USA Today Includes Rachel Levine, First Openly Trans Cabinet Member, on “Women of the Year” List

Governor Tom Wolf from Harrisburg, PA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Rachel Levine is the U.S. assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services and Admiral of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and was included in USA Today’s list of notable “Women of the Year.”

Yet Levine’s inclusion in the feature is attracting attention not only due to the role the federal official has played in the Biden administration’s response to the pandemic but because, if you ask many outspoken critics, Levine is not, in fact, a woman.

“In any administration, the public health of Americans is a priority – a tenet that signifies prosperity and perseverance among us. But during a global pandemic, when relative calm turns to crisis seemingly overnight, community wellbeing instantly becomes a matter of life or death for millions of Americans,” the magazine wrote in a recent profile.

“Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, this fact continues to keep Adm. Rachel Levine up at night,” it explained.

“I really feel that everything I’ve ever done, whether it was in academic medicine, in education, in clinical research, seeing my patients in my role in public health, in Pennsylvania and now my role nationally,” Levine told USA Today’s Suzette Hackney this week, “has all led to this moment in terms of helping the nation through this greatest public health crisis that we have faced in over a hundred years.”

Levine’s history-making position in the federal government, however, is more likely to be remembered not due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the fact that when sworn in by the Senate last March, the now-Admiral became the highest-ranking openly transgender federal official in U.S. history.

What’s more, when appointed as head of the uniformed public health corps, Levine was touted as the “first female” four-star officer in the service, which many right-wing pundits and politicians defiantly pointed out was simply not the case.

The Daily Wire notes that one such figure, Republican Congressman Jim Banks (IN) was locked out of his Twitter account after describing Levine as a “man.”

“The title of first female four-star officer gets taken by a man,” Banks wrote in a tweet he was later forced to delete to gain access to his account once more.

“Calling someone that was born and lived as a man for 54 years the first ‘female’ four-star officer is an insult to every little girl who dreams of breaking glass ceilings one day,” the congressman also wrote in a separate tweet, as noted by The Christian Post.

Other women on USA Today’s “Women of the Year” list include Vice President Kamala Harris, the first person of color, woman, and woman of color to serve as the nation’s second-highest elected official, Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, and philanthropist Melinda Gates, who recently filed for divorce from her longtime husband, Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

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