Confirmation hearings were held yesterday for Dr. Rachel Levine, the nominee for assistant secretary of health at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the first openly trans person nominated for federal office. Her historic nomination, which came on the same day as the House passed the Equality Act; both occurrences were marked by anti-trans sentiments from Republican lawmakers.
Levine was questioned for two-and-a-half hours by members of the Senate Health committee, a preliminary step before her nomination goes before the Senate floor. During the course of the interview, Levine was asked what ABC News reports were “inflammatory questions” about genital surgery by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who liked the surgery to “genital mutilation.”
“Transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field with robust research and standards of care that have been developed,” Levine responded. “And if I’m fortunate enough to be confirmed as the assistant secretary of health I look forward to working with you and your office and coming to your office and discussing the particulars of the standards of care for transgender medicine.”
Later in the hearing, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Chair of the committee defended Levine and challenged her fellow senator’s line of questioning. “I appreciated your thoughtful and medically-informed response to Senator Paul’s question earlier in the hearing,” she said. “It is really critical to me that our nominees be treated with respect and that our questions focus on their qualifications and on the work ahead of us rather than on ideological and harmful misrepresentations of those we heard from Senator Paul earlier and I will focus on that as chair of this committee.”
Paul’s question occurred within the greater context of anti-trans sentiment expressed by Republican lawmakers regarding the Equality Act. Congresswomen Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO) both criticized the bill as being both anti-religion and anti-woman, specifically with regards to trans women being allowed to participate in women’s sports.
Speaking at a press conference, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called the attacks “mean” and said that they showed “a complete lack of understanding, complete lack of empathy.”
Prior to her nomination, Dr. Levine (and member of GO Women We Love, class of 2020!) was the state health secretary of Pennsylvania, and before that the state’s physician general.