With her confirmation as Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Rachel Levine has made LGBTQ history, becoming the first-ever transgender person in history confirmed to a Cabinet-level government position. Dr. Levine was approved by the Senate with a vote of 52 to 48.
In a statement following the vote, Liz Seaton, policy director of National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, said, “Dr. Levine’s confirmation by the Senate today sends a strong message, especially to the LGBTQ people of this country: please step forward to serve — your nation needs you and your expertise.”
According to Kate Sosin of independent, nonprofit newsroom The 19th, “Levine, who departs her role as Pennsylvania’s secretary of health, secured confirmations from a Republican-controlled Senate in her home state three times. In 2015, Pennsylvania lawmakers from both parties unanimously approved her appointment as Pennsylvania physician general.”
When he nominated her for the role in January, President Biden praised Dr. Levine as a “historic and deeply qualified choice” for the role.
“Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond,” Biden said.
A former professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Penn State College of Medicine, Dr. Levine also served as president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and as secretary of health in Pennsylvania.
“Levine served as the face of Pennsylvania’s response to COVID-19, taking the heat for business closures against a backdrop of taunts about her gender,” Sosin wrote. “As she appeared daily on social media livestreams, she faced a barrage of hateful anti-trans comments.”
This transphobia came up again during Dr. Levine’s confirmation hearings when Senator Rand Paul questioned her about approved medical treatments for trans youth.
“I’m alarmed that you won’t say with certainty that minors should not have the ability to make the decision to take hormones that will affect them for the rest of their life,” Paul said.
“Transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field, and if confirmed to the position of Assistant Secretary of Health, I will 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,” Levine replied.