Transgender Bigotry in Sharon, Butler Reinforce Need for NonDiscrimination Protections

Content Note: misgendering, deadnaming, lies, transphobia.

On Sunday, the Sharon Herald printed a newspaper article updating the community on the status of a civil lawsuit against the Sharon Police Department involving the shooting death of 23 year-old Sean Hake. Sean was a transgender man. The Sharon Herald first reported that he was a trans woman, then updated this to ‘woman’ replete with misgendering and use of Sean’s old (or ‘dead’) name. This in spite of the reporters 30 years on the job and the fact that the editors of the paper have been introduced to the GLAAD media guide. Note, I do have screenshots of the original article.  Seriously, Joe Pinchot, what the hell are you thinking?

Today, I learned that the outgoing Mayor of the City of Butler, Tom Donaldson, posted a rather incoherent diatribe targeting the trans community and the active municipal legislation that would create non-discrimination protections and establish a Human Relations Commission for the City. Mayor Donaldson is running as a write-in candidate and is confident that the “men shouldn’t shower with high school girls” vote will take him all the way to victory.

I wish I could make up the fact that he and his band of ignorant supporters have gone past the bathroom and dressing room argument right to a magical land where snowflake liberals assign middle aged trans women to shower with innocent young cisgender women.  To find this place, look for the Facebook references to yoga as a sign of the devil and turn left when you see the Jezebel-Be-Gone meetings.

It really isn’t funny at all. These ignorant fools also think they have Southern heritage, have erased any trace of their own immigration history, and <insert other stupid belief of your choice> These are the people with whom I’m supposed to build bridges? When the snowflake hits the stupid, there isn’t much in the way of bridge building material.

I’m struck by the fact that we have two such incidents nearly back to back in adjacent rural Western PA counties. Not that I think these forms of bigotry, ignorance and discrimination aren’t part and parcel of life in our majestic Appalachian homeland. I’ve read too many #AMPLIFY posts and simply listened to the experiences of my friends with rural roots to have any sort of romantic notion about the realities of ‘live and let live’ pipe dreams.

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It is striking though to have a somewhat reputable journalist with nearly 30 years in the profession be willing to so publicly sacrifice his credibility and professional respect. Equally sad is that a Mayoral candidate would traffic in lies to steal votes from people who won the primary elections. Two such high-profile statements devaluing the inherent dignity and worth of transgender residents of Western Pennsylvania suggest that perhaps the fake news swamp has found a sinkhole in Western Pennsylvania and clung tightly.

I’m being flip, obviously, because I do have an actual point to make. I count on the good people of Sharon to stop supporting advertisers who invest in muckraking and I count on the good people of Butler to realize that the economy of their town, the aging housing stock, the quality of public education and the epidemic of opioid overdoses are far, far more important issues.

I also hope Pittsburgh will take note and turn to our Mayor and City Council for leadership on transgender issues that can and must be addressed very soon. We have two examples of what lies at the gates to Pittsburgh. We should count on raising the bar of progress from its comfortably settled space in the 1990s and pushing forward to create an urban environment that reflects the values of our neighbors.

Wag a finger at Mr. Pinchot and Mr. Donaldson, but I urge you to use that finger to email, text or tweet to the City of Pittsburgh asking them to address these issues. Incremental progress on trans and queer issues is the best response we can muster right not. Progress will fuel the thankless work advocates on the ground in Butler, Johnstown and beyond have invested to move municipal legislation around LGBTQ equality.

Yes, we need to get out the vote and educate people in our rural communities. But we must also push for progress in our Democrat establishment areas. There is clearly NO trickle-out equality in Western PA and never has been. So let’s fight this battle on multiple fronts and stand with the trans community. Let’s stand for something as well as standing against something.

Support PFLAG Butler County

Tom Donaldson campaign page

Sharon Herald 724-981-6100,

City of Pittsburgh Mayor’s LGBTQIA Advisory Committee   (412) 255-2694

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