Rachel Levine thinks Republicans want to make trans lives a ‘wedge issue’ in elections: ‘At its heart, this is politics’

Rachel Levine

Dr Rachel Levine thinks Republicans are introducing a raft of anti-trans laws in a bid to make trans lives a “wedge issue” in elections.

Levine, a trans woman who serves as assistant secretary for health in Joe Biden’s administration, addressed Republican pushback against trans rights by Republican lawmakers in an interview with The New York Times.

There are currently more than 260 bills targeting LGBT+ people making their way through state legislatures, and 127 of those specifically target trans people – but Levine believes these efforts come down to political posturing.

“It’s political – some people feel that this could be a wedge issue in the upcoming elections,” Levine said when asked about the so-called “culture war” around trans rights.

“It is also that transgender people have become more prominent, so I think maybe some pushback for that. But I think at its heart, this is politics.”

Levine also touched on a meeting she had with Roger Severino, who served as director of civil rights in the Trump administration’s health department. Levine met with Severino early in his tenure when he was considering rolling back protections for trans people.

When asked how she felt after she left the meeting with Severino, Levine said: “I’m a positive and optimistic and hopeful person. But you know, I was also skeptical that in the end it would make a difference because, again, I think it’s political.”

Rachel Levine has fielded hostile, loaded questions about trans healthcare

Levine made history when she was confirmed by the Senate as assistant secretary for health in March, making her the first openly trans federal official to achieve such a feat.

In her post, Levine advises the Public Health Service, a major division of the Department of Health and Human Services, and also helps to craft the nation’s healthcare strategy.

However, Levine’s Senate hearing made headlines for all the wrong reasons when Republican senator Rand Paul asked her a series of hostile, loaded questions about trans healthcare.

While the hearing had nothing to do with her own identity, Paul took the opportunity to ask Levine whether she supported gender affirming healthcare for trans youth, which he baselessly compared to “genital mutilation”.

At the time, Levine told the senator that trans healthcare “is a very complex and nuanced field”. She offered to meet with Paul one-on-one to discuss the “particulars”. Paul never took her up on the offer.

Before she was appointed to her role in the Biden administration, Levine served as secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, where she won praise for her handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement released to The New York Times following her confirmation, Levine directly addressed the LGBT+ community and thanked them for their support and advocacy.

“I am humbled to be the first transgender individual to serve in a Senate-confirmed position,” Levine said.

“As vice president Harris has said, I recognise that I may be the first, but am heartened by the knowledge that I will not be the last.”