Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Equality Project reported that the Bloomsburg Fair decided to dress a man up in women’s clothing for a dunking booth fundraiser and billed the person as “Dr Levine?”. Pennsylvania Equality Projects said it was a “sad attempt to personally attack our wonderful Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine.”
The Bloomsburg Fair is billed as a “family friendly” event but does that include all families, LGBTQ families?
The Pennsylvania Equality Project posted this open letter to the Bloomsburg Fair Association demanding an appology.
Story continues after the letter.
Bloomsburg Fair Association,
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, my family and I used to go to your fair every year, without fail. Not only was it the biggest fair in the area but it was the friendliest. Your demo derbies and truck shows make up some of my fondest memories from my childhood. But today, those memories were tarnished because of your actions against the LGBTQ community.
In a post which you have since deleted, you were advertising how you dressed a man up in woman’s clothing in a dunk tank and portrayed him as our State Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine. If you personally don’t agree with Dr. Levine’s decisions during this pandemic, you are entitled to your opinion. If your opinion is so strong that you wish to share your professional disagreements with Dr. Levine’s professional decisions, that is also well within your rights. Instead, you chose to make a joke of her being transgender and decided to go for a personal attack instead of a professional one.
Your organization and ours can disagree on her professionalism while handling the COVID-19 novel Coronavirus pandemic. We know she was approved of unanimously by both the Pennsylvania House and Senate to handle all state health issues including pandemics. But we can disagree on her professionalism. What we cannot do is attack her gender identity or gender expression.
Your association advertises its county fair as Family Friendly but today, you forgot families like mine go to your fair too. There are kids which attend your fair who are not out of the closet yet. In fact, for many of the years I attended as a child, I was not yet comfortable telling people I am gay. Worse yet, there are guests of your events who are afraid to come out because they know some people will do anything to hurt them – a county fair should not be one of those trying to hurt them. Our kids see hate crimes against the LGBTQ community almost on a weekly basis. They see gay couples who “dare” holding their partner’s hand out in public being beaten to death. Just last month, they saw a transgender woman who was murdered and dismembered before being left in the Schuylkill River near Philadelphia. These hateful actions are happening in our small towns and our kids have to adapt their clothing, their mannerisms, and their personality so they don’t become the next statistic.
Our kids have to fear their parents not accepting them for being LGBTQ and they have to make plans for backup housing, just in case their parents throw them out on the street after they come out. Groups like ours work incredibly hard to prevent the next kid from considering suicide because 39% of LGBTQ youth including more than half of transgender and non-binary youth seriously considered taking their own life just last year.
After you deleted that post, I know you might assume that very little harm was done but I assure you that you have caused irreversible damage. Our community knows that some people will hate us just because we are LGBTQ. For us adults, we’ve grown to accept it and adapt; though admittedly, we shouldn’t have to adapt to be treated as equals. But if you want to be considered family friendly, you have to be accepting of all families, not just some. You have to be an example to our kids that hate has no place in Pennsylvania.
So, today I am asking for your association to make a formal apology to Dr. Rachel Levine and to our LGBTQ community, especially our LGBTQ youth. I am asking you to apologize to the children out there which attended your event and saw such hatred in person. But most importantly, I am calling on your team to get back to the friendly atmosphere I once knew your association to have. This way, hopefully one day in the future, other children get to have wonderful memories from your events without those memories being tarnished by such hatred.
For some former fair-goers, the amount of damage you have done today is beyond an apology and we empathize with their feelings. But for the rest of us who believe in second chances, I am calling on you to make a public promise that such hatred will never be tolerated at your fairgrounds ever again. I am asking you to make it clear to our state that transphobic, homophobic, or racist words and actions will never be allowed ever again on your grounds and those words or actions have no place in a family-friendly environment. I am asking you to lead by example. This way, families can hopefully one day feel safe taking their children to your events once again.
Interim Vice President, PA Equality Project
Shortly after being called out for their transphobic post the Bloomsburg Fair deleted the post and photographs from their Facebook page.
UPDATE: In response to the actions of the Bloomsburg Fair, sponsors have begun to pull their support for future events. Chevrolet Cadillac of Bloomsburg denounced the Bloomsburg Fair for their discrimination.