Pennsylvania State Rep. Brian Sims is out and proud. So when an Internet troll posted a bigoted message to his Facebook page, Sims appealed to a higher authority: the harasser's grandmother.
It all started around 7 a.m. Wednesday when the state’s first openly gay representative scrolled through his public Facebook page and found a nasty racist and homophobic comment on his feed:
No stranger to hate speech, Sims clicked on the commenter’s profile and found a Michigan phone number listed several times. He called and got the man’s grandmother instead.
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To be clear, he wasn’t expecting the elderly woman to answer. When she did, he explained what happened and asked if she knew about to reach the young man. She did and passed along his personal number.
“She was very nervous and very uncomfortable about the whole thing,” Sims said, adding that she was disappointed with how her grandson behaved.
Sims, who represents Center City, called the man and left a message. He received a return call shortly after. The two spoke briefly, but Sims said “nothing was resolved.”
Their conversation went something like this: Sims asked the man, identified only as David, why he would write such hateful things on a stranger’s page in the middle of the night. David denied it. He then admitted it. He then denied it again and didn’t really know how to respond.
Like his grandmother, David was uncomfortable, Sims said.
“Toxic masculine detractors - these are my trolls,” the Philadelphia-based lawmaker said. “We’re seeing more of this type of bully, this kind of cowardice, around the country.”
Sims checks his social media page every morning when he first wakes up in an effort to spare followers from being exposed to this kind of “nastiness.” He usually just deletes it, but this time the troll didn’t mention any specific policy or legislation. It was typical “late night keyboard cowardice” that needed to be stopped, Sims said.
A lifelong civil rights advocate, Sims has made gay rights a top priority in his personal and professional life. This kind of agenda regularly opens him up to cyberbullying, but Sims said he won’t be intimidated.
“We are the moral majority,” he said. “Part of the reason the minority of awful, hateful, bigoted people behave in this way is because they fear the moral majority. They are scared of us. It is incumbent on us to do something.”
On Thursday, Sims took this message to Facebook. He encouraged his base to speak out against whatever injustice they encounter:
“GET INVOLVED: A lot of people are paying attention to my page right now and so I want to simply say that if you liked what I had to say, or how I said it, than let’s get more people like me into our government!”
Sims is an ardent crusader for marriage equality, equal pay for women, funding for Planned Parenthood and other liberal causes.
He recently spoke against fellow Pennsylvania Rep. Martina White, a vociferous opponent of sanctuary cities in the Keystone State.
Of his Michigan detractor Sims simply said, “I don’t think he will be doing it again.”