Dr. Rachel Levine, President Biden’s choose to be assistant secretary for well being, made historical past on Wednesday by turning into the primary brazenly transgender particular person confirmed by the Senate to a federal place, and instantly vowed to “promote insurance policies that advance the well being and well-being of all Individuals” and to combat for transgender youth.
The Senate vote, 52 to 48, adopted a contentious affirmation listening to that turned a flash level within the battle over transgender rights. Dr. Levine, a pediatrician and former well being secretary in Pennsylvania, will assume her publish on the federal Well being and Human Providers Division at a difficult time, simply as Mr. Biden is making an attempt to steer the nation out of the coronavirus disaster.
In an announcement shared with The New York Instances, Dr. Levine mentioned she was “humbled” by the Senate’s approval and thanked the L.G.B.T.Q. neighborhood for its assist.
“As Vice President Harris has mentioned, I acknowledge that I stands out as the first, however am heartened by the information that I can’t be the final,” she wrote. “After I assume this place, I’ll stand on the shoulders of those that got here earlier than — individuals we all know all through historical past and people whose names we’ll by no means know as a result of they have been compelled to stay and work within the shadows.”
She mentioned she needed to handle transgender youth specifically.
“I do know that every day you confront many troublesome challenges,” she wrote. “Sadly, a number of the challenges you face are from individuals who would search to make use of your identification and circumstance as a weapon. It hurts. I do know. I can not promise you that these assaults will instantly stop, however I’ll do the whole lot I can to assist you and advocate for you.”
Two Republicans, Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, crossed social gathering strains to vote for Dr. Levine.
At her affirmation listening to earlier than the Senate Well being Committee, Dr. Levine was the subject of a tirade by Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, who likened intercourse reassignment surgical procedure to “genital mutilation” and demanded to know whether or not she supported such procedures for minors.
Her response — that transgender drugs is “a really advanced and nuanced subject with sturdy analysis and requirements of care” — drew plaudits from Democrats who praised her for sustaining her calm, however criticism from conservatives who accused her of being evasive.
In a current interview, Roger Severino, a champion of social conservative causes who ran the Well being and Human Providers Division’s civil rights workplace beneath President Donald J. Trump and met with Dr. Levine when contemplating whether or not to roll again transgender protections, referred to as her a “divisive choose that goes opposite to President Biden’s promise of unity.”
However advocates for the L.G.B.T.Q. neighborhood have been elated on Wednesday.
“At a time when hateful politicians are weaponizing trans lives for their very own perceived political achieve, Dr. Levine’s affirmation lends focus to the contributions trans individuals make to our nation and deflates absurd arguments calling for his or her exclusion,” mentioned Annise Parker, a former mayor of Houston who now runs the L.G.B.T.Q. Victory Institute, which trains L.G.B.T.Q. individuals to run for public workplace.