Texas AG misgenders Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine on Twitter

Texas AG misgenders Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine on Twitter

Isabel Webb Carey
Isabel Webb Carey
|
March 21, 2022

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is receiving backlash from LGBTQ+ advocacy groups after purposefully misgendering a federal official last week. In response to user reports, Twitter flagged the tweet and hid it behind a notice that labels it as “hateful content,” though stopped short of removing it or suspending Paxton’s account. The attorney general has since threatened the social media platform with a lawsuit.

The tweet in question included a screenshot of a USA Today article naming Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine as one of the “exceptional Women of the Year.” Levine is also the first openly transgender Senate-confirmed federal official. In a tweet Thursday, Paxton shared an image of Levine from the USA Today feature with his own caption reading, “Rachel Levine is a man.”

LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, like the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), quickly denounced the tweet, called it offensive and expressed worry about the effect it would have remaining on the platform. He has since been denounced for intentionally misgendering Levine, an action that has shown to negatively impact the well-being of trans individuals.

A spokesperson for Twitter said the platform placed a public interest notice on the tweet “as it violates our hateful conduct policy.” It went on to confirm that the post would remain available, despite violating the platform’s policy on hateful conduct, because it’s “in the public’s interest.”

While some users applauded Twitter for covering Paxton’s tweet with a public interest notice, others criticized the platform for what they see as unequal treatment of elected officials. Last year, Twitter temporarily suspended Indiana Rep. Jim Banks’ account after he misgendered Levine, pending his removal of the tweet. It also suspended Missouri Rep. Vicky Hartzler’s account last month after she tweeted “Women’s Sports are for Women, not men pretending to be women,” in reference to a new ad she released about Lia Thomas, a trans swimmer at the University of Pennsylvania.

Twitter’s policy on public interest exceptions states that in order to qualify, the account in violation must have at least 100,000 followers.

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Isabel Webb Carey

Isabel Webb Carey

Isabel Webb Carey attends the University of Texas at Austin in the Plan II Honors Program with a certificate in Core Texts and Ideas. Her interests include education, local governance, sustainability, and equity. Isabel enjoys dancing, hiking, and live music. She is also a staff writer for the Texas Orator. Email her at isabelwebbcarey@gmail.com
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