Rachel Levine, the self-described transgender assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, recently made remarks about children experiencing the “wrong puberty” during a segment of the ABC Nightline series, Identity Denied: Trans in America. Levine, the highest-ranking openly transgender federal official in the United States, responded to concerns about children exploring sex-related interventions before the age of 18.
In the interview, Levine acknowledged that adolescence and puberty can be challenging for any child, but posed a thought-provoking question: What if a child feels they are internally a different gender but are going through the puberty associated with their assigned sex at birth? Levine stressed the importance of providing support and understanding for children who may experience this discrepancy, emphasizing that prepubertal children are not subjected to medical procedures. Instead, the standard of care allows them to explore their feelings with therapy.
It is worth noting that Levine herself did not begin exploring her gender identity until adulthood, at the age of 54, when she identified as transgender in 2011. Despite not having firsthand experience with childhood gender identity struggles, Levine advocates for providing gender-affirming care as medical and mental health support, and even as a form of suicide prevention care.
Following the interview, reactions on social media have been mixed. Some critics argue that children cannot go through the “wrong puberty” and accuse Levine of lacking expertise in the matter. Others express concern over the impact of telling children they were “born in the wrong body,” claiming that such messaging can negatively affect mental health and argue that parents who promote this narrative should be held accountable.
As a prominent figure in the Biden administration, Levine’s comments have ignited debate about the appropriate age for exploring gender identity and the role of medical and mental health care in supporting transgender individuals. The discussion encompasses complex ethical, social, and cultural aspects, raising questions about the best approaches to supporting young individuals navigating gender identity issues. As the conversation continues, it is essential to consider diverse perspectives while prioritizing the well-being and mental health of all individuals involved.