Senate urged to confirm Rachel Levine immediately in impassioned letter by LGBT+ advocates and health experts

Dr Rachel Levine

More than 350 LGBT+ advocates and health experts have urged the Senate to confirm Dr Rachel Levine immediately, amid a transphobic smear campaign against her.

Levine was nominated as assistant secretary of health and human services by Joe Biden last week, and if confirmed, she would become the highest-ranking trans official in US history.

On her nomination, president Biden said in a statement: “Dr Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond.

“She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.”

But since her nomination, Levine has been subject to a relentless transphobic smear campaign by anti-LGBT+ conservatives.

Seemingly obsessed with her gender rather than her medical expertise and incredible track record in battling COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, right-wing commentators have repeatedly misgendered and deadnamed Levine.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson referred to Levine’s gender as her “sexual orientation or sex life or whatever, her personal life”, while Ben Shapiro, founder of right-wing publication The Daily Wire, described her in a tweet as “a biological man who believes he is a woman”.

The far-right outlet Breitbart also deadnamed and misgendered Levine, who won the PinkNews Award for Frontline Hero last year, when announcing her nomination.

In response, hundreds of LGBT+ advocates and health experts have celebrated Levine’s nomination, and called for her confirmation as soon as possible, according to them. 

They wrote: “As secretary of health for the sixth most populous state in the country, Dr Levine routinely works with the assistant secretary of health’s office to build critical bridges between federal and state policies on the pandemic and more.

“Her election as current President of ASTHO [the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials] is a clear testament to the level of faith other public health leaders have in her leadership.

“To have a former state secretary of health in the [assistant secretary of health] position in the coming months, when there is an urgent need for closer alliance between federal and state pandemic policies, will be invaluable.

“We are confident that Dr Levine is one of the best possible candidates to serve as assistant secretary for health in this time of extraordinary demands on our public health system.

“She would also make an excellent assistant secretary of mental health and substance use. We strongly urge you to appoint her.”

The signatories of the letter included The Trevor Project, Lambda Legal, GLAAD, the National LGBTQ Task Force, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the National LGBT Cancer Network.