A transphobic sign in Waterford, Pennsylvania, caused outrage within the community and across social media, ultimately leading the owner to back down.
Brian Dwyer owns the electronic sign in Waterford off of Route 19. He recently reprogrammed the sign so that it read “Don’t let a man in a dress rule us, Waterford,” apparently in reference to Pennsylvania’s secretary of health, Rachel Levine, who is a trans woman.
Images of the sign spread across social media, and some residents of the small town opposed the idea that a sign promoting hate was standing at the gateway to their community.
“I’m ashamed to have attended a school and live in a town that openly let these sorts of things happen,” Twitter user @brichristopherr tweeted.
Dwyer told WICU-TV that his decision to display the message was related to his frustrations as a small business owner facing COVID-19 restrictions. Dwyer also told YourErie that he doesn’t believe referring to a trans woman as a “man in a dress” is transphobic.
But a text conversation shared by WJET-TV's Samiar Nefzi between Dwyer and someone explaining how the controversy may negatively impact his business suggests otherwise.
“I’m not scared and it wasn’t about transgender which is a bull shit thing any way if you have a penis your [sic] a man it’s pretty simple sorry,” Dwyer wrote, adding that he has a “huge following” and is willing to fight.
Waterford resident Brittney Loper started a petition hoping to either convince Dwyer to take the sign down or encourage local authorities to remove it for him.
“I understand the importance of free speech, but when you have a large sign at the center of our town, your message speaks for the entire community,” Loper wrote. “It should take into consideration the opinion of the whole community then. I want to take a stand against this blatant hate and show that our town does NOT support this message.”
Loper also said that it made her “sick to my stomach about it just thinking about the members of the LGBT community who saw this and felt like they weren’t welcomed and supported in our community.”
The Waterford Borough President declined to act, saying no regulations were broken, but the backlash still did the trick. Residents have reported that Dwyer’s sign—which sported a message claiming “masks don’t work” back in August—now reads “Happy holiday. Please wear a mask!”
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