Dr. Rachel Levine is well positioned to become the first openly transgender, United States Senate-confirmed federal official, transphobes be damned.
An accomplished doctor, leading Pennsylvania health official, and proud trans woman, Levine is President Joe Biden's pick for Assistant Health Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. She appeared before the Senate earlier today for her confirmation hearing, which was the first of its kind for an openly trans politician in the U.S.
Although Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky attempted to derail the hearing with a transphobic rant and questions about "genital mutilation," Levine stood her ground, politely but firmly informing Paul and the rest of the Senate about the realities of trans health care. (Paul was later rebuked by Sen. Patty Murray of Washington for his "harmful misrepresentations.")
"Transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field," she replied. "And if confirmed as the Assistant Secretary of Health, I would certainly be pleased to come to your office and talk with you and your staff about the standards of care and the complexity of this field."
LGBTQ advocates believe Levine is more than qualified for the job. "Levine’s record of accomplishment as a public health leader is unquestionable," said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) president and CEO Alphonso David in a statement. "At a time when access to health care is a growing crisis for transgender and gender non-conforming people, Dr. Levine has the empathy to understand the health needs of our diverse country and the skillset to improve them."
Her hearing took place just hours before the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the LGBTQ Equality Act, a landmark piece of legislation that would protect LGBTQ people nationwide from discrimination. According to HRC, it is currently supported by 70% of American voters across party lines. It is also backed by the President himself, who issued a tweet earlier this week urging Congress to "swiftly pass this historic legislation."