WASHINGTON — Joe Biden has selected Pennsylvania’s health secretary, a man who was born Richard and now identifies as Rachel, as assistant secretary of health at the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
“Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond,” Biden said in an official statement released on Tuesday.
“[He] is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts,” he said, likely referring to the fact that Levine will be the first “transgender” in American history nominated for a federal position.
As previously reported, Levine is a pediatrician who founded the Division of Adolescent Medicine and Eating Disorders at Penn State Children’s Hospital on the campus of the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
A graduate of Harvard and Tulane University, he obtained fellowships in pediatrics and adolescent medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York before making the move to Pennsylvania to work at the Penn State College of Medicine.
“Levine … has long focused on the connection between mental and physical health,” NBC News reports.
“I have always been interested in patients with eating disorders because it really is this medical-behavioral health intersection,” he also told Lancaster Online, outlining that when he worked at Penn State he “would see patients and try to help teens and young adults and their families.”
Just four years after officially identifying as a woman, Levine became the physician general of Pennsylvania and was named acting secretary of health in July 2017 by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, an Episcopalian who was raised Methodist.
He was confirmed as secretary by the Pennsylvania Senate the following year without a single objection from Republicans or Democrats.
“One of the things I’m most proud of is that I was unanimously confirmed by the Senate,” Levine told NBC, stating that he met with most of the lawmakers personally. “[They] judged me strictly on my professional qualifications.”
Writing on the opioid crisis, medical marijuana, adolescent medicine, eating disorders and “LGBT medicine,” Levine is also a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine. He was named the grand marshal of the Philadelphia Pride Parade in 2015 and is on the board of the homosexual and transgender advocacy group Equality Pennsylvania.
Levine drew controversy throughout the Commonwealth in 2020 as he provided regular updates on the COVID pandemic while donning feminine clothing, including last month, as a digital sign in a Waterford resident’s yard read for a time, “Don’t let a man in a dress rule us, Waterford!”
In June, Scott Township Commissioner Paul Abel resigned after allegedly being harassed at his private residence by those who were upset that he remarked during a Zoom meeting, “Well, I’ll tell ya, I am tired of listening to a guy dressed up like a woman.”
Levine, who says he struggled with his gender from his youth, played football and hockey for an all-male private school and went on to marry and have children. In his 40’s, he began seeing a therapist for his continued issues and officially identified himself as Rachel in 2011.
He and his wife divorced in 2013.
This past fall, under Levine’s leadership, the Pennsylvania Department of Health released guidelines on how residents could have “safer sex” during the coronavirus pandemic, including wearing masks as they engage in the sin of fornication — or sexting instead.
“You are your safest sex partner,” the guidelines state, as posted to the Department of Health website, which are prefaced with the recommendation that residents should “consider utilizing risk reduction strategies to protect your health and the health of your sex partner(s)” (plural in parenthesis in original).
“Your next safest partner is someone you live with,” the page continues, not using the word “spouse” but rather the generic “someone you live with,” perhaps referring to those who cohabitate before marriage. “Having close contact, including sex, with someone you live with who has a low risk of having COVID-19 infection helps prevent spreading COVID-19.”
However, “[i]f you do have sex with others outside of your household: Have as few partners as possible, and pick partners you trust,” the page reads, referring to those that the individual is obviously not married to. “Ask partners outside your home about COVID-19 status before you meet and engage in sex.”
The guidelines go on to advise that while large gatherings are unsafe during this time, “if you attend a large gathering where you might end up having sex,” the person should “[l]imit the number of partners” and “[t]ry to identify a consistent sex partner.”
The Pennsylvania Department of Health, under Levine’s leadership, also suggested finding alternate means to hook up with sex partners during the pandemic, such as via “[v]ideo dates, sexting, subscription-based fan platforms, or chat rooms.”
Kamala Harris, who attends a Baptist church in California, praised the selection of Levine in Tuesday’s press release, remarking in a statement, “Dr. Rachel Levine is a remarkable public servant with the knowledge and experience to help us contain this pandemic, and protect and improve the health and well-being of the American people.”
“President-elect Biden and I look forward to working with her to meet the unprecedented challenges facing Americans and rebuild our country in a way that lifts everyone up.”
Proverbs 29:2 states, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice, but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.”
The late English pastor John Gill outlined in an exposition on the passage, “[B]ecause of the sad state of things, the number of good men is lessened, being cut off, or obliged to flee; wicked men and wickedness are encouraged and promoted.” Noncomformist minister Matthew Poole also outlined, “The people mourn, both for the oppressions and mischiefs which they feel and for the dreadful judgments of God which they justly fear.”