GOP Rep. Jim Banks hit back after Rachel Levine became the nation’s first transgender four-star admiral, calling her a “man” and a “little girl” disappointment.
The Indiana Republican’s comments provoked restraint.
Levine, an appointee by Biden, was sworn in as head of the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, making her the country’s highest-ranking transgender official. She will also continue to serve in her position as Assistant Secretary of Health for the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
“The title of first female four-star official is taken by a man,” Banks tweeted in response to the news.
Calling someone born and living a man for 54 years the first ‘female’ four-star officer is an insult to any little girl who dreams of breaking glass ceilings one day,” he wrote in a subsequent tweet.
Levine, 63, will lead the nearly 6,000-strong force of public health professionals responding on behalf of the federal government to public health crises, including the administration of COVID vaccines, and national emergencies.
While Levine never served as a sailor, the Assistant Secretary for Health can be ranked as an Admiral if they also serve as a uniformed officer of the USPHS Commissioned Corps.
Ruben Gonzales, executive director of the LGBTQ Victory Institute, responded that Banks’ comments were “an insult to any little girl who dreams of an America where officials will treat them with respect and judge them on their achievements,” according to the IndyStar.
Some Twitter users called the comments “transphobic.”
‘@RepJimBanks is so transphobic…wonder why???’ wrote one user.
‘Why are you concerned and what would be your solution to the problem? How many “little girls” did you poll to determine your POV?’ another user wrote in response.
“One thing women really like is that men tell us what we think,” wrote another.
Rachel Levine, 63, will lead the nearly 6,000-strong health workforce responding to public health crises
‘The title of first female four-star official is taken by a man,’ Jim Banks tweeted in response to the news
Donald Trump Jr. defended the Trump-supporting Republican.
OUT: Follow the science. IN: Biological facts are “transphobic,” Trump Jr. wrote, along with clown emojis. Banks retweeted the tweet.
President Biden nominated Levine for the senior position in January and continued his pattern of selecting a historically diverse list of leaders for senior executive positions.
The professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Penn State College of Medicine led Pennsylvania’s response to the novel coronavirus outbreak as the state’s top health official.
Levine “will bring the solid leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — regardless of their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability,” Biden said in a statement.
She then made history in March when she became the first transgender federal official to be confirmed by the US Senate.
Prior to her appointment as admiral of the USPHS Commissioned Corps, Levine served as secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Governor Tom Wolf appointed his deputy chief of staff, Alison Beam, to take over the public health position.
Born Richard Levine in Massachusetts in 1957, Levine attended a private boys’ school outside of Boston. She has spoken openly about her transition and remembers it even as a young child: “All I knew was that I wanted to be a girl, or I was a girl, or a woman.”
Levine started therapy about 20 years ago and slowly began to grow her hair and come out to her colleagues, students, patients, friends and family.
She completed her transition in 2013 after undergoing gender reassignment surgery and hormone treatment, according to PennLive.
Before moving on, Levine married Martha Peaslee while he enrolled at Tulane and started a family. She reportedly remains close to her ex-wife, who she divorced in 2013, and two adult children, Danya and David.
Going from one gender to another, especially if you’re in your 50s, is a challenge,” Rachel Levine told the Washington Post. “But it was well worth it.”
“I have a lot of confidence in who I am.”
In 2017, she was named to NBC Out’s #Pride30 National List for her impact on the LGBTQ community.