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Rachel Levine and transgender people

Admiral Rachel L. Levine, MD is an American pediatrician and government health official. She is the first out transgender four-star officer in the US uniformed services. She was appointed as Assistant Secretary for Health by the US Senate in 2021.


Levine was born October 28, 1957 and grew up in Wakefield, Massachusetts. Both her parents were lawyers. She has an older sister.

After private school, Levine graduated from Harvard College, then Tulane University School of Medicine. She did her pediatrics residency and adolescent medicine postdoc at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. She took a position at Penn State College of Medicine as well as Penn State Hershey Medical Center.

Levine married Martha Peaslee Levine in 1988. They have two children. Levine transitioned in 2011, and they divorced in 2013.

She was appointed Pennsylvania Physician General in 2015 and Secretary of Health in 2017. In 2020 she was responsible for the commonwealth’s COVID response. In 2021, the Senate confirmed her as Assistant Secretary for Health after President Joe Biden nominated her.

Levine became the first out trans four-star officer in US uniformed services. Among Levine’s first initiatives were addressing bullying, suicide, discriminatory policies, and isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic as pressing issues among LGBTQ youth. he has criticized Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill and the push to in some conservative states to investigate parents who provide gender-affirming care to their children.

Levine became a lightning rod for anti-transgender hatred from anti-trans lawmakers and media figures after taking office.

Support of gender affirming care for youth

Levine supports the position of the American Academy of Pediatrics regarding trans and gender diverse youth. The AAP states that the gender affirming model of care is the current medical consensus.

Levine discussed this in a 2023 keynote at Yale University:

Levine described gender-affirming care — which includes puberty blockers, gender-affirming hormones and surgical procedures, among other interventions —  as “safe,” “effective” and “medically necessary.” 

Levine described how transgender and nonbinary youth are disproportionately burdened by mental health challenges. She noted that gender-affirming interventions are associated with lower odds of depressive symptoms, self-harm and suicidal thoughts. Given this, Levine said, gender-affirming care has been life-saving for thousands of young LGBTQI+ people across the country.


Zhang, William ( FEB 07, 2023). Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel L. Levine discusses LGBTQI+ health at Yale Law School. Yale Daily News

Zezima, Katie (June 1, 2016). Meet Rachel Levine, one of the very few transgender public officials in America. The Washington Post [archive]

Sullivan, Eileen (January 19, 2021). Biden’s pick for Health and Human Services role would be first transgender federal official confirmed by the SenateThe New York Times

Weissert, Will (January 19, 2021). Biden picks transgender woman as assistant health secretaryAP News

Diamond, Dan (October 19, 2021). Rachel Levine, openly transgender health official, to be sworn in as four-star admiral in Public Health ServiceWashington Post

Hackney, Suzette (March 13, 2022). ‘Be true to yourself’: A message from the nation’s highest-ranking openly transgender officialUSA Today

Goodin-Smith, Oona (January 19, 2021). What to know about Rachel Levine, the history-making Pa. health official tapped for Biden administrationThe Philadelphia Inquirer

Loveland, Barry (February 6, 2017). LGBT Oral History: Rachel Levine. (PDF). LGBT Center of Central PA History Project Dickinson College Archives & Special Collections. Carlisle, PA, USA. [archive]


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