How to Talk to Your 6-Year-Old About the Man Who Flashed His Breasts at the White House

REVIEW: 'She Persisted: Rachel Levine' by Lisa Bunker and Chelsea Clinton

June 18, 2023

Say what you will about Chelsea Clinton, the former first daughter knows how to make a quick buck.

In February 2017, Mitch McConnell infuriated the #Resistance community by using the phrase, "Nevertheless, she persisted," to describe Elizabeth Warren's insistence on making a scene during a U.S. Senate hearing. The hashtag #ShePersisted went viral on social media and inspired an explosion of online merchandise and performative activism. Less than six weeks later, Chelsea announced she was a writing a children's book about "inspirational women" titled She Persisted. Cha-Ching!

Since then Chelsea has published a small library's worth of She Persisted books for "tiny feminists, mini activists and little kids who are ready to take on the world." The latest entry in the series seeks to inspire 6- to -9-year-old children by teaching them about the unique female persistence of Rachel Levine, who is not a biological woman but has publicly identified as one since 2011. Levine joined the Biden administration in 2021 as U.S. assistant secretary for health, becoming the first openly transgender person confirmed to a cabinet-level position.

Dedicated to "all young rainbow humans everywhere," She Persisted: Rachel Levine tells the story of a five-year-old child who realized she was transgender after reading a comic book about aliens, and overcame a childhood of "fun summer vacations on Cape Cod" with a "family of hardworking lawyers" to find success in the health care industry and happiness in women's clothing. Then she was forced to overcome Republicans with "wrong ideas," as well as some mean commenters on the internet, on her way to being named a USA Today "Woman of the Year" in 2022.

"Rachel was born transgender, or trans, for short," writes author Lisa Bunker, a trans woman bass player who recently served in the New Hampshire House of Representatives and uses the pronouns "she/vo/they." (Not a typo.) "That means she was born with a boy body, but on the inside, in her mind and in her heart, she was a girl."

Curious young readers might wonder why Levine's parents named their boy child Rachel. Her birth name, Robert, is never mentioned, even though the accompanying illustrations depict a young male child dreaming about being a girl. Presumably it's because doing so would be considered "deadnaming," a concept that might be too difficult for six year olds to understand. Wouldn't want to confuse them.

Indeed it is more than a little jarring to see transgenderism, something we can all agree is fraught and complicated, edited down to a first-grade reading level. For example, the author describes how Rachel, after marrying a woman and fathering two children, started seeing a therapist and eventually learned "there are many trans people in the world, and if they want to, they can switch from living the way the world has told them to live to living as their true selves. This is called going through gender transition." Sounds like fun! (The marriage didn't last.)

On second thought, we definitely can't agree that transgenderism is a fraught and complicated issue. She Persisted: Rachel Levine is a cultural document of the liberal élite, by the liberal élite, and for the liberal élite—the sorts of people who insist on saying "Latinx" to show how enlightened and inclusive they are. They are right and you are wrong, so shut up. They have all the graduate degrees in advanced gender studies. They have the cultural cachet. What do you have? A couple of kids and a mortgage? Too bad, because your opinions on raising your own children are also wrong.

Bunker suggests that Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) asked "rude and ignorant" questions during Levine's confirmation hearing. She cites a Washington Post video in which Paul simply asks Levine to state her views on puberty blockers and sex-change operations for children—what liberal activists have dubbed "gender-affirming care"—and whether doctors should authorize these procedures without parental consent. Rand Paul might be a jerk, but that's a perfectly reasonable question. It's helpful to know where our appointment bureaucrats stand on these issues.

Levine refused to give a straight answer during the hearing, but her views are clear enough by now. "Gender-affirming care is medically necessary, safe, and effective for transgender and non-binary youth and adults," Levine said this week. Nearly 70 percent of Americans reject that view, as do an increasing number of medical experts in the United Kingdom and European Union.  The so-called experts in the United States are far more radical by comparison.

Levine also supports letting transgender women such as Penn State swimmer Lia Thomas compete against biological females in sports. Nearly 70 percent of Americans reject that view as well, including 48 percent of Democrats. Some context: Less than a week after She Persisted was published, a biological male won a women's cycling competition in North Carolina, finishing five minutes faster than the female runner-up. Sorry, girls. Try harder next time? Something for Chelsea Clinton to consider for the next edition of She Persisted in Sports (2020), which neglected to celebrate any male athletes.

Institutions dominated by our increasingly cloistered liberal élite—universities, media outlets, multinational corporations, the Democratic Party—are belligerently and recklessly (See: Bud Light) trying to foist their "right ideas" upon the unwashed masses. A backlash was inevitable. People are tired of being lectured, tired of being told they are irredeemable bigots if they don't want their nine-year-old son to start puberty blockers without their consent, if they don't like watching biological men dominate your teenage daughters on the playing field, if they don't want their beer of choice to promote an ideology. Opposition to these highly controversial policies is described as "opposition to LGBTQ rights."

Which brings us to the most enlightening chapter of this courageous work of literature. "How You Can Persist" offers several prompts for young readers to think about "ways to honor Rachel's persistence and to learn from the example of her life." Just to reiterate, the book is intended for children between the ages of 6 and 9:

• "If you are not trans yourself, find some more stories about transgender people and learn about their lives. Then, if you hear someone say something wrong or mean about a trans person, speak up. This is called being an ally, and it is a powerful way to help."

• "If you are trans yourself, once you know you are ready and it feels safe, express your gender truth and live your authentic life proudly!"

• "If someone you know ever tells you that they are a different gender than you thought they were, believe them, and use whatever name and pronouns (like she, he, they) they ask you to use."

• "Tell your friends and family about what you've learned about Rachel Levine, and be ready to educate them about what it means to be trans if they need that help."

God willing, this next generation of woke young allies won't be afraid to "speak up," for example, when a Democratic administration calls a trans activist "inappropriate and disrespectful" for flashing his bare artificial woman breasts at a White House pride party where President Joe Biden praised attendees as "some of the bravest and most inspiring people" he has ever known. The activist, Rose Montoya, has been banned from future White House events.

Nevertheless, Rose will persist. Opponents will be educated until they agree that Montoya did nothing wrong and was "simply living in joy, living my truth, and existing in my body." In the words of Rachel Levine, "We have not made progress unless we have all made progress." Onward!

She Persisted: Rachel Levine
by Lisa Bunker and Chelsea Clinton
Philomel Books, 96 pp., $6.99 (paper)