US assistant health secretary Rachel Levine speaks with doctors during a visit to a children’s hospital in Columbus, Ohio on 2 March
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The conservative satirical news site The Babylon Bee has had its Twitter account frozen for intentionally referring to a transgender White House official by her birth sex.
Seth Dillon, the Bee‘s chief executive, shared a warning from the social network on Monday saying the Bee had broken its rules against “hateful conduct” and would be blocked from posting new tweets until it deleted the offending content.
The Bee‘s tweet, which was still online on Monday afternoon, names Dr Levine as its “Man of the Year” and links to an article repeatedly describing her with male pronouns and terms.
Twitter’s rules ban users from deliberately misgendering specific trans people or deliberately referring to them by their old name, known as deadnaming, on the basis that these actions are intended to “dehumanise or degrade” trans people.
It comes after Texas’s Republican attorney general Ken Paxton, who is leading his state’s effort to criminalise trans medical care for under-18s, was also censured by Twitter for misgendering Dr Levine.
Mr Dillon said: “We’re not deleting anything. Truth is not hate speech. If the cost of telling the truth is the loss of our Twitter account, then so be it.
“They could, of course, delete the tweet themselves. But they won’t. It’s not enough for them to just wipe it out. They want us to bend the knee and admit that we engaged in hateful conduct.”
He later added: “It’s the word ‘man’ that’s problematic, not ‘male.’ They allow transgenders like Rachel Levine to be described as physically male. But they won’t allow you to conclude that a person’s maleness makes them a man.”
A spokesperson for Twitter told Fox News: “The account you referenced as been temporarily blocked for violating our hateful conduct policy. The account owner is required to delete the violative Tweet before regaining access to their account.”
Dr Levine has long been a target of the American right, both in her previous post as Pennsylvania’s head of public health during the early Covid-19 pandemic and in her new job as President Joe Biden’s assistant secretary for health, for which she was commissioned an admiral in the US’s quasi-military public health corps.
The 64-year-old paediatrician began transitioning in 2008 and came out as a trans woman in 2011, making her the first openly transgender government official ever to be confirmed by the US Senate.
Earlier this month USA Today named her as one of its twelve national Women of the Year, alongside vice president Kamala Harris and Olympic gold medallist gymnast Simone Biles, which sparked Mr Paxton’s ire and the Bee’s article.
Mr Paxton’s tweet was not actually removed, with Twitter instead attaching a label saying it had broken the rules on hateful conduct but would be left online so as not to stymie public discussion of an elected official’s words.
The Christian Post, a non-satirical evangelical newspaper, also said its account had been frozen for a tweet referring to Dr Levine as a man. Republican congressman Jim Banks incurred a similar sanction last year.