Rachel, Rachel

Is this the world’s most unsalutary health official?

If you consult the mainstream news media on a regular basis, you’ve probably heard that last Thursday was a red-letter day in American history – an occasion for dancing in the streets from Bangor to Burbank, and for socially distanced champagne toasts from Key West to Ketchikan. Why? Because, for the first time ever, a transgender nominee for a government office was up for Senate confirmation. That nominee was Dr. Rachel Levine, President Biden’s pick for Assistant Secretary for Health.

Is Rachel a great, or even a competent, physician? Who cares? It’s 2021, and Rachel is trans!

Rachel’s birth name was Richard, though there’s no way you could tell that from, say, Wikipedia. (In fact, on the “talk” page for Rachel’s Wikipedia entry, you can see anxious contributors earnestly debating how to deal with the ticklish fact that Rachel had a bar mitzvah, not a bas mitzvah.) Now aged 63, Rachel transitioned a decade ago and was divorced a couple of years later. Neither Rachel’s ex nor their two children appear to have attended the hearing.

Importantly, Rachel is not only a trans person; Rachel is a trans activist, a self-described champion of transgender youth. Meaning what? Meaning, among much else, that Rachel supports giving puberty blockers to children who say they’re the opposite sex, and is open to ordering “gender-confirmation” surgery to kids under age 18 with or without parental permission.

Rachel’s last job was as Health Commissioner in Pennsylvania. There were national headlines when it emerged that Rachel’s mother had been removed for her safety from a care home even as Rachel was ordering elderly hospital patients who’d tested positive for COVID back into nursing homes. Like Andrew Cuomo’s similar move in New York, this action doubtless contributed to the state’s elevated toll of COVID deaths in such establishments – a matter that Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) brought up at the hearing.

But hey, Rachel is trans!

Because Rachel’s appointment broke a glass ceiling, the Democrats treated the hearing as a celebration. But Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) had to spoil the party. Noting Rachel’s support for puberty blockers and the “surgical destruction of a minor’s genitalia,” Sen. Paul, who is a physician, pointed out that genital mutilation is internationally considered “a violation of human rights” and that “80 to 95% of prepubertal children with gender dysphoria” snap out of it “by late adolescence” if left alone. This being the case, asked Sen. Paul, “do you believe that minors are capable of making such a life-changing decision as changing one’s sex?”

Rachel, who had dodged Sen. Burr’s questions about nursing-home deaths in Pennsylvania, also favored Sen. Paul with a total non-response: “Well, Senator, thank you for your interest in this question. Transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field with robust research and standards of care…. if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed…I will look forward to working with you and your office.”

Sen. Paul tried again. “Do you support the government intervening to override the parent’s consent to give a child puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and/or amputation surgery of breasts and genitalia?” He cited the not unrepresentative case of a 23-year-old woman who, in her teens, confused about her identity, took hormones and had a mastectomy, only to regret it now. “What I’m alarmed at,” he said, “is that you’re not willing to say absolutely minors shouldn’t be making decisions to amputate their breast or to amputate their genitalia.” In reply, Rachel repeated the whole “thank you for your interest” spiel almost verbatim. Bridling, Sen. Paul stated that there are no studies to show the long-term impact of such procedures, and that young children are in no position to make such decisions.  

Every word that Sen. Paul said was utterly reasonable. Any responsible-minded senator – especially a senator who’s taken the Hippocratic Oath – should’ve been expected to ask Rachel the kind of questions he did. By contrast, Rachel’s refusal to answer them was the very height of insolence. In a saner world, their exchange should’ve raised a red flag and ended Rachel’s career in federal government before it started. But this isn’t a saner world, and this hearing wasn’t about responsible health care. It was about celebrating the landmark nature of this appointment. Hence the committee chair, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), ignored Rachel’s evasions and chided Sen. Paul for not treating Rachel with “respect” and for proffering “ideological and harmful misrepresentations.”

Yes, that’s where these things stand nowadays in the corridors of government, media, and corporate power. Concocted the day before yesterday, trans ideology – which orders us, among many other euphemisms, to refer to genital mutilation as “gender confirmation surgery” and to accept that pre-teens are capable of deciding to have such surgery – is treated in bien pensant circles as universally recognized objective fact, while views based in hard science, views that not long ago would have been considered the merest common sense, are condemned as “ideological and harmful misrepresentations” that only a “deplorable” could perpetrate.

