Tag: Parent

Rachel Levine Becomes First Transgender Person Confirmed by Senate (and She’s a Parent, Too!)

Biden Nominates Pennsylvania Secretary of Health, a Transgender Parent, as

Dr. Rachel Levine yesterday became the first openly transgender person to be confirmed by the Senate and the country’s highest-ranking transgender official. Levine, who has two grown children, will be the assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human Services.

Dr. Rachel Levine

Dr. Levine had been secretary of health for Pennsylvania and led the state’s public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a statement released to the New York Times, Levine said she looked forward to “promot[ing] policies that advance the health and wellbeing of all Americans”—but she also thanked the LGBTQ community, saying, “Only through your work and advocacy over many decades is my story possible.” She noted, “I will stand on the shoulders of those who came before—people we know throughout history and those whose names we will never know because they were forced to live and work in the shadows.” She looked ahead as well as back, however, observing that “As Vice President Harris said [in her election speech] I recognize that I may be the first, but am heartened by the knowledge that I will not be the last.”

Poignantly, too, she addressed transgender youth, saying:

I know that each and every day you confront many difficult challenges. Sadly, some of the challenges you face are from people who would seek to use your identity and circumstance as a weapon. It hurts. I know. I cannot promise you that these attacks will immediately cease, but I will do everything I can to support you and advocate for you. President Obama often reminded us that not all progress goes in a straight line. What I can tell you is that there is a place for you in America and in our government. Our ‘more perfect union’ includes you, too.

There are a record number of anti-transgender bills in state legislatures this year, including many that target trans youth.

Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a statement that Levine’s confirmation “shows how far our country has come in recognizing that being transgender has nothing to do with a person’s abilities…. Our nation will be stronger for having someone of her caliber helping to lead our national health agenda.” He added, “As a transgender person, I am encouraged by her success and proud to see so many transgender people stepping up to dedicate their experience and expertise to public service. I look forward to the day when every young person can grow up knowing that every path is open to them and that they will not be held back or limited simply because of who they are.”

Among her many accomplishments, Levine was the President of ASTHO, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, and the Academy for Eating Disorders. She joined Governor Tom Wolf’s administration in January 2015 as the physician general of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and served from 2015 to 2017. She was named acting secretary of health for the state in July 2017 and confirmed as secretary of health in March 2018. Her previous posts included vice-chair for clinical affairs for the Department of Pediatrics and chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine and Eating Disorders at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center.

Dr. Levine is also an accomplished regional and international speaker, and author on the opioid crisis, medical marijuana, adolescent medicine, eating disorders, and LGBTQ+ medicine. She graduated from Harvard College and the Tulane University School of Medicine, completing her training in Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City. She’s spoken often to LGBTQ groups, including a keynote address at Philadelphia Family Pride’s 6th Annual Family Matters Conference for LGBTQ parented-families in 2015.

(And no, she’s not the first openly LGBTQ parent to receive Senate confirmation. I believe that honor goes to Roberta Achtenberg, who was confirmed as assistant secretary for the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity after being nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1993, and was also one of the co-founders of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. After Achtenberg, the next was James Hormel, another Clinton nominee, who served as the United States Ambassador to Luxembourg after confirmation in 1999. That’s not to take anything away from Levine’s achievement, but as she herself noted, she’s standing on the shoulders of others even as she’s a welcome “first” in her own right.)

Congratulations, Dr. Levine!

Biden Nominates Pennsylvania Secretary of Health, a Transgender Parent, as Assistant Secretary for Health

Biden Nominates Pennsylvania Secretary of Health, a Transgender Parent, as

President-elect Joe Biden has nominated Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, who has led the state’s COVID-19 response, as assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human Services. Levine, a transgender woman, is also the parent of two grown children. Her nomination comes days after President Trump’s HHS finalized a rule that would allow schools to misgender and discriminate against transgender students. Do you sense change?

Dr. Rachel Levine

Dr. Levine currently serves as Secretary of Health for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and is leading the state’s public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Levine was confirmed three times by the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania state senate as secretary of health and the state’s physician general. She would become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

She is the President of ASTHO, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, and the Academy for Eating Disorders. She joined Governor Tom Wolf’s administration in January 2015 as the physician general of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and served from 2015 to 2017. She was named acting secretary of health in July 2017 and confirmed as secretary of health in March 2018. Her previous posts included: vice-chair for clinical affairs for the Department of Pediatrics and chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine and Eating Disorders at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center.

