Metro Weekly

Rachel Levine Denounces Anti-Transgender Political Attacks

Assistant Secretary of Health calls for stop to “bullying” of trans people and discusses how LGBTQ rights have become political wedge issues.

Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Rachel Levine – Photo: Chris Sean Smith/ U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

Admiral Rachel Levine, the Assistant Secretary of Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has called on Americans to stop politically-motivated attacks on transgender people, especially trans youth.

Speaking in a pre-recorded video aired during a Pride Month event hosted by the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., Levine, who is Jewish, slammed proposed bills and recently passed laws seeking to restrict transgender rights, calling on Americans to “stand together against bullying.”

Appearing in full military uniform in the video, Levine explained how many transgender people in America are facing turbulent times, noting: “The past few months have been a difficult time for our LGBTQI+ community in the United States.”

“Attacks on the health and well-being of trans youth and trans adults have driven a political wedge into what should be a private, strictly medical conversation,” Levine continued. “Now we all need to stand together against bullying in public. We see that kind of emotional abuse in our communities.”

While Levine did not single out any particular person or entity in her speech, Republican lawmakers in more than two dozen states have proposed bills or executive orders to remove protections for, or restrict the rights of, LGBTQ individuals. 

One example of such an anti-LGBTQ attack is Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which prohibits discussions of LGBTQ content in all primary grades and requires any mentions of LGBTQ-related topics be “age-appropriate” for older grades — which has reportedly already resulted in teachers engaging in forms of censorship since taking effect. Other examples include bills to bar transgender women from female-designated sports teams, proposals to investigate and potentially prosecute parents who allow their trans children to access gender-affirming care, and even statements threatening to revive decades-old fights over states’ anti-sodomy laws.

No one deserves that kind of treatment,” Levine said. “Certainly not a young person or teenager who’s already more likely to face bullying at school.”

Uzra Zeya, the State Department’s undersecretary for human rights, also appeared at the Israeli Embassy Pride event. In remarks, Zeya discussed advancements that have benefitted LGBTQ people made possible by U.S. and Israeli cooperation.

“We celebrate that Israel has a strong and diverse LGBTQI plus organizational network, the earliest of these organizations going back nearly 50 years,” she said. “The United States and Israel are working together throughout the UN system to counter hate speech and promote gender equality LGBTQI+ rights, women’s empowerment, and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities [Convention], among many other issues.”

Michael Herzog, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, also attended the event, stating in his own remarks that “Israel is a natural partner in advancing these values.”

Respect for the rights of sexual and gender minorities has generally been prioritized by lawmakers in Israel, which is the only major Middle East nation with legal protections for LGBTQ people. The nation has recently banned gay conversion therapy and lifted bans on same-sex couples adopting children, in contrast with recent political trends in the United States.

We must strongly advocate for the most underserved and marginalized in our LGBTQ+ community, including our trans youth, and trans women of color,” Levine said in her prepared remarks. “You should all be able to live your lives no matter who you are, or who you love.”

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