So it was that Sen. Paul was condemned not only by the party of “follow the science” but also by the entire mainstream press. In the New York Times, for example, Sheryl Gay Stolberg characterized Sen. Paul’s questions as “a tirade about ‘genital mutilation’ and a demand to know whether the nominee supported gender reassignment surgery and hormone therapy for minors.” (Stolberg didn’t mention that Rachel had dodged Sen. Paul’s question – and that the correct answer would have been “yes.”) Over at the Guardian, Ed Pilkington wrote that Sen. Paul had “compared transgender surgery misleadingly to genital mutilation and accused Levine of supporting ‘surgical destruction of a minor’s genitalia.’” Needless to say, transgender surgery is by definition an act of genital mutilation, and, again, Rachel does support the destruction of at least some minors’ genitalia.    

Then there was Washington Post report, headlined: “Paul’s ignorant questioning of Rachel Levine showed why we need her in government.” Who was this journalist who dared to accuse a physician of being “ignorant” of a medical issue? That would be Monica Hesse, a reporter for the Post’s Style section and its first-ever “gender columnist.” In her article, Hesse sneered that Sen. Paul was less interested in asking Rachel about COVID than “in talking about children’s genitals” – a disgusting way to put it, and a cynical means of dismissing legitimate concerns about the well-being of real children.  Like Stolberg, Hesse called Sen. Paul’s remarks a “tirade,” and, like Pilkington, she mocked the idea that the mutilation of genitalia in “transition-related surgeries” could possibly be referred to as “genital mutilation.”

The thrust of Hesse’s piece was that people with concerns about transitioning children are self-evident bigots who, in order to spread their bigotry, need to represent trans people as “monsters.” But Rachel, asserted Hesse, was the kind of person whom, when experienced up close and personal, it was impossible to see as a monster: “Levine spent three hours sitting behind a table, wearing a patterned blazer, a string of pearls, eyeglasses and a graying haircut.” (Haircut? When was the last time anybody cut that hair?) “She spoke humbly, admitted when she didn’t know answers, and stressed how honored and excited she would be to learn more and to work with everyone in the room. She was the opposite of terrifying.”

Au contraire, and then some. Let me be blunt. Rachel is terrifying. This isn’t one of your good, old-fashioned M-to-F transsexuals who’ve put a serious effort into looking and dressing like women and into cultivating a demure and feminine manner. And it’s certainly not one of those M-to-Fs who are famously beautiful, like the British model Caroline Cossey (a.k.a. Tula). No, Rachel is a hulking character, with all the grace of a stevedore, whose hair looks like a dirty mop and whose clothes are a mess.

I’m not just saying that Rachel is unsightly. I’m suggesting that for Rachel the unsightliness is the whole point. I’m suggesting that Rachel is quite deliberately parading around in awful, slapdash drag and speaking in an absurd falsetto, head bobbing ever so slightly, and daring us to offer any comment short of sheer, unadulterated praise about the far-out figure that she cuts. I’m suggesting that what we have here is not just another trans woman but a bitter, self-hating creature who wakes up every day feeling like an oddity, who sets out to look the part, and whose crusade to maim the genitalia of children and teens is rooted in a ghoulish desire to be surrounded by other damaged souls and bodies.

“Levine’s nomination is historic,” rhapsodized Hesse, “but it is also necessary. It is necessary because…we should have a government that represents the vast breadth of humanity.” How appropriate it was that Hesse’s piece appeared in the Post’s Style section – because this entire circus is not about the serious and conscientious practice of medicine but about a fashion, a craze, a trend to which everyone in a position of authority or influence, in the year 2021, feels obliged to genuflect.

Never mind the countless children who, years from now, as adults, will spend every day of their lives grieving the fact that they let themselves be butchered in the name of “gender confirmation.” By then, to be sure, there will be other crazes, other fads, about which Style columnists like Hesse will be scribbling, and other trendy constituencies to which the likes of Sen. Murray will be kowtowing; and so those despairing men and women who fell in their youth for the trans sales pitch will – alas – have to fend for themselves.

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