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WASHINGTON, D.C. – During confirmation hearings last week for Dr. Rachel Levine, President Joe Biden’s pick for Assistant Secretary of Health, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) drew criticism when he compared sex reassignment surgery to “genital mutilation.” However, the uproar over Paul’s comments served to overshadow the fact that Dr. Levine repeatedly avoided answering the Senator’s questions about transition-related care for transgendered children.
Dr. Levine – one of the few openly transgender government officials in the United States – is a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine, and the former Pennsylvania Physician General and former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
At the confirmation hearings on Thursday, Paul, who is a former ophthalmologist, was in the process of discussing the subject of child sex reassignment with Dr. Levine and asked her if she believed that “minors are capable of making such a life-changing decision as changing one’s sex?” Paul then went on to refer to the act as “genital mutilation.”
Dr. Levine’s response neither confirmed nor denied her stance on the subject.
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“Well, Senator, thank you for your interest in this question,” she 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.”
However, Paul refused to drop the line of questioning and again appealed to Dr. Levine to answer the question.
“The specific question was about minors. Let’s be a little more specific, since you evaded the question,” he said. “Do you support the government intervening to override the parent’s consent to give a child puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and/or amputation surgery of the breasts and genitalia?”
Again, Dr. Levine issued nearly the same response, avoiding committing to an answer; this lead to Paul saying “let it go into the record that the witness refused to answer the question.”
Paul received criticism for some of the alleged “transphobic” terminology he used during his questioning of Dr. Levine. However, despite Dr. Levine’s avoidance of Paul’s questions, she has publicly expressed support of transgender children in the past and has even tweeted an article that claims that puberty-blockers can be “life-saving” drugs for trans youth with mental health problems, leading to some confusion as to why she would not commit to an answer on the subject at last week’s hearings.