Just ahead of his inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden announced he will be appointing Dr. Rachel Levine to the position of assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Dr. Levine would be the first out transgender person appointed to a federal position, should she be approved by the U.S. Senate.
“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,” Biden said in a statement. “She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.”
“Dr. Rachel Levine is a remarkable public servant with the knowledge and experience to help us contain this pandemic and protect and improve the health and well-being of the American people,” said Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. “President-elect Biden and I look forward to working with her to meet the unprecedented challenges facing Americans and rebuild our country in a way that lifts everyone up.”
Dr. Levine is the Surgeon General of Pennsylvania. During her tenure, she endured a swath of transphobic attacks, from being referred to as “it,” “a man,” and a “freak transvestite” by an evangelical minister to being taunted with a transphobic menu item and an “impersonator.” She was also purposefully misgendered by Jenna Ellis, a senior legal advisor to the Trump campaign.
Her appointment marks the commitment by the Biden administration to walk back on attacks from the Trump administration on LGBTQ health administer by HHS. In only the last year, HHS adopted new rules rolling back Obama-era protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity for recipients of HHS grant money and empowering healthcare professionals to discriminate against transgender patients.