In historic move Biden selects transgender doctor for senior health post

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Dr Rachel Levine

President Joe Biden has picked Dr Rachel Levine to be his assistant secretary of health, which could make her the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the US Senate.

Levine, a paediatrician, currently serves as the secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health and is also a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine. She has two children.

Levine is one of only a handful of openly transgender government officials in the United States. A day ahead of his inauguration, Biden announced that he will nominate Levine to be assistant secretary for health, which must be confirmed by the 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,” said Biden in a statement. “She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.”

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), America’s largest LGBTQ rights group, said that Levine’s nomination was historic and a sign that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will keep their promise to create an administration that reflects the diversity and life experiences of America.

“Dr Rachel Levine, a highly experienced and qualified public health leader, has led Pennsylvania’s public health response to the Covid-19 pandemic superbly,” commented HRC President Alphonso David.

“At a time when access to health care is a growing crisis for transgender people made worse by anti-LGBTQ legislation and legislators across the nation, Dr Levine has the empathy to understand the health needs of our diverse country and the skillset to improve them.”

David urged the US Senate to speedily confirm Levine’s nomination to aid the Biden-Harris administration’s efforts to contain the Covid-19 pandemic “and rebuild our nation better, stronger and more equal than before.”

In a statement, Levine said: “I look forward to the opportunity to continue to serve Pennsylvanians, and all Americans, as part of the Biden Administration if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed to this position.”

Biden, who was inaugurated as the 46th US president on Wednesday, is a long-time supporter of the LGBTQ community and has backed marriage equality, hate crime and anti-discrimination laws and spoken out against the abuse of LGBTQ people’s rights. Ahead of his election last year, he promised to take significant steps to improve the lives of LGBTQ people around the world.

“I believe that Trans Lives Matter and, as president, I will fight on behalf of every vulnerable person in this country,” said Biden in a 28 October interview with the Philadelphia Gay News.

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