Rachel Levine, assistant secretary of the Biden Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), criticized efforts in some states to ban minors from obtaining transgender drugs and surgeries, saying such bans constitute a “health equity issue.”
During an interview last week with NPR, transgender Levine said bills banning young people from accessing drugs, such as puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, and transgender surgeries, such as elective double mastectomies, as well as bans against males competing in women’s sports are all “really challenging to see.”
Levine, born Richard Levine, said these transgender issues are not political, but very appropriate to address by one of the nation’s top health officials.
“I don’t see it as a political issue at all,” Levine said. “I view this as a health equity issue. This is about fairness and equality and about specifically health equity, which is part of my portfolio. So, I don’t see any risk in terms of politicization of this issue.”
In 2017, Levine delivered an address titled “It’s a Transgeneration: Issues in Transgender Medicine” to an audience at Franklin & Marshall College.
The former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Levine said during remarks that those in the transgender medical industry who are seeing gender dysphoric teens from the “street,” living in homeless shelters, should not go through the usual procedure of first administering puberty blockers to stop normal puberty, but instead immediately prescribe cross-sex hormones.
Levine told listeners that homeless teens who say they are transgender have been “essentially thrown out by their parents because of their gender identity and expression,” and added that “street youth” not living with their parents should not receive puberty blockers but instead “accelerate” with cross-sex hormones “so that the young people feel validated and are getting care consistent with their path.”
Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
In his questioning of Levine during the latter’s Senate confirmation hearing in February, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), an ophthalmologist, referred to the talk the nominee gave in 2017. He asked Levine:
Do you support the government intervening to override the parent’s consent to give a child puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and or amputation surgery of breasts and genitalia? You have said that you’re willing to accelerate the protocols for street kids. I’m alarmed that poor kids with no parents who are homeless and distraught, you would just go through this and allow that to happen to a minor.
Levine failed to answer Paul’s questions, including Paul’s question, “Do you believe that minors are capable of making such a life-changing decision as changing one’s sex?”
The nominee merely repeated a prepared response, saying:
Senator, transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field, and if confirmed to the position of Assistant Secretary of Health, I would certainly be pleased to come to your office and talk with you and your staff about the standards of care and the complexity of this field.
However, in criticism of states whose legislatures have voted to protect minors from life-altering transgender drugs and surgeries, Levine told NPR, “I really think that the decisions about health care for LGBTQ youth are really between the family, the child, the young person, their doctor, maybe their therapist.”
The American College of Pediatricians has reported that experts on both sides of the issue agree that “80 percent to 95 percent” of children with a diagnosis of gender dysphoria “accepted their biological sex by late adolescence.”
Retired pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson recently asked during an interview on SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Daily, “Why would you be asking a pre-adolescent about these complex issues?”
“Why would we even be complicating their lives?” the Trump-era secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) continued:
Children are curious by nature, and of course they’re going to ask questions and explore things. That doesn’t mean that they want to change their sex. And to confuse them in that way, I think, is child abuse. It certainly has nothing to do with science. These radical things are actually going to ruin people’s lives long term.
Levine told NPR that appearances by a top transgender health official will help to educate Americans about the importance of transgender Americans accessing the drugs and surgeries viewed as necessary for “health equity.”
“I like to quote that sage Yoda from Star Wars,” Levine said. “You know, ‘Fear is the path that leads to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.’ I think that people fear what they don’t understand.”