January 20, 2021
From PM Press
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By Kim Strong
York Daily Record
January 20th, 2021

When
the news broke Tuesday that Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel
Levine had been nominated by Joe Biden to become his assistant secretary
for health, Christine McGinn sent her colleague a text message.

“I think it’s amazing,” McGinn wrote to Levine. “Honestly, not amazing. It’s totally expected.”

If confirmed, Levine would become the highest-ranking federal official approved by the U.S. Senate who is openly transgender. 

Dr. Christine McGinn (right), a transgender plastic surgeon, sent Dr. Rachel Levine a text of congratulations Jan. 19, 2021, for her nomination by Joe Biden to be his assistant secretary for health. She's pictured here in 2015 with one of her patients.

“She’s taken a lot of heat during this difficult year that we’ve been through, and she’s done great,” said McGinn, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon in New Hope, Pennsylvania, specializing in transgender surgery.

“I
remember the day that Gov. (Tom) Wolf picked her. I remember hearing it
on the news. And what I loved about it and what I hope happens again,
they talked about her being transgender for a day, then they moved on,”
said McGinn, a former flight surgeon for the Navy who is also
transgender. She has known Levine for about a decade. 

In
2015, Wolf had chosen Levine, a pediatrician, to become the state’s
physician general, promoting her in 2017 to become the state’s secretary
of health.  

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine has been nominated by President-elect Joe Biden to be his assistant secretary for health. She needs to go through a process of being approved by the U.S. Senate. She was confirmed three times by the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania state senate to serve first as the state’s physician general and then the secretary of health.

“I
think Dr. Rachel Levine is truly an inspiration, especially for the
transgender community and especially the younger transgender community,”
said Tesla Taliaferro of York.

Four years ago,
as Levine was rising in government, Taliaferro moved to Pennsylvania to
start a new life in a way that he thought he couldn’t in his own
hometown.

What he found here was an unexpected
hero in Levine. Taliaferro, who was born and raised as a girl, started
his transition to become a man four years ago.

“She
lives her life authentically without any apologies,” said Taliaferro, a
technical writer and editor for an engineering company. He runs the Rainbow Rose LGBTQIA+ Center in York, Pennsylvania.

Throughout
the pandemic, Levine’s public profile rose during daily coronavirus
updates with Wolf. As the lines began to be drawn between state
residents who accepted the lockdown and those who opposed it, Levine
became a target for vitriol. 

Gov. Tom Wolf chose Dr. Rachel Levine initially in 2015.

In July, photos were posted by the Bloomsburg Fair of a fundraiser that parodied Levine. She responded on Twitter: “I have no room in my heart for hatred, and frankly, I do not have time for intolerance.”

“The
entire community rejoiced, not just the transgender community,”
Taliaferro said of her post. “It said we are above what people say about
us.”

More:President-elect Biden selects Dr. Rachel Levine to be assistant secretary of health

Wolf
made his own statement on Twitter at the time: “The COVID-19 pandemic
has brought hate and transphobia into the spotlight through relentless
comments and slurs directed at Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine,
who is a highly skilled, valued, and capable member of my
administration.”

This is what success among the transgender community looks like: Success begets backlash.

“It’s
been awful to watch the slander and hate that’s directed to her. That
hate lands right on the hearts and shoulders of the young people I work
with,” said Marlene Pray, director and founder of Planned Parenthood’s Rainbow Room in Doylestown,
a space for LGBTQ+ youth. “We know it takes a toll on her, and it also
takes a toll on all of us, including straight and transgender kiddos.
But there’s also the resilience she has.” 

More:Pennsylvanians over 65 and those with high-risk conditions now eligible to get COVID vaccine

“Representation
always matters,” said Hil Malatino of inclusivity and diversity in the
workplace. He is a transgender assistant professor of women’s, gender
and sexual studies and philosophy at Penn State University.

“On
the other hand, it opens up that degree of visibility that creates
public scrutiny,” he said. The scrutiny can devolve into insults and
abuse – bullying. “If you are a high-level political public figure, you
have more important things to do than to respond to the transphobic
people.”

Dana Rasmussen, a transgender woman, looks to Levine as an example of strength.

“If
she can face, survive, and overcome often hateful comments and threats
while continuing to serve the people, then I know I can also succeed in
my profession,” said Rasmussen, who serves in northwest Pennsylvania on
the Transfamily of NWPA board of directors.
Her nomination “provides a visible and positive representation of what
can be achieved when a transgender person is allowed to freely apply
themselves in their professions.”

Of
her appointment, Taliaferro said: “The caring and compassionate manner
in which she provides leadership speaks strongly to her understanding of
the human experience. Her nomination is also exciting for the LGBTQIA+
community and especially the transgender community because of the
importance of representation and recognition both for and beyond our
identities.”

Adrian Shanker, executive director of the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center
in Allentown, said in a written statement, “Dr. Rachel Levine’s
leadership in Harrisburg has saved countless lives from both the opioid
epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a dedicated public servant, a
public health expert, and a compassionate leader who is well prepared
to go to Washington to improve public health for the American people.”

Kim Strong can be reached at kstrong@gannett.com.


Adrian Shanker is an award-winning activist and
organizer whose career has centered on advancing progress for the LGBT
community. He has worked as an arts fundraiser, labor organizer,
marketing manager, and served as President of Equality Pennsylvania for
three years before founding Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in
Allentown, PA, where he serves as executive director. An accomplished
organizer, Adrian has led numerous successful campaigns to advance LGBT
progress through municipal nondiscrimination and relationship
recognition laws and laws to protect LGBT youth from conversion therapy.
A specialist in LGBT health policy, he has developed leading-edge
health promotion campaigns to advance health equity through behavioral,
clinical, and policy changes.

Rachel L. Levine, MD, is the secretary of health for
the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Professor of Pediatrics and
Psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine. She is a fellow of the
American Academy of Pediatrics, the Society for Adolescent Health and
Medicine, and the Academy for Eating Disorders. She is a member of the
World Professional Association for Transgender Health. She is also a
board member and executive committee member of the Association of State
and Territorial Health Officials. Dr. Levine joined Governor Tom Wolf’s
administration in January 2015 as the physician general of the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and, upon her appointment, became the first
transgender person to hold a cabinet position in Pennsylvania. In 2017,
she was named the acting secretary of health and in 2018 was confirmed
by the Pennsylvania Senate as the Secretary of Health. She leads the
LGBTQ Policy Workgroup and advocates for LGBT rights for the Wolf
Administration. Dr. Levine is also an accomplished regional and
international speaker and author on the opioid crisis, medical
marijuana, adolescent medicine, eating disorders, and LGBT medicine. Dr.
Levine graduated from Harvard College and the Tulane University School
of Medicine. She completed her training in pediatrics and adolescent
medicine at the Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

Back to Adrian Shanker’s Author Page




Source: Pmpress.org