On Thursday, Republican Senator Rand Paul made the very pointed choice of using the confirmation hearing of Dr. Rachel Levine—a widely respected public health official and a trans woman—to spew lies and misinformation about trans youth and gender-affirming care, like prescribing puberty blockers, which he equated to “genital mutilation.”
For almost an hour, Levine sat calmly as Paul spewed forth the favored talking points of anti-trans activists, who have strategically seized on painting gender-affirming care for young people as a form of child abuse, parroting the false claims that young people are transitioning due to “social contagion.” “American culture is now normalizing the idea that minors can be given hormones,” Paul said, before claiming that young people identify as trans due to “the social pressure to conform and do what others do.”
Levine, for her part, was calm and collected: staying composed while attacked is likely a skill she has cultivated over her entire professional career and especially in recent months. Levine, whom the Biden administration nominated to be an assistant health secretary, has been subject to vile transphobic attacks during the covid-19 pandemic in her role as Pennsylvania’s health secretary. I salute her for restraining herself from punching Rand’s smug little hateful face!
Here’s how she responded to Paul’s fearmongering, via the Daily Beast:
“Do you believe minors are capable of making such a life-changing decision of changing one’s sex?” Paul asked Levine.
In response, Levine thanked Paul for his “interest” in the question of transgender medicine, calling it “a very complex and nuanced field with robust research and standards of care that have been developed” by pediatricians.
“If I’m fortunate enough to be confirmed, I will look forward to working with you and your office and coming to your office to discuss the particulars of the standards of care for transgender medicine,” Levine said.
“I’m alarmed that you’re not saying they should be prevented from making decisions to amputate their breasts or genitalia,” Paul said in response to Levine on Thursday. He continued, again spewing lies and misinformation: “You’re willing to let a minor take things that prevent their puberty, and you think they get that back? You give a woman testosterone enough that she grows a beard—you think she’s going to go back looking like a woman when you stop the testosterone? You have permanently changed them.” (This is, of course, a bald-faced lie.) He added shortly after, “We should be outraged that someone is talking to a three-year-old about changing their sex.”
Paul, an opthamologist who has shown a remarkable disregard for medical science and public health during the covid-19 pandemic, obviously doesn’t care that there is a long body of research and carefully crafted recommendations made by actual experts on the topic of gender-affirming care for young people, none of which proposes that a child go through a physical transition as Rand imagines. This is...not a thing! It’s a fantasy manifested to serve as a conservative talking point.
But Paul doesn’t care about the truth, merely about throwing some red meat to the Republican base which has been primed in recent years to attack trans people as fuel for their culture war. Like many of his fellow Republicans, he has fully embraced the renewed assault on trans rights, one that is alarmingly gaining steam.