Rachel Levine Lauds Israel for Transgender Tolerance

Rachel Levine, nominated to be an assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Huma
Caroline Brehman/Pool/AP

Rachel Levine, assistant secretary for health for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), praised Israel on Wednesday for its tolerant policies toward transgender people.

Levine, a biological male who identifies as a woman, spoke at the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC, at a Gay Pride event.

“The past few months have been a difficult time for our LGBTQI-plus community in the United States,” Levine said Wednesday in a prerecorded video shown at the embassy’s pride event, according to the Times of Israel.

“Attacks on the health and well-being of trans youth and trans adults have driven a political wedge into what should be a private, strictly medical conversation,” Levine said.

“Now we all need to stand together against bullying in public. We see that kind of emotional abuse in our communities. No one deserves that kind of treatment. Certainly not a young person or teenager who’s already more likely to face bullying at school.”

She also praised Israel for its tolerant stance. “I commend everyone here today for your commitment to equity, to diversity and inclusion,” Levine said.

Israel has long allowed transgender soldiers to serve in the military. It won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1998 when represented by transgender singer Sharon Cohen, whose stage name is Dana International.

Transgender issues remain controversial in Israel, however, as the Jewish faith does not recognize transgenderism.

In 2016, Rabbi Avi Shafran, who works for orthodox Agudath Israel of America, wrote about the Jewish faith and transgenderism:

The Torah is unequivocal about the fact that being born in a male body requires living the life of a man, and that being born female entails living as a woman. (Indeterminate biological sex, a rare but real occurrence, is dealt with at length in the Talmud.) Each gender has its particular life-role to play. For most of us, that doesn’t present any great trial. For some, though, it apparently does. What that means, from a truly Jewish perspective, is that such people are privileged to have a supplementary challenge to overcome in their lives, in addition to the myriad more mundane trials faced by us all.

Levine has said repeatedly that sex reassignment surgery and puberty blockers for children are “lifesaving, medically necessary, age appropriate, and a critical tool.”

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