Admiral Rachel Levine, a top federal health official, said Saturday she decided to visit Texas in person to speak out on anti-LGBTQI+ laws and policies that have brought the country to a "tipping point." Texas is at the forefront of anti-trans policies.
"I firmly believe that these actions and these laws are politically motivated, but they are harming very vulnerable trans youth and gender diverse youth and their families," she said. "I think that it is time to stand up, to speak out, and I'm taking the opportunity ... to do exactly that."
Levine, the highest ranking trans person in government, spoke at the annual Out for Health Conference, a gathering organized by health science and medical students in Texas. It was held this year at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. Levine originally was scheduled to speak at the conference remotely.
"What I'm asking for for medical students and physicians throughout the country is to get involved," said Levine, who is the assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human Services.
Major medical groups like the American Medical Association recognize and support evidence-based, gender-affirming care for patients under 18, and have spoken out against efforts to stop it.
"Gender affirming care is mental health care. Gender affirming care is suicide prevention care," Levine said Saturday at TCU. "It is based on decades of study. It is a well-established medical practice."
Over 100 anti-trans policies have been passed by states since last year.
In February, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a non-binding opinion deeming some gender-affirming care "child abuse." Texas Gov. Greg Abbott followed by ordering state investigations into reports of families who use this kind of health care.
Both men were facing far-right primary challenges for re-election at the time; Paxton is currently in a runoff that ends on May 24th.
Abbott's investigation order was halted by a lower court. Paxton has asked the Texas Supreme Court to rule on the issue. Meanwhile, family services workers have resigned and families of trans children are leaving the state.
Vandana Garg, a TCU medical student and one of the organizers of the conference, said the point of Out for Health is to raise awareness of LGBTQI+ health "so that we can leave this conference with the knowledge of ways that we can help our patients in the future and support them in any way that we can."
As the most prominent trans person in the federal government, Levine has become a target for Paxton on social media. He misgendered her on Twitter, prompting the social media company to label his tweet as being flagged for "hateful conduct."
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