Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine answers your questions

Earlier this month, readers were asked, What would you ask Dr. Rachel Levine?

In her first interview with a transgender journalist since being sworn in last month, Levine spoke about health equity, the Johnson and Johnson Covid-19 vaccine, and states considering and enacting laws banning trans youth, school sports and gender-affirming health care.

Here are two of the questions posted on social media that readers asked the new assistant secretary for health, followed by her answers.

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“When you’re focused on the mission – helping people – it’s easier to stay above the fray,” Levine replied in an email. “I have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to really make a difference to everyone’s health, which helps me sleep well at night – knowing that my skills and abilities are being put to use.”

Erica Vanstone of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, executive director of trans-supportive Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby Associationhad this to say to Dr Levine: ‘I wouldn’t ask her anything – I would thank her for inspiring the WFTDA’s core metrics in our Covid-19 guidelines when she created the 50 in 100,000 metric for Pennsylvania which we have been using safely for over a year.

“Thank you for those kind words,” Levine said in an email response. “It really is a team effort. When we collaborate with a diverse group of people, we are able to raise the bar for health.

Reaction to Levine’s confirmation has been mostly positive. LGBTQ and non-binary transgender Texan lawyer Erin Robert says the website for AARPthey see that it is an inspiring moment.

“Dr. Levine is trying to make sure the door is open and the way is clear,” Roberts said, adding that “throwing a rope behind” and pulling the next generation is crucial. “These young people have something real to aspire to – and it’s changing the world.”

“Normally, when someone becomes the ‘first’ person in a historically marginalized group to achieve something, it’s seen as a sign of progress. And there is part of that in this case,” the author noted. Julia Serano, in an email. Serano wrote the seminal books on the transgender experience, whipping girl and Excludedas well as a new novel, 99 Erics, among other works. “But at the same time, Dr. Levine’s confirmation came amid a huge conservative backlash against transgender people, with a slate of anti-trans laws passed in GOP-controlled states across the country. On top of that, a profound disrespect for trans people was shown during Dr. Levine’s confirmation hearing, particularly in Senator Rand Paul’s comments,” issues Levine spoke about in his recent interview. “So while I most certainly congratulate Dr Levine on his appointment, it’s hard for me to see this as an entirely positive ‘turning point’, given all these other recent events.”

That said, Serano expressed hope for the future of transgender Americans. In an interview recorded Tuesday for the outdoor sports podcast, The transport roomshe describes herself as “cautiously optimistic”.

Dr. Levine, as the nation’s highest trans leader, is now in a position to help spread this belief.

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