Pennsylvania Lawmakers Had A Deeply Uncomfortable, Homophobic Exchange Over An Arm Touch

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During a debate about a land-use bill during a State House committee meeting Tuesday night, conservative Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, who chairs the committee, interrupted to share some groundbreaking news: “I’m a heterosexual. I have a wife.”

According to the Washington Post, Metcalfe’s comment was directed at Rep. Matt Bradford, a democrat, who laid his hand on Metcalfe’s forearm for a moment in an attempt to get his attention.

When Bradford placed his hand on him, Metcalfe said, “Look, I'm a heterosexual. I have a wife, I love my wife, I don't like men — as you might. But stop touching me all the time...Keep your hands to yourself. If you want to touch somebody, you have people on your side of the aisle who might like it. I don’t.”

Bradford, who is married to a woman and has four kids, appeared to be shocked as he laughed and said, “Okay, chairman, chairman. We're officially off the rails. ... My intent was just to beg for your permission for about 30 seconds.”

In an interview with triblive.com, Bradford clarified that he “speaks with his hands" and that was probably the reason for the touch. 

While, yeah, no one should touch anyone who doesn't want to be touched, Metcalfe’s full reaction to Bradford’s touch and subsequent comments are deeply troubling and indicative of homophobia. Touching another person’s arm isn't a sexual act and sexualizing it implies that Metcalfe had pre-existing prejudices or was already fearful that someone in the room was gay.

“I don't know what his sexuality or his sexual behavior is. I don't know what it is. But I know from him touching me all the time that he indicates he likes to touch men,” Metcalfe told triblive.com. “I said what I said. If he likes to touch other men, then find another man to touch because I'm not the man to be touching.”

Brian Sims, Pennsylvania’s first openly gay lawmaker, posted his thoughts about the encounter on Facebook: “THIS is what dealing with Republicans in Pennsylvania has become. THIS is why they're attacking our youngest and most vulnerable members of the LGBT community. THIS is what a broken moral compass, combined with gerrymandered, false leadership looks like.”

Metcalfe’s comments are also troubling when coupled with the fact that Bradford is married to a woman. We live in a culture that where LGBTQ people already face a horrific amount of violence and bullying. If Metcalfe judged a straight lawmaker so harshly for his gestures, how much more harsh would he be if the lawmaker was openly gay?

About The Author

Hannah is a national feature writer for Her Campus as well as a chapter writer for the University of Michigan. Achievements include being voted "Biggest Belieber" (2010) and "Most Likely to Have a Child Born Addicted to Starbucks" (2016), as well as taking a selfie with the back of Jim Harbaugh's head.  Goals for the future include taking a selfie with the front of Jim Harbaugh's head.  She's also an obsessive Instagrammer, so hit her with a follow @hannah.harshe