Rachel Levine is one cool cat. At her February Senate confirmation hearings to serve as assistant secretary of health in the Biden administration, Kentucky Republican Rand Paul falsely lectured her that gender-affirming surgery amounted to “genital mutilation.”
Former Pennsylvania knew that a single misstep could doom her historic opportunity to become first trans person to receive Senate confirmation and that Paul would like nothing more than to rattler her into saying something he could use against her–and trans people everywhere.
Falsely claiming that Levine supports “surgical destruction of a minor’s genitalia,” Paul asked Levine if she believed young people below the age of 18 are capable of making “such a life-changing decision as changing one’s sex?”
She refused to get drawn into the former ophthalmologist’s cruel attacks, no matter how diabolically he pressed his anti-trans propaganda.
Levine, a pediatrician, calmly–and of course correctly, being on the side of science and truth–responded that transgender medicine is “a very complex and nuanced field with robust research and standards of care that have been developed,” and promised to discuss specifics if she is confirmed.
Those who watched Levine’s unflappability were hardly surprised. After all, Levine is former Pennsylvania Director of Health who guided the state through the coronavirus pandemic during an election year where her gender identity came under relentless attack from Republicans looking for wedge issues to keep the state red.
Last year, meanwhile, an evangelical minister exhorted his followers to “rise up” and “chase” the doctor out of the state. He repeatedly referred to her as “it,” “a man,” and a “freak transvestite.”
“You are absolutely insane if you let that transvestite freak rule your life,” pastor Rick Wiles screamed. “You’re going to that transvestite freak? Seriously?”
This was despite the fact that Levine — appointed by Gov. Tom Wolf (D) in 2017 as acting health secretary — had long ago proven herself–to Republican legislators who curry the favor of the religious right. She was confirmed three times by the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Senate to serve as secretary of health and the state’s physician general, making her the most visible of an increasing number of trans officials serving in office nationwide.
The lessons of these battles are clear. Levine’s cool under fire makes her a role model and top-notch advocate for a healthy America, whether it comes to LGBTQ or anyone else. Nothing will stop her from doing her job as a professional, especially not the Rand Pauls of the world intent on bringing her down.
As the first trans ASH I'd like to reflect on the countless people who helped the LGBTQ+ community get here, both those known & those working from the shadows. We have not made progress until we have made it for ALL. I’ll continue to advocate for the marginalized.
— Dr. Rachel Levine (@HHS_ASH) June 1, 2021