Yesterday, the Senate confirmed Dr. Rachel Levine to be the next assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Dr. Levine is the first openly trans person confirmed to a federal post by the Senate.
The Senate voted mostly along party lines, with only two Republican senators — Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) — joining all 50 Democrats to confirm Levine’s nomination.
“I recognize that I may be the first, but am heartened by the knowledge that I will not be the last,” Dr. Levine wrote in a statement shared with the New York Times. “When I assume this position, I will stand on the shoulders of those who came before — people we know throughout history and those whose names we will never know because they were forced to live and work in the shadows.”
Dr. Levine’s confirmation process had been at times contentious. In a meeting with the Senate health committee, Levine had been asked anti-trans questions by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) who equated transgender reassignment surgery to “genital mutilation.” The senator also accused Levine of evading his questions when she said that trans medicine was “complex and nuanced.”
The Victory Institute released a statement praising Dr. Levine’s confirmation, with president Annise Parker saying that the importance of her appointment “extends well beyond the health of our nation alone. At a time when hateful politicians are weaponizing trans lives for their own perceived political gain, Dr. Levine’s confirmation lends focus to the contributions trans people make to our nation and deflates absurd arguments calling for their exclusion.”
In the statement, executive director Ruben Gonzales called Levine’s confirmation “an exciting, profound moment in our history,” adding, “While a bipartisan majority of senators voted with the best interests of our country in mind, a minority prioritized anti-trans hate over an honest review of Dr. Levine’s qualifications. Their vote to ride the extremist political winds of the moment will be judged in time, because history never looks fondly on those who vote on the side of bigotry.”
Before her nomination to HHS, Dr. Levine had been secretary of health in Pennsylvania, where she had received both praise and criticism for her handling of the Covid crisis.