Guide for journalists: The historic confirmation hearing of Dr. Rachel Levine

February 25, 2021

Thursday, February 25th, Dr. Rachel Levine will testify at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, as nominee for Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services.
It will be the first Senate confirmation hearing for an out transgender person for a presidential nomination.

If confirmed, Dr. Levine would be the highest-ranking transgender official in the U.S. government.

Best practices for covering Dr. Levine, the hearing, and all transgender people:

While her gender identity as a presidential nominee is historic, Dr. Levine’s qualifications and experience as a medical professional, particularly during the pandemic, are most relevant to center in coverage. 

Headlines on the historic hearing should include her name - not just “transgender doctor,” as some noted in coverage of Dr. Levine’s nomination in January. 

Use transgender as an adjective, not a noun. “Transgender person,” “transgender American,” “transgender patient.” 

Transgender is the proper adjective, not “transgendered.” 

Dr. Levine’s pronouns are she/her. As with covering any transgender person of note, birth name and details about her transition are not relevant to coverage of the hearing. Using a transgender person’s birth name without their permission, a practice known as deadnaming, undermines authentic identity. GLAAD resources here.

As one of the highest-ranking public health officials working to save lives in the pandemic, Dr. Levine’s gender identity became a cruel and irrelevant target from anti-trans activists in the media and elected officials. She addressed this harassment as the amount and intensity of attacks against her identity increased. Dr. Levine has been steadfast in keeping her focus on her job protecting public health. 

Additional background:

Dr. Levine stated she is proud of her work as a Pennsylvania state official to save lives during the COVID-19 crisis and to address health equity. She is also proud of work she has done personally to raise awareness about LGBTQ equity issues.

LGBTQ people have been dispropotionately affected by COVID-19 and the economic crisis. The CDC reported that LGBTQ people are at greater risk for severe COVID-19 complications, largely due to underlying health conditions and to discrimination faced in accessing healthcare.

HHS, under the Trump administration, rolled back or erased coverage for transgender people seeking healthcare. 29% of transgender people say a doctor or healthcare provider has refused to see them because of their gender identity.

In the closing days of the Trump administration, HHS finalized a rule allowing taxpayer-funded social service agencies to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

While serving as Physician General for Pennsylvania, Levine was one of the highest-ranking transgender officials in the nation. She was confirmed three times by the Republican-controlled state Senate to serve as secretary of health and Physician General.