Trans doctor Rachel Levine, Biden nominee for HHS, faces tough questions from Rand Paul on treatment of trans youth

Trans doctor Rachel Levine, Biden nominee for HHS, faces tough questions from Rand Paul on treatment of trans youth
Caroline Brehman/Pool via AP
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“Dr. Levine, you have supported both allowing minors to be given hormone blockers to prevent them from going through puberty, as well as surgical destruction of a minor’s genitalia,” said Sen. Rand Paul to Dr. Rachel Levine, who faces a tough confirmation hearing for the position of assistant Health and Human Services secretary. 

Levine, President Joe Biden’s nominee for the position, has previously expressed support for giving children puberty blockers and sex-change surgeries. Levine faced a tough inquiry from Paul, who asked blunt and even graphic questions about genital mutilation.

“Genital mutilation has been nearly universally condemned,” said Paul, citing the World Health Organization. “According to the WHO, genital mutilation is recognized internationally as a violation of human rights. Genital mutilation is considered particularly egregious because, as the WHO notes, it is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children.”

Paul, who is also a doctor by trade, having received his M.D from Duke University in 1988, pointed out that most instances of genital mutilation worldwide are not done by force, but due to “social convention, social norm, the social pressure to conform; to do what others do and have been doing, as well the need to be accepted socially and the fear of being rejected by the community.”

Paul warned that American culture is currently normalizing sex changes for minors through the use of puberty blockers, hormones or surgery, pointing out that such therapies have permanent effects. 

Paul cited a statistic from the American College of Pediatricians, stating: “80 to 95 percent of pre-pubertal children with gender dysphoria will experience resolution by late adolescence if not exposed to medical intervention and social affirmation.”

Levine, who identifies as transgender, evaded Paul’s question of whether minors are capable of making life-altering decisions like changing their sex. 

“Well, Senator, thank you for your interest in this question,” Levine said. “Transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field with robust research and standards of care that have been developed. And if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed as the assistant secretary of health, I will look forward to working with you and your office and coming to your office and discussing the particulars of the standards of care for transgender medicine.”

In response, Paul asked for specifics, and pointed out that Levine refused to provide a clear answer. 

“Let’s be a little more specific since you evaded the question,” said Paul. “Do you support the government intervening to override the parents’ consent to give a child puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and/or amputation surgery of breasts and genitalia?”

Paul pointed out that vulnerable children without homes or families would be allowed to have a sex change, highlighting the case of Keira Bell, a British citizen who made newspaper headlines for speaking out against such surgeries. Bell told the press that she regretted taking testosterone and undergoing a double mastectomy. 

Levine refused to answer Paul’s inquiry. 

“Let it go into the record that the witness refused to answer the question,” Paul said. “The question is a very specific one: should minors be making these momentous decisions?” 

“You're willing to let a minor take things to prevent their puberty, and you think they get that back?” Paul continued. “None of these drugs have been approved for this. They're all being used off-label... There's no long-term studies. We don't know what happens to them."

Paul faced a backlash from his Democratic colleagues in Congress, including Sen. Patty Murray, who suggested that Paul was out of line. 

“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 ideological and harmful misrepresentations like those we heard from Senator Paul earlier,” said Murray. 

Paul also faced criticism from activist groups for his tough questions, reported the Hill.

"Rand Paul chose devotion to anti-LGBTQ extremist groups over substance and the health of our nation — and does not deserve to hold public office,” said the Victory Institute’s Ruben Gonzales. 

“His remarks echo the talking points of the same organizations who said gay men deserved AIDS and that LGBTQ people should be criminalized. 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."

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