Biden Assistant Health Secretary Pick Would Be First Senate-Confirmed Openly Transgender Federal Official

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January 19, 2021 9:07 a.m.

President-elect Joe Biden announced Tuesday that he will nominate top Pennsylvania health official, Rachel Levine, to be his assistant secretary of health. If confirmed by the Senate, Levine, a pediatrician, would become the first openly transgender federal official. 

“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 announcing the pick on Tuesday. 

Biden’s transition team said that Levine, a former physician general for the state, was  appointed health secretary in Pennsylvania by Gov. Tom Wolf (D) in 2017 and was confirmed three times by the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania state Senate. 

Levine has since led the state’s public health response to the coronavirus pandemic and has been the victim of vicious attacks on her gender identity.

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While bracing against social distancing measures that she encouraged across the state, a number of officials have hurled nasty remarks at Levine, including as pointed out by the Washington Post, a commissioner at a township near Pittsburgh who said he was “tired of listening to a guy dressed up like a woman,” amid tightening restrictions.

The Democratic governor condemned the relentless slurs of hate and transphobia directed at Levine, calling her in a July statement “a highly skilled, valued, and capable member of my administration.” 

In the Tuesday statement announcing Levine’s selection, Biden acknowledged Levine’s depth of experience and the momentous nature of her nomination.

“She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts,” Biden said.

Levine joins Biden’s Health and Human Services secretary nominee Xavier Becerra.

 

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