US Senate Confirms First Ever Transgender Federal Official
The US Senate has confirmed the appointment of the first ever openly transgender official.
On Wednesday, March 24, the Senate confirmed that former Pennsylvania health secretary, Rachel Levine, will be the nation’s new assistant secretary of health, with a final vote of 52-48 cast in her favour.
Levine, who has previously served as physician general for Pennsylvania following a career in academia, has been widely praised for the way she has led one of America’s largest states through the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
As reported by NPR, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash encouraged her colleagues to vote in support of Levine’s nomination, hailing her as a ‘trusted voice’ on issues such as opioid prescribing guidelines, health equity and LGBTQ+ health care.
Emphasising the historic nature of Levine’s nomination, Murray said:
I’ve always said the people in our government should reflect the people it serves, and today we will take a new historic step towards making that a reality.
I’m proud to vote for Dr. Levine and incredibly proud of the progress this confirmation will represent, for our country and for transgender people all across it who are watching today.
It’s now that Levine will oversee Health and Human Services offices and programs throughout the US, with President Joe Biden having previously described her as ‘a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts’.
Highlighting Levine’s experiences and qualifications for the role while nominating her in January, President Biden said:
[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.
As per a statement published by The New York Times, Levine has promised to ‘promote policies that advance the health and well-being of all Americans’ and to fight on behalf of young transgender people.
Stating that she had been ‘humbled’ by the vote, Levine gave thanks to members of the LGBTQ+ community for their support:
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.
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.
Levine, who graduated from Harvard and Tulane Medical School, is president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. She has previously written on topics such as the opioid crisis, medicinal marijuana, adolescent medicine, eating disorders and LGBTQ+ healthcare.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence contact Mindline Trans+ on 0300 330 5468. The line is open 8pm–midnight Mondays and Fridays and is run by trans volunteers.
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