White House finally condemns transphobic attacks on Dr Rachel Levine: ‘Beneath contempt’

Dr Rachel Levine speaks to someone off camera while she is wearing a white shirt, dark jacket and pins denoting her status as a four-star admiral. There is a US flag seen in the background

The White House finally pushed back on anti-trans attacks against Dr Rachel Levine from “people who are truly beneath contempt”.

Levine quickly became the target of vile attacks after she took office as the assistant secretary for health in March 2021, becoming the first openly trans federal official approved by the Senate. She’s also the first openly trans four-star admiral in the country’s history.

Ring-wing personalities – including Georgia representative Marjorie Taylor Greene – attacked Levine for championing trans youth access to gender-affirming care and to play school sports, in an editorial in the Miami Herald as well as an interview on MSNBC

The White House remained largely silent on right-wing politicians and pundits targeting Dr Rachel Levine for her trans identity and support of LGBTQ+ youth. But now, Biden administration officials have started to speak out against the vile attacks.

An unnamed Biden administration official told The Daily Beast Levine is “widely respected” and claimed the White House’s silence is more about not giving the anti-trans remarks a platform.

“Dr Levine is a widely respected public health official, and the intention is to build her up not to debase her and ourselves by engaging with people who are truly beneath contempt,” the official said.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, the first Black and out LGBTQ+ person to serve in the role, showed her support for Levine on Twitter. 

“The Biden-Harris administration is stronger because of [Dr Rachel Levine’s] work to deliver quality health care for all Americans, no matter who they are,” Jean-Pierre wrote, retweeting Levine’s editorial. 

“She is a leader who is standing up for all of our children, especially some of our most vulnerable.”

Dr Rachel Levine thanked Karine Jean-Pierre for her support on Twitter and said she’s honoured to “be a part of this administration and to support the health of the American people every day”.

In her editorial, Levine urged people, especially those who see trans people as “easy political targets”, to base medical decisions and public statements on “real data and human compassion rather than slander and stigmatisation”.

She described travelling across the US to meet with trans youth, leaders and parents fighting against the legislative attacks on the LGBTQ+ community. Levine met with a trans girl in Florida who was told “not to hold hands with boys” in elementary school as well as others who had similar demeaning experiences. 

“I heard from a Florida trans woman in college who described repeated failures by counsellors, staff, deans and other adults to protect students regardless of gender, ethnicity or socioeconomic class,” she wrote. 

“Many trans youth describe struggles as simple as not knowing which counsellors and psychiatrists will be friendly toward them and as complex as lacking access to job offers and affordable housing because of who they are.”

Greene’s tweets misgendering and deadnaming Levine have remained on Twitter despite the remarks violating Twitter’s rules against “hateful conduct”. Twitter told PinkNews the comments remain visible – though behind a label acknowledging they break the platform’s rules of conduct – as it “may be in the public’s interest for them to remain accessible”.

Colorado representative Lauren Boebert received immense backlash after she responded to Levine’s appointment as an admiral by tweeting America was welcoming in “woke medicine”. 

Texas attorney general Ken Paxton was criticised for deliberately misgendering Levine in a hateful post on Twitter. Like Greene, Twitter declined to remove the tweet.

Melanie Willingham-Jaggers, executive director of GLSEN, told The Daily Beast anti-trans “extremists” are using Dr Rachel Levine as a “political pawn to try to further their own agenda of rolling back the clock on equal rights”.

“When politicians and pundits set the example that harassing transgender people is OK, it sends a message that trans youth are unsafe,” Willingham-Jaggers said.