Dr Rachel Levine giving a live update on the coronavirus crisis in Pennsylvania (Facebook/Pennsylvania Department of Health)
Pennsylvanians have united in support of Dr Rachel Levine, the transgender secretary of health who’s leading the state through the coronavirus crisis.
A graduate of Harvard College and a specialist in paediatrics and adolescent medicine, Dr Rachel Levine is a trusted national speaker who’s advised on issues ranging from the opioid crisis to LGBT+ health.
Her informative daily briefings have made her the public face of the pandemic for many Pennsylvanians, and unfortunately it has also made her the target of vicious transphobic bigotry, too.
But her supporters are having none of it. As online trolls delight in sharing offensive pictures and posts attacking Levine’s gender identity, her community has rallied round her by spreading the hashtag #Respect4Rachel on social media.
“It’s wrong, it’s nasty, and it’s inappropriate,” said Adrian Shanker, executive director of Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center. “There’s no place in public discourse for blatant transphobic bullying.”
State representative Dan Frankel agreed that Levine was leading the public health response with “intelligence and grace”, and urged his followers to join him in counteracting the transphobic attacks.
And they came out in force to show their support.
I can think of no presence more calming and assuring than that of @SecretaryLevine’s. Thankful to live in PA and to be under her care, thoughtfulness, and expertise. #Respect4Rachel https://t.co/dAmVy6uQrw
— ILiveJustUp28 (@ILiveJustUp28) April 26, 2020
Dr. Levine has been a beacon of calm sanity during this #Pandemic crisis. Her daily updates with @GovernorTomWolf are everything #Pennsylvania needs.
Thank you @SecretaryLevine for providing useful information & helping us all through this #coronavirus process.
— Kierstyn P. Zolfo -together our voices will carry (@BucksCoKierstyn) April 17, 2020
As an actual resident of PA we are proud of Dr Levine and her efforts to keep us safe. Bigotry doesn’t stop us from respecting her. #respect4rachel
— brandi (@brandicheb) April 27, 2020
Thank you to @SecretaryLevine for your tireless work for Pennsylvanians thus far. We are fortunate to have you. #respect4rachel #covid19
— Amanda Transue-Woolston (@AmandaTDA) April 21, 2020
Please allow me THIS MOMENT to personally thank & commend @SecretaryLevine of @PAHealthDept on her commitment to the health & well-being of EVERY SINGLE RESIDENT of this Commonwealth. I could think of no one else better to lead this charge to #FlattenTheCurve. #respect4rachel ❤
— Senator Lisa Boscola (@SenLisaBoscola) April 19, 2020
As a bi public figure, I’m unsurprised that Dr. Levine is the target of hatred b/c I watch my trans siblings face transphobia every day. She is the leader we need right now-brilliant,competent,& compassionate-&I’m angry at the constant disrespect thrown her way. #respect4rachel
— Jessica Benham (@jessicalbenham) April 17, 2020
Proud to live in PA because of @SecretaryLevine and HER work to protect our state from #COVID19. We have #FlattenTheCurve because of HER leadership #Respect4Rachel
— Tyler Bruinsma (@tjb518) April 16, 2020
Thank you @SecretaryLevine for keeping all of us in #Pennsylvania healthy and safe during the worst global pandemic in a century. I am grateful for your professionalism, transparency, and dedication to facts. Thank you for your service. #respect4rachel pic.twitter.com/a6PBmp4lkQ
— Laura in the Bardo (@lauratron1000) April 17, 2020
Dr Rachel Levine hasn’t publicly commented on the outpouring of support, instead remaining focused on her key coronavirus message: “Stay calm, stay home, stay safe.”
But she’s previously spoken about what it’s like to be a professional transgender woman in the public eye.
“It doesn’t make any difference what my gender identity is. All that matters is my professional work,” she told The Advocate.
“I want to be judged upon my work in medicine and in public health and in this difficult time, in my work to help to protect the public health in the face of this global pandemic.”
She reiterated: “It doesn’t make any difference what someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation is. We’re really all in this together.”