BLOOMSBURG, COLUMBIA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Following recent controversy, over 50 Pennsylvania LBGTQ community organizations have joined together to send a demand letter to the Bloomsburg Fair.
The letter follows a Facebook post by the Bloomsburg Fair which seemed to have shown a man dressed as PA Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine. “Dr. Levine? Thank you you were a hit and raised a lot of money for the local fire companies. Wonder why so many were trying to dunk you,” the post, which has since been deleted read.
After the post garnered national attention, officials with the Bloomsburg Fair held a press conference addressing what they called at the time “the issue at hand.”
“There was a dunk tank, a fellow dressed up in a dress to get people to throw balls at the tank to raise money then it went for this,” Randy Karschner, Bloomsburg Fair President said. “It turned into where people were thinking we were offending Dr. Rachel Levine. That was not the intention at all. Especially the cross gender there was absolutely none of that at all. We apologize.”
On Wednesday, community organizations addressed a letter to the Bloomsburg Fair president writing, “we were shocked, disgusted, and outraged by the vile public display of transphobic bigotry at the Bloomsburg Fair’s Fireman’s Relief Carnival.”
“Our organizations know how harmful this action was because we understand the effects of transphobia on the people we serve. We recognize how transphobia leads to higher rates of violence and suicide. We witness how transgender people are denied housing and public services. We feel the effects of pervasive anti-transgender bullying and harassment in schools. The public display of bigotry at your event perpetuates this violence,” the letter read.
The demands include:
- A written apology to Dr. Rachel Levine, posted publicly and mailed to her office. Not an excuse, an actual apology which recognizes the hurt and the harm done.
- A donation of an equal amount of funds as raised in the dunk tank to offset this transphobic act to support community education programs on transgender inclusion in Columbia County. We ask that the donation be directed to the Columbia Montour Pride Working Group of the Coalition for Social Equity which offers education, support, and advocacy for LGBTQ people in Columbia and Montour Counties.
- The posting of an LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination policy on the Bloomsburg Fair’s website, which all fair vendors must affirm each year.
- Explicitly support statewide LGBTQ non-discrimination protections in Pennsylvania.
- Commit the entire Board and staff of the Bloomsburg Fair to receive training on LGBTQ cultural awareness and equity facilitated by transgender individual(s) who are compensated for their time and expertise.
- Provide a complimentary vendor space at the next two Bloomsburg Fairs to be used as an LGBTQ welcome and resource center which would be staffed by the Coalition for Social Equity and other community inclusion organizations in north central and northeast Pennsylvania.
Adrian Shanker, Executive Director of the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown, further commented that “Public displays of bigotry have no place in our public discourse. Transgender Pennsylvanians deserve better than to see this anti-trans stunt from the Bloomsburg Fair. Dr. Levine deserves respect for her thoughtful navigation of the COVID-19 response in Pennsylvania. The leadership of the Bloomsburg Fair must do better.”
Governor Tom Wolf has also issued a statement calling the post the latest in a string of “vile acts” that “brought hate and transphobia into the spotlight through relentless comments and slurs directed at Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine.”