Dr. Rachel Levine, the U.S. assistant secretary for health and one of the only openly transgender people to be serving in the federal government, is frequently the victim of transphobic and fat-phobic content on social media. Oftentimes, these hateful comments are based on doctored images.
In May 2021, for example, an image supposedly showed Levine in a bathing suit was shared tens of thousands of times on Facebook:
This is not a genuine photograph of Levine. This image was created by putting Levine’s head onto the body of a different person.
The original photograph showed body-positive blogger Sarah Sapora after she put on a bikini for the first time in 25 years. Sapora, who originally shared the pictures to her Instagram, told Women’s Health in 2017:
“I was held back by my OWN limiting belief that I was not worthy or comfortable wearing [a bikini] … I know my body is a strong, flawed, beautiful work-in-progress and I choose to celebrate it every step of the journey!
“When we look to others to tell us that we are ‘acceptable’ then it is literally a prescription to feel unworthy in our own life. Only WE get to decide how we feel about ourselves!” She adds, “If other people are uncomfortable with my body in a bathing suit, that is not a reflection of my worth but of their perception of the value of my body.”
Sapora shared her bikini photo to her Instagram again in 2021 after she saw that it had been edited to mock Levine. Sapora said that she originally posted the doctored mage of Levine, but decided to delete it and replace it with her original bikini photo. Here’s an excerpt from Sapora’s Instagram post:
Last night, I saw an image of mine had (once again) been turned into a meme designed to mock, shame, and hurt someone. This isn’t the first time a picture of mine has been used as a weapon against another woman, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.
The image featured the face of Dr. Rachel Levine, the newly appointed Assistant Secretary of Health, edited onto my body, one of those bikini pics that broke the mold so loudly back in 2017.
I shared the image here last night on Instagram with my thoughts. Now, I’m taking it down.
I’m taking it down because, after a night of reflection, that’s not how I want to use MY VOICE and MY very precious SPACE here.
Rather, I’m going to repost the shit out of the same photos that both inspired and pissed people off back then. Because I felt in that moment those photos were taken a way that every woman (transgender, straight, gay, whatever) deserves to feel in her life — fucking unstopable.
Have a beautiful Wednesday, everyone.
Here’s the original picture: