Rachel Levine says LGBTQ Americans killing themselves ‘at a rate that should shock our conscience’
The US government’s highest-ranking trans official has condemned political attacks on LGBTQ+ communities and accentuated the importance of gender-affirming care for trans youth.
Speaking on Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas, US assistant secretary of health Rachel Levine addressed fellow physicians about conservative politicians’ attacks on LGBTQ+ communities.
“Today, many of our fellow human beings across the country call for our attention because they’re being attacked, and they see few places to turn,” Levine said. “I want to say this very, very clearly: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Americans are committing suicide at a rate that should shock our conscience.”
Levine, a trained pediatrician who specialized in adolescent medicine at Penn State University, said 52% of trans and non-binary young people contemplated suicide in 2020, elaborating on the mental health crisis occurring among LGBTQ+ youth.
“Think about how many of them thought it was better to die than to put up with any more harassment, scapegoating and intentional abuse,” Levine added.
Levine also said that for many LGBTQ+ young people struggling with poor mental health, a “single caring adult” is “the difference between life and death”.
During the speech, Levine underscored the importance of gender-affirming care for trans youth, a healthcare measure that Republicans have worked to deny trans young people in recent months.
“Gender-affirming care is medical care,” Levine said. “It is mental health care. It is suicide prevention care. It improves quality of life, and it saves lives.”
According to studies Levine cited in her speech, recipients of gender-affirming care, including puberty blockers and hormones, had much lower rates of depression and suicide.
“The positive value of gender-affirming care is not in serious scientific or medical dispute,” Levine said.
Levine delivered her remarks as several states pass or propose laws prosecuting trans youth and their caretakers.
Specifically in Texas, the Republican governor, Greg Abbott, accused parents who provide their children with gender-affirming care of “abuse,” instructing the state’s child protection services in March to investigate any such case.
Alabama state lawmakers last month criminalized gender-affirming medical treatments to for transgender people 18 or younger, threatening medical providers and parents with prison time and fines. The US justice department has joined efforts to strike that law down as discriminatory and unconstitutional.
Iowa also passed a law in March that bans trans girls and women from participating in high school and college athletics, despite arguments that the bill was discriminatory, too, and addressed a manufactured problem.
Levine said it was imperative to oppose those who invoke science and the principles of child protection to justify anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.
“The language of medicine and science is being used to drive people to suicide,” Levine said. “The mantle of concern for children is being claimed to destroy children’s lives.
“We have to stand up. We have to take a stand on behalf of those who are being hurt. We have to be doctors. This is what we do, even when it’s difficult.”