Admiral Rachel Levine, a top federal health official and LGBTQ+ ally has recently visited Texas to speak out against anti-LGBTQ+ laws and policies in the U.S. Texas, in particular, is one of the leading states putting forth anti-trans policies.
According to Levine, in the speech she had delivered, she first shared with NPR: “Trans youth, in particular, are being hounded in public and driven to deaths of despair at an alarming rate. Fifty-two percent of all transgender and non-binary young people in the U.S. seriously contemplated killing themselves in 2020. Think about how many thought it was better to die than to put up with any more harassment, scapegoating, and intentional abuse.”
Levine, the assistant secretary for health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, also said to NPR that anti-trans bills and policies “are politically based. It’s not public health-based. It’s not medically based in any way.”
Who is Rachel Levine?
Rachel Levine is an American pediatrician and a four-star admiral in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. Since March 2021, she has been the assistant secretary for health in the U.S. Levine is one of only a few openly transgender government officials in the nation and the first to hold an office requiring Senate confirmation.
Levine is also a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine. She served as the Pennsylvania physician general from 2015 to 2017 and as secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health from 2017 to 2021.
On October 19, 2021, Levine was the first openly transgender four-star officer in the United States’ eight uniformed services.
How Many Anti-trans Bills Have Been Introduced Into State Legislatures?
Unfortunately, more than 100 anti-trans bills have been introduced in state legislatures this year, and many of them are aimed at youth. These laws prohibit trans-student-athletes from participating in sports under their true gender identity. Other bills and laws deny gender-affirming health care to transgender youth.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered state authorities to look into parents allowing their children to gender-affirming care and claiming that they are potential child abusers. However, a court temporarily blocked his order as a lawsuit against this order is being heard. In addition, Florida has issued guidelines stating that minors should not be allowed to undergo gender-affirming procedures.
Abbott is facing far-right primary issues for re-election currently. A lower court has also halted his investigation order.
Unfortunately, many family services workers have resigned, and families of transgender children are even leaving the state due to these laws.
Why Are These Laws Harmful?
Levine asserts that these are “egregious actions, one might say insidious actions, that are politically motivated and harm trans and gender-diverse youth and their families. Medical professionals recognize that gender-affirming care is a positive thing.”
She also mentioned how LGBTQ+ youth, especially trans youth, are vulnerable and at-risk and need support. Levine said, “We need to empower them because they are at risk.”
Where Did Rachel Levine Make Her Speech?
Levine spoke at The Out for Health Conference, an annual event organized by medical students all over Texas to support and address the needs of LGBTQ+ people. Levine said that “it’s a tremendous opportunity to speak with young professionals about health equity, diversity, and inclusion.”
She also said, “many people who aren’t trans don’t understand the complexity of gender identity. Sex and gender are “multidimensional,” and to move beyond the “simple binary of male and female.”
In part of her speech, she said: “Anyone who believes that words are not the same as actions, who believe that LGBTQI people should toughen up, should walk a mile in our shoes. That means having empathy. It is incumbent upon us to have empathy and compassion for those different from us.”
Vandana Garg, a TCU medical student and one of the organizers of the conference, expressed that the goal of Out for Health is to increase awareness of LGBTQ+ health “so that we can leave this conference with the knowledge of ways that we can help our patients in the future and support them in any way that we can.”
Since Levine is the most prominent trans person in the federal government, she has become a target on social media. For example, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has misgendered her publicly on Twitter, which resulted in the social media company flagging his tweet for “hateful conduct.”
Anti-trans bills continue to surface in the United States and are causing irreparable harm to LGBTQ+ folks, especially transgender youth. Rachel Levine and other allies are speaking against these damaging laws and bills, and we can only hope there will be more progress ahead. Transgender youth must be supported and protected, and these bills are dehumanizing and will only lead to negative consequences.
If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 74174.
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