Want to guess how this question went over in the media? The Daily Beast’s headline: “Rand Paul Launches Into Transphobic Rant Against Trans Nominee.” Vox waxes at greater lenngth: “Rand Paul tried to derail Rachel Levine’s historic confirmation hearing with transphobic misinformation.”
What was Paul’s crime? The Republican senator asked Rachel Levine, nominee for deputy Secretary at Health and Human Services, to explain how the US rightly condemns genital mutilation of children while allowing minors to get transgendering therapies, including surgeries. Levine, whose nomination has been hailed for being the first trans appointee at this level in an administration, refused to offer anything but a lame Ginsburg Rule response:
The Washington Post offers a much more balanced — and accurate — headline: “Sen. Paul criticizes Biden nominee, a transgender woman, over her support for gender reassignment surgery and hormone therapy for minors.” Dan Diamond gave a straightforward account of the exchange:
In his questions at Levine’s confirmation hearing, Paul tried to draw a connection between genital mutilation — a practice condemned by public health experts as a human rights violation — and surgery and medication for children who are transitioning genders. Paul also complained about Levine’s support for children who make the decision to take hormone-blocking medications despite the concerns of their parents.
“For most of our history, we have believed that minors don’t have full rights and that parents need to be involved,” Paul said. “We should be outraged that someone’s talking to a 3-year-old about changing their sex.”
Levine — who is bidding to be the highest-ranking out transgender official in federal government history — sidestepped Paul’s specific points and responded in general terms.
“Transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field with robust research and standards of care that have been developed,” Levine said, promising to discuss the issue further with Paul if confirmed.
It’s very interesting to note that Levine has no answer to this, even though this question does fall directly into health-care policy and Levine’s own special expertise/experience. It’s even more interesting to note that none of Paul’s critics supply an answer that squares the circle that Paul draws around Levine. Instead, they just attack the question as “transphobic,” even though Paul is very careful to specify that the issue is with children, and not adult choices. Paul’s point is scientifically valid — the entire purpose of puberty-blocking drugs and surgeries is to permanently change the bodies of minors, who as Paul notes are usually not recognized as having full capacity to consent to much less intrusive therapies.
If those inconsistencies don’t matter, then explain why. Levine apparently cannot, and neither can Paul’s critics. That’s why they’re rushing to accuse him of hatred rather than keep the focus on his question.
For what it’s worth, though, this isn’t the best reason to derail Levine’s confirmation. Levine’s application of Andrew Cuomo’s nursing-home policies while moving her mother out of a home is the best reason to derail Levine’s confirmation.