Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Rachel Levine speaks during her confirmation hearing to be Assistant Secretary, both of the Department of Health and Human Services before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee in Washington on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.(Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Dr. Rachel Levine, a former Pennsylvania health secretary, speaks at her February 25, 2021 Senate confirmation hearing for assistant health secretary of the United States. (Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images) 

Rand Paul Ripped for 'Completely Disgusting' Transphobic Attack on HHS Nominee Rachel Levine

"It's always interesting how libertarians claim that people should be left alone, but then expect everyone to conform to their personal views."

Brett Wilkins

Democratic lawmakers and human rights advocates on Thursday rebuked Sen. Rand Paul after the Kentucky Republican attempted to derail the historic Senate confirmation hearing of assistant health and human services secretary nominee Rachel Levine, in part by conflating gender-affirming healthcare with "genital mutilation."

"Dr. Levine's career has been focused on helping people live healthy lives. As a physician, Dr. Levine focused on issues at the intersection of physical and behavioral health. We need her experience at HHS."
—Public Health Foundation 

If confirmed, Levine—a pediatrician and former Pennsylvania state health secretary—would be the first out trans person to serve in a position approved by the Senate. Paul, who is also a physician, used his time to attack Levine and disseminate transphobic misinformation. 

Noting that "genital mutilation"—a completely incongruous topic—has been "almost universally condemned," Paul suggested that "the social pressure to conform, to do what others do... as well as the need to be accepted socially and fear of being rejected by the community" was a factor driving trans people to seek gender-affirming surgery. 

Paul then accused Levine of advocating "surgical destruction of a minor's genitalia" before asking if she believes "minors are capable of making such a life-changing decision as changing one's sex."

Levine—who has stated that surgical treatment is not recommended for anyone younger than 18 years of age, with "some exceptions"—politely thanked Paul for his interest in the subject and noted that "transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field with robust research and standards of care that have been developed." 

Paul, however, refused to let it go, telling the tale of a British woman who "read something about transsexuals" online before undergoing sex reassignment surgery she later regretted. Paul also aspersed the use of puberty-blocking hormones, a reversible therapy shown to reduce suicidal urges in transgender adolescents. 

As Vox noted, the affirming model—which includes social and medical transition—"has been recommended by nearly every major American medical association, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the Endocrine Society, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and many others."

Health, Education, and Labor Committee Chair Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) eventually cut Paul off.

"I appreciated your thoughtful and medically informed response to Sen. Paul's questions earlier in the hearing," she told Levine. "It is really critical to me that our nominees be treated with respect and that our questions focus on their qualifications and the work ahead of us rather than on ideological and harmful misrepresentations like those we heard from Sen. Paul earlier."

Human rights advocates were outraged by Paul's remarks and questioning. Ruben Gonzalez, executive director of the LGBTQ Victory Institute, accused the senator of choosing "devotion to anti-LGBTQ extremist groups over substance and the health of our nation."

"His remarks echo the talking points of the same organizations who said gay men deserved AIDS and that LGBTQ people should be criminalized," Gonzalez told The Hill. "He explicitly attacked vulnerable trans youth for his own perceived political gain and it was a disgrace. Dr. Levine is an extremely qualified nominee whose experience can help America effectively tackle this pandemic, but he took this opportunity to give voice to hate groups instead."

Paul's attack came a day after Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.)—who has a history of blantant bigotry—made anti-trans remarks while arguing against the Equality Act, a landmark bill passed by the Democratic majority in the House on Thursday that bans sexual orientation- and gender identity-based discrimination.

Greene also misgendered the trans daughter of Rep. Marie Newman (D-Ill.), and when Newman hung a transgender flag outside her office, Greene posted a sign across the hall with the medically and historically false assertion that "there are two genders: male and female." 


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Bloodbath': At Least 6 Dead, Dozens Wounded in Mass Shooting at Illinois July 4th Parade

"What freedom do we have if we fear being gunned down at a parade?" asked one progressive politician horrified by the reported carnage.

Brett Wilkins ·


On This July 4th, Abortion Rights Movement Says 'We're Not in the Mood for Fireworks'

"If we don’t have the ability to make decisions about if, when, and how to grow our families—we don't have freedom."

Brett Wilkins ·


Deadly Glacier Collapse in Italy 'Linked Directly to Climate Change'

At least seven people were killed when a glacier slid down a mountainside near a popular climbing route in the Alps on Sunday.

Julia Conley ·


'Organized Whitewash': US Claims Israeli Military's Murder of Journalist Not Intentional

"The odds that those responsible for the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh will be held to account are all but nonexistent," said the human rights group B'Tselem in response to findings of U.S. State Department.

Brett Wilkins ·


Hundreds March in Akron Enraged by Police Killing of Jayland Walker

"The police can do whatever they want," said one local resident through tears. "They can take our children's lives and think it's okay."

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo