Two major glass ceilings

Ground-breaking! Giant leap!

Rachel Levine has shattered not one but two major glass ceilings this year. In March, she became the first openly transgender person to win confirmation in the US Senate after Joe Biden nominated her as assistant secretary of health.

Then in October she was sworn in as the first openly transgender four-star officer as an admiral and head of the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. At that exalted rank she gets to wear the blue uniform of the corps, which though non-military is one of eight uniformed services.

First! Glass ceiling smashed! Twice!

Until you remember – this is a man. It’s not smashing any glass ceiling to appoint a man to an important government position. It’s just one more man added to all the other men.

Levine said her starting point when thinking about trans youth was how at risk they are. “Transgender youth are very vulnerable,” she said. “They are vulnerable to being bullied, to discrimination and harassment.”

You know who else is very vulnerable? Girls. Female youth are very vulnerable to being bullied, to discrimination and harassment.

Jim Banks, a Republican congress member from Indiana, was temporarily suspended from Twitter in October for willfully misgendering Levine. In a tweet, he said: “The title of first female four-star officer gets taken by a man”

Much as I hate to agree with a Republican congress member, on this one he’s right.

In addition to such politically laden hatred, Levine thinks that fear plays a large role in driving much of the transphobic agenda. “People fear what they don’t understand and have experience of. I’m hoping that my appointment, and my being open and out and working for the nation’s public health, will lead to less fear and more acceptance. That’s my goal.”

But people also fear what they do understand and have experience of. Fear is not always a mistake. I fear the way men like Levine are stealing firsts and prizes and honors from women. I fear Levine’s complete lack of shame about doing that – I fear the way he’s wallowing in it instead of refusing it. I fear the unembarrassed way he displaces women and then accepts flattery for doing so.

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