November 16, 2021
Diversity & Inclusion Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Health Innovation Leadership Technology

The Doctor Is In: 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 her swearing-in last month, Levine spoke about health equity, about the Johnson and Johnson Covid-19 vaccine and about the states that are considering and enacting laws banning trans youth, from school sports and from gender-affirming healthcare.

Here are two of the questions from those posted on social media posed to the new assistant secretary for health, followed by her responses.

Tamara Henderson of Duluth, Ga. wanted to know: “How do you best care for thick skin? What is your remedy for cuts to the head from shattering glass ceilings?”

“When you’re focused on the mission — helping people — it makes it easier to stay above the fray,” Levine replied in an email. “I have a unique opportunity to really make a difference for the health of all people, which helps me to sleep soundly at night — knowing that my skills and abilities are put to good use.”

Erica Vanstone of Philadelphia, Penn., executive director of the trans-supportive Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby Association, had this to say to Dr. Levine: “I wouldn’t ask her anything — I would thank her for inspiring the WFTDA’s baseline metrics in our Covid-19 guidelines when she created the 50 in 100,000 metric for Pennsylvania that we’ve 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 move the health bar forward.”

Reaction to Levine’s confirmation has been mostly positive. LGBTQ advocate and nonbinary Texan Erin Roberts told AARP this is an inspirational moment.

“Dr. Levine is trying to make sure the door is open, and the path is clear,” Roberts said, adding that it’s crucial to “throw a rope behind” and pull up the next generation. “These young people have something real to aspire to — and that changes the world.”

“Normally, when someone becomes the ‘first ever’ person from a historically marginalized group to achieve something, it is viewed as a sign of progress,” author Julia Serano, who wrote Whipping Girl and 99 Erics, said in an email. “And there is some of that in this case. But at the same time, Dr. Levine’s confirmation occurred amidst a huge conservative backlash against transgender people, with a slate of anti-trans legislation being forwarded in GOP-controlled states across the nation. On top of this, a profound level of disrespect toward trans people was on display during Dr. Levine’s confirmation hearing, particularly in Sen. Rand Paul’s comments. So while I most certainly congratulate Dr. Levine on her appointment, it is difficult for me to see this as a wholly positive ‘turning point’ moment, given all these other recent events.”