Public rallies round trans doctor in the face of bigotry

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.

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.”


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