Republican skewered after blasting ‘hate towards the unmasked community’ – using the words of a trans woman tired of transphobia

Rachel Levine

A Pennsylvania Republican has been skewered for ranting about intolerance towards the “unmasked community” using words apparently lifted from a speech about transphobic harassment.

On Wednesday (July 29) Pennsylvania state representative Russ Diamond issued a statement condemning the “hateful comments” made to the so-called “unmasked community” — and if some of the phrasing looked familiar, that’s because it was.

Several lines were almost identical to a speech made the day before by Pennsylvania’s secretary of health, Dr Rachel Levine, who addressed the transphobic attacks directed at her as she leads the state’s coronavirus response.

In some cases simply Diamond’s speech simply replaced the words “LGBTQ” and “transgender” with “unmasked”.

“I feel that I must personally respond to the multiple incidents of harassment and specifically hate and intolerance directed at me,” he began, echoing almost exactly Levine’s statement.

“I want to emphasise that while these individuals may think they are only expressing their displeasure with me, they are in fact hurting the thousands of unmasked Pennsylvanians who suffer directly from these current demonstrations of harassment,” he went on.

Later Diamond repeated Levine’s line: “To perpetrators of these actions, if apologies are sincerely given, then I accept your apologies.”

He again echoed Levine by suggesting that an apology is “the beginning of a conversation” and called on Pennsylvanians to adopt a spirit of tolerance and acceptance towards “unmasked individuals”.

“I have no room in my heart for hatred and frankly I do not have time for intolerance,” he said, directly in parallel with Levine.

“My heart is full with a burning desire to help people and my time is full working toward protecting the public health of everyone in Pennsylvania from the impact of the governmental overreach in response to COVID-19.

“And I will stay laser-focused on that goal.”

While there were elements of Diamond’s statement that focused specifically on mask policy, the egregious similarities led to accusations that he deliberately intended to mock the transgender health official and belittle the torrent of abuse she receives.

Readers alternately described his speech as “sick”, “hateful”, “a disgrace” and “beyond satire”.

“This is not just some state rep being obtuse; it’s blatant transphobia,” said Pittsburgh journalist Joshua Axelrod, while others accused Diamond of “perpetuating the hate” Levine suffers just for doing her job.

Dr Levine has not commented on the incident, instead opting to remain focused on her message of guiding Pennsylvania through the pandemic.