Rand Paul Goes Off on Dr. Rachel Levine with Transphobic Rant

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday February 26, 2021

Even as his colleagues were attacking transgender Americans in a bid to derail the advancement of the Equality Act (which the U.S. House of Representatives approved on Feb. 25), Sen. Rand Paul, Republican from Kentucky, threw himself into an insinuation-filled transphobic harangue aimed at Dr. Rachel Levine, a pediatrician and nominee for the post of assistant secretary of health, the Daily Beast reports.

Paul, an ophthalmologist, seemingly conflated gender confirmation surgery with the practice of female circumcision, which is decried by many in the Western world as a form of genital mutilation. Paul also mischaracterized gender confirmation surgery as a procedure that would be performed on children, the Daily Beast article said.

The senator's harangue included pointed questions for Dr. Levine, such as, "Do you believe minors are capable of making such a life-changing decision of changing one's sex?"

When Dr. Levine, who remained collected and respectful, answered the senator's queries by saying that caring for transgender patients is "a very complex and nuanced" filed of expertise, the senator doubled down on the assertion that surgical procedures are a routine part of care for transgender children, professing to be "alarmed" that Dr. Levine was "not saying" that minors "should be prevented from making decisions to amputate their breasts or genitalia," and went on to declare, "We should be outraged that someone is talking to a three-year-old about changing their sex."

Paul also blasted hormone therapy for trans youth, and suggested that children who identify themselves as a gender other than that indicated by external genitalia do so out of peer pressure, in order "to conform" to "what others do" - an argument that overlooks the enormous pressure faced by LGTBQ youths to pretend to have a sexual orientation or gender identity that they do not.

Paul's insinuations echoed baseless claims the political right has made about Dr. Levine since she was nominated for the post, The New York Times noted, reporting that claims made on "social media and from conservative news outlets... have asserted, without evidence, that she has advocated gender reassignment surgery for minors, which is generally not done in the United States."

Paul's outburst drew condemnation from the chair of the Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee, Sen. Patty Murphy, Democrat of Washington, who is overseeing Dr. Levine's confirmation hearings. Murray called it "critical" that "our nominees be treated with respect," and urged a "focus on their qualifications rather than ideological and harmful misrepresentations."

Senate Majority Leader Chick Schumer also condemned what he referred to as "despicable comments made by a few Republicans about trans people," CNN reported.

Dr. Levine is currently Pennsylvania's secretary of health, news reports noted, and has drawn praise for how she dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic in that state. If her nomination is successful, she will be the first trans American to be confirmed to a federal-level post by the Senate.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.