Last Updated on October 22, 2021
Rachel Levine, a once relatively little known healthcare bureaucrat in Pennsylvania who jumped up to Assistant Secretary of Health under Joe Biden, and more recently became the first “female” four-star admiral of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, used to have a wife.
Before donning the military uniform and long hair, Levine was known to the world as Richard Leland Levine. As Richard, Levine played high school football with future-General Mark Milley, and eventually went to medical school. In medical school, Richard began dating a woman named Martha Peaslee. The two attained their medical degrees, married in 1988, had two children named David and Dayna, and lived relatively quiet lives as medical doctors and academics until they reached middle age.
This ended in 2011, when Richard decided he was, in fact, a woman named Rachel cursed to be born with the wrong chromosomes. For the beginning of what has become an impressive second act in life, Levine began the process of transitioning from he to she.
The time was apparently right, as Levine’s children were adults, and his wife was apparently working as a college professor and writer for Psychology Today, a pop science website. It was time for Levine to begin the journey that led to being recognized as a nationwide symbol of transgender visibility.
While the Levine family children were fully grown, Richard-then-becoming-Rachel would divorce biologically female wife Martha Peaslee-Levine two years into the transition in 2013. After the divorce, Martha Peaslee-Levine, M.D. wrote about the “emotion” of her divorce from Richard-becoming-Rachel for a blog post published by Psychology Today.
“I got a notice the other day. I had not blogged for 90 days. Ninety days? Really? Had it been that long? Ninety days is how long we had to wait before our divorce could become final,” wrote Peaslee-Levine in November of 2013, soon after the couple’s divorce. “We ended up waiting a few days more as the paperwork went through. But that’s what I thought about when I got the e-mail. Ninety days,” she added. “An end of a marriage.”
Rachel Levine (pictured before becoming an admiral) pic.twitter.com/ZceYP1USmv
— Tom Pappert (@realTomPappert) October 21, 2021
After mentioning that a friend recently celebrated her 30th wedding anniversary and posted images of the celebration to social media, Peaslee-Levine took solace in the fact that, without a husband or children in the home, at least she had a dog. “The birthday of the dog that I adopted is the same date as my ‘wedding day,'” wrote Peaslee-Levine. “Now I have something else to celebrate.”
In her blog post for Psychology Today, Peaslee-Levine did not mention to her readers that her “ex” was formerly a man named Richard, then in the process of finalizing his transition to become a woman named Rachel.
“I am learning now how to live in my own house,” she wrote. “How to rediscover myself. My ex has also had the chance to be reinvented,” she added, perhaps as a nod to the gender swap.
While the decade since Levine announced he is truly a she has apparently been kind – seeing Levine’s ascension through the ranks of government healthcare bureaucrats to become one of the most powerful in the country – it seems as though the decade has not offered the same professional growth for Levine’s ex-wife.
In fact, it seems Peaslee-Levine’s thirst for writing professionally at Psychology Today, or perhaps at all, ended not long after her marriage. Her last blog post written for the website was published almost exactly one year after the divorce, and her last book was published in 2006.
An honor and a privilege to watch history in the making with the swearing in of ADM Rachel Levine @HHS_ASH this morning with @Surgeon_General! @ASTHO is here to support you and your team defend the health of all Americans! pic.twitter.com/jeGKb0s2QI
— Michael Fraser (@mfraserdc1) October 19, 2021
According to her LinkedIn, Peaslee-Levine is still an Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Psychiatry and Behavioral Health and Humanities at Hershey Medical Center, where she has worked since 2005, while Levine has received promotion after promotion in the last decade, and is now an admiral.
A Google search for Martha Peaslee Levine M.D. returns approximately 106,000 results. The top result is an article from a United Kingdom tabloid gossiping about Peaslee-Levine’s status as Rachel Levine’s ex-wife with the headline, “Who is Dr Rachel Levine’s ex-wife Martha Levine?”
Meanwhile, a search for Rachel Levine M.D. returns over 21 million results with flattering headlines like “Dr. Rachel Levine makes history” from CBS, “Dr. Rachel Levine is sworn in as the nation’s first transgender four-star officer,” from National Public Radio, and “U.S. Health and Human Services’ Dr. Rachel Levine Never Sleeps” from The Advocate, a popular LGBT website.