Rachel Levine, Highest Ranking Trans Gov't Official, Sworn in as Four-Star Officer

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday October 20, 2021

Assistant Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine — already the nation's highest-ranking openly transgender official — won a further distinction when she was promoted to the rank of Admiral on Oct. 14, NBC News reported.

The occasion marked Dr. Levine becoming "the first openly transgender four-star officer across any of the country's eight uniformed services," NBC News noted, before going on to add that Levine is now "the highest-ranking official of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps," as well as "the organization's first female four-star officer."

Levine delivered an address during the swearing in ceremony, NBC News reported.

"This is a momentous occasion, and I am honored to take this role for the impact I can make and for the historic nature of what it symbolizes," Levine said.

"I stand on the shoulders of those LGBTQ+ individuals who came before me, both those known and unknown," Dr. Levine added. "May this appointment today be the first of many more to come, as we create a diverse and more inclusive future."

In a Twitter post the same day, Dr. Levine declared that she was "deeply honored & grateful to join the ranks of men & women across this great nation who have committed to defend the United States against small & large threats, known and unknown."

"Out of the eight uniformed services in the United States," NBC News explained, "the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps distinctly focuses on medical issues."

NBC News further detailed that, "In heading the health corps, Levine will be in charge of deploying the country's public health workers to respond to crises ranging from the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 725,000 Americans, to natural disasters such as flooding."

Dr. Levine became the first openly transgender individual to win Senate confirmation last March, when she was confirmed to the post of Assistant Secretary of Health. The Senate's vote was split along party lines, with only two Republicans — Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine — voting to confirm her.

As previously reported at EDGE, during her confirmation hearing, Dr. Levine was the target of a transphobic harangue by Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Paul, an ophthalmologist, grilled Dr. Levine on the issue of transgender children, but seemed not to grasp essential medical facts concerning the topic, seeming to conflate 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, which is inaccurate.

Dr. Levine has spoken out as an advocate for transgender children, who have been targeted by GOP-led state legislation seeking to deny them medically appropriate care, among other restrictions.

"These are vulnerable youth who have suffered bullying and harassment, and we need to protect them and advocate for them not to have discriminatory laws passed against them," Dr. Levine said last June.

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.