Dr. Rachel Levine — Courtesy of Biden transition team
Dr. Rachel Levine has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate and is now America’s Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services. The vote was 52 – 48, mostly along party lines. This makes her the first transgender cabinet secretary in American history.
Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine were the only two Republicans who crossed party lines and voted to confirm Dr. Levine.
“As Vice President Harris has said, I recognize that I may be the first, but am heartened by the knowledge that I will not be the last,” said Levine in a statement. “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 also had a few words for transgender youth. “I know that each and every day you confront many difficult challenges,” she stated. “Sadly, some of the challenges you face are from people who would seek to use your identity and circumstance as a weapon. It hurts. I know. I cannot promise you that these attacks will immediately cease, but I will do everything I can to support you and advocate for you.”
A native of Wakefield, Massachusetts, she has a B.A. from Harvard and a medical degree from Tulane University School of Medicine. Dr. Levine is divorced with two children. She transitioned in 2011.
Levine was pressed by Republican Senator Rand Paul to defend gender reassignment surgery during her confirmation proceedings. Paul compared it to genital mutilation. In response Levine said, “Transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field with robust research and standards of care that have been developed and, if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed as the assistant secretary of health, I will 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.”
Dr. Levine most recently served as Secretary of Health for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and lead the state’s public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Levine was confirmed three times by the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania state senate to serve as Secretary of Health and the state’s physician general.
She is also Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine and the President of ASTHO, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, and the Academy for Eating Disorders.