Politics

Health official Dr Rachel Levine vows to protect trans kids from ‘politically motivated attacks’

Amelia Hansford July 19, 2022
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Dr Rachel Levine is sworn in as a four-star admiral of the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps

Dr Rachel Levine is the nation's first transgender four-star officer when she was sworn in as an admiral of the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps on 19 October 2021. (Twitter/@HHS_ASH)

Trailblazing US assistant health secretary Dr Rachel Levine has doubled down on her support for trans young people, saying she wants to “support and empower these youth”.

The first openly transgender US federal official spoke in an interview on MSNBC on Monday (18 July) that was primarily about the monkeypox vaccine rollout. She did however use the platform emphasise the government’s desire to support trans young people in accessing gender-affirming healthcare, as well as lambasting those who seek to block healthcare, claiming the attacks were “politically motivated”.

“Trans youth are vulnerable and they suffer significant harassment and bullying, sometimes in schools or in their community,” Levine said. “Now they’re suffering politically motivated attacks through state actions against these vulnerable transgender youth.” She then criticised anti-trans rhetoric, saying it was “not based upon data”.

As a trans woman herself, Dr Rachel Levine wants “to affirm and support and empower these youth” and not to “limit their participation in activities and sports and even limit their ability to get gender affirmation treatment in their state”, adding that: “All it takes is one supportive adult to make all the difference for an LGBTQI+ youth, transgender youth, in terms of their risk of depression and suicide.”

Especially since the overturning of Roe v Wade – which allowed set a precedent for reconsidering other legislative rulings to be repealed by the Supreme Court, such as the Obergefell v Hodges, that mandated nationwide legalisation of same-sex marriage – trans healthcare has come under increased scrutiny, especially when it comes to young people.

Just a week after the Supreme Court’s ruling, Alabama Republican attorney general Steve Marshall attempted to overturn a restriction on the state’s ban on trans medical care by a Trump-appointed judge. It was blocked from enforcement in May after the federal judge said the state failed to provide “credible evidence to show that transitioning medications are ‘experimental'”.

In his brief filed on 27 June, Marshall argued that the state now has the ability to restrict hormone blockers and other medical therapies for trans youth because they are not “deeply rooted in our history or traditions”, echoing the words used in the Supreme Court’s Roe v Wade ruling. It is believed to be one of the first-known citations of the ruling on a subject outside the realm of abortion-based healthcare.

There are now numerous examples that proves the Roe v Wade ruling has wider societal issues, including a Kansas City hospital chain briefly halting the distribution of the Plan B contraceptive – known as the morning-after pill – on 28 June after concerns that doctors would face criminal charges if it was sold, despite Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito saying it should not cast “doubts on precedents that do not concern abortion”.

Rachel Levine, nominee for Assistant Secretary in the Department of Health and Human Services testifies at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee February 25, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Rachel Levine, nominee for Assistant Secretary in the Department of Health and Human Services testifies at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee February 25, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Photo by Caroline Brehman-Pool/Getty Images)

Several other anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have been in consideration prior to the ruling have been slammed by Dr Rachel Levine in the past. In an interview with NPR, she said that “one of the biggest messages” she hoped to give young medical professionals during her appearance at the Out For Health Conference was the “challenges that the LGBTQI+ community face, particularly youth.”

Levine has faced a number of shameless transphobic attacks by Republican politicians over the past few years, from Republican congressman Jim Banks misgendering her in a tweet in 2021 to Texas attorney general Ken Paxton saying “Rachel Levine is a man” in a tweet in March 2022.

More recently notoriously anti-trans politician Marjorie Taylor Greene deadnamed and misgendered her in a 19 July 2022 tweet.

More: Dr Rachel Levine, Monkeypox, Roe v. Wade, trans healthcare, trans kids, transphobia

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