ellis’s tweet, noting that “using a person’s pronouns is a basic level of respect.”
“Jenna Ellis is a bigot and Dr. Levine is a patriot — plain and simple,” HRC President Alphonso David said in a statement. “Dr. Levine illustrates character and patriotism while Ellis cannot even define those terms.”
David added that “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.”
“Trump and his allies have refused to acknowledge the epidemic of violence transgender and gender nonconforming people face, attempted to strip away their access to health care, and blocked these patriotic Americans from openly serving in the military. … 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,” David said.
Ellis said in a statement that she would not apologize.
“To be called a bigot for simply acknowledging scientific fact is both hilarious and tragic,” she said. “The truth of biology shows that human beings are created immutably male and female. Yet in our post-truth society, the progressive leftists not only demand that we affirm patently false facts, but also demand we not ‘offend’ people who insist on speaking their lies, otherwise we are called insensitive bigots and required to apologize.”
Despite Ellis’s claim, medical professional organizations distinguish between the concept of “sex” — as in one’s biological sex assignment — and “gender identity,” which the American Psychological Association notes “may or may not correspond to a person’s sex assigned at birth.”
“Transgender is used as an adjective to refer to persons whose gender identity, expression, and/or role does not conform to what is culturally associated with their sex assigned at birth,” the APA states in its publication guidelines. It adds: “When writing about a known individual, use that person’s identified pronouns.”
Twitter’s rules against hateful conduct explicitly prohibit the targeted misgendering of transgender people. Several Twitter users responded to Ellis’s tweet Monday by reporting it as abusive and calling on others to do the same.
Nate Wardle, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Health, dismissed Ellis’s tweet in a statement.
“Dr. Levine is laser-focused on assisting Pennsylvanians in the midst of a national pandemic,” Wardle said. “She does not have time for this nonsense.”
In remarks in Harrisburg last month, Levine denounced recent transphobic comments made against her, saying 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.”
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Ellis’s tweet.
The Democratic National Convention, meanwhile, is expected to feature Virginia Del. Danica A. Roem among its speakers next week, Politico reported Friday. In 2018, Roem became the first state lawmaker in the country to be sworn in after campaigning as an openly transgender candidate.