It is with a great sense of duty, respect, and pride that qFLIX Philadelphia: The LGBTQ+ Film Festival announces the presentation of the 2021 Marsha P. Johnson Image Award to Dr. Rachel L. Levine, Assistant Secretary of Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Dr. Levine has been selected as the first recipient of this award. It will be presented to her on the opening night of qFLIX Philadelphia 2021, September 26, 7:00 PM, at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, on the Avenue of the Arts, Philadelphia.

The Marsha P. Johnson Image Award was created to acknowledge and honor a nationally or internationally recognized transgender individual who has exhibited a profound and deep commitment to the issues that face the LGBTQ+ community through their leadership, words, and actions. With this award we give respect and honor to the vanguard and mother of our modern LGBTQ+ rights movement, while recognizing those who today have personified her legacy. 

Marsha “Pay it No Mind” Johnson (1945-1992) was a Black transgender woman who was a force behind the Stonewall Riots and surrounding activism that sparked a new phase of the LGBTQ+ movement in 1969.  Marsha P. Johnson is now one of the most venerated icons in LGBTQ+ history, and her actions and words continue to inspire transgender activism and resistance and will continue to do so well into the future.

We believe that Dr. Levine personifies the courage, dedication, insight, and strength that Marsha P. Johnson showed by stand strong in the face of criticism and opposition while unwaveringly advocating and fighting for the equality and well-being of our LGBTQ+ community.

In 2015, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf nominated Dr. Levine to be Pennsylvania’s Physician General and she was subsequently unanimously confirmed by Pennsylvania’s state Senate. She became the Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of Health in July 2017, and in March of 2018 Dr. Levine was unanimously confirmed by the state Senate to become Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health.

In January 2021 President Joe Biden nominated Dr. Levine to be as the 17th Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  In March she became the first openly transgender individual to be confirmed by the United States Senate.

“Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond,” Biden said in a statement concerning her nomination. “She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.”

With the presentation of the Marsha P. Johnson Image Award, qFLIX honors Dr. Levine and her mission of “fairness and equality and about specifically health equity, while recognizing the profound and lasting contributions of our transgender brothers, sisters, and non-binary siblings, to our global effort towards full equality, for transgender leadership is pivotal to our global fight for LGBTQ+ rights.