Dr. Levine is also an accomplished regional and international speaker, and author on the opioid crisis, medical marijuana, adolescent medicine, eating disorders, and LGBTQ+ medicine. She graduated from Harvard College and the Tulane University School of Medicine, completing her training in Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

She’s spoken often to LGBTQ groups, including a keynote address at Philadelphia Family Pride’s 6th Annual Family Matters Conference for LGBTQ parented-families in 2015.

A 2016 Washington Post profile of her related, “Levine said her children, who are now in college, were very accepting of her transition.” And of her own mother, Levine told the Post, “She said ‘I love you unconditionally and so I accept you,’ and I started to cry.” Levine’s mother “moved to Pennsylvania about seven years ago to be closer to Rachel and her children. The two dine out together multiple times a week and have a standing date for Sunday brunch.”

The Advocate reported last March that Levine was working more than 10 hours a day, seven days a week, in response to the pandemic, and told them, “I want to be judged upon my work in medicine and in public health and in this difficult time, in my work to help to protect the public health in the face of this global pandemic. It doesn’t make any difference what someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation is. We’re really all in this together.”

President-elect Joe Biden said in a statement, “Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic—no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability—and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond. She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.”

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris added, “Dr. Rachel Levine is a remarkable public servant with the knowledge and experience to help us contain this pandemic, and protect and improve the health and well-being of the American people. President-elect Biden and I look forward to working with her to meet the unprecedented challenges facing Americans and rebuild our country in a way that lifts everyone up.”

Trans Comedian and Parent Shares Life of Laughter and Change

Trans Comedian and Parent Shares Life of Laughter and Change

A new documentary profiles comedian and parent Julia Scotti. After a ten-year hiatus and a transition to her true self as a transgender woman, she came back to her career in 2011 with more shows, a CD, an appearance on “America’s Got Talent,” and a reconciliation with the children from whom she’d become estranged.

Julia Scotti: Funny That Way

Julia Scotti: Funny That Way

Julia Scotti (L) and Susan Sandler (R)

Funny That Way, from director Susan Sandler, is a touching, funny, and inspiring film that shows us Scotti’s life through her own words, clips from her shows, and conversations with her children (now grown) and others. At the beginning, Scotti explains why she agreed to the project, saying, “Most of all, this is for me … a me that didn’t exist for nearly 50 years.” She hopes it will help her children understand why she had to transition and that it may help young transgender people who may be contemplating self-harm.

She talks of her own growing realization of her true identity, transitioning in the late 1990s at age 47, the difficulty of telling her kids, who were “the only thing I was truly happy about,” and the 14-year estrangement that followed. She also stepped away from a burgeoning career. After performing in clubs and theaters throughout the U.S. and Canada since 1980, appearing on bills with Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock, Scotti left comedy. She went back to college and taught junior high school for a decade. Several years ago, she decided to get back on stage at a small comedy club; this led to a reentry into the business now as an “old lady,” performances at LGBTQ events across the country, and an appearance on Season 11 of America’s Got Talent, where she became a quarter-finalist and the first transgender comedian to appear on national television. During this period, she also reconnected with her children.

Julia Scotti: Funny That Way

Dan Gagliardi, Julia’s son, and Julia Scotti

The film doesn’t avoid showing us the challenges she and her family have faced, but the focus is much more on how she and her children have come through them; it’s not just a litany of struggles. We see her son Dan as an adult, sharing a stage with Scotti as she talks with a PFLAG group, and clearly comfortable with their renewed relationship. Her daughter Emma looks back on her earlier rejection of Scotti’s transition, and reflects, “I made the unkind decision to prioritize fitting in over my family.” Both children share her love of comedy, though, and this is one of their points of reconnection.

The film is an inspiring story of a trans parent but also simply a story of reinventing oneself in midlife, of healing, second chances, and the power of laughter. It’s funny—as any film about Scotti would have to be, to do her justice—but it’s also moving on many levels.

You can watch it being streamed as part of this year’s virtual NewFest festival of LGBTQ films, October 16 to 27. Get a ticket for $12 here. (I make nothing from this referral.) Scotti is also currently featured in the Showtime special, More Funny Women of a Certain Age.

Here’s a trailer of Funny That Way:

PFLAG + OREO debut Proud Parent film and rainbow cookies

PFLAG + OREO debut Proud Parent film and rainbow cookies

PFLAG + OREO debut Proud Parent film and rainbow cookies – Equally Wed, modern LGBTQ+ weddings + LGBTQ-inclusive wedding pros