Earlier this week (August 18) Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, a 28 year old transgender woman, made history by being the first openly transgender staff member hired to work at the White House.
The announcement follows an event in June, when President Obama was interrupted by a transgender woman protesting the treatment of transgender immigrants in government run detention centres.
The issue is one Freedman-Gurspan has advocated for while working as a policy advisor for the Racial and Economic Justice Initiative at the National Centre for Transgender Equality. She has called for the release of undocumented transgender immigrants, citing their increased risk for being sexually and physically assaulted, and has been vocal about the need for state and federal officials to address the high rate of transgender homicides.
Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Centre for Transgender Equality highlighted the importance of the appointment, saying:
That the first transgender appointee is a transgender woman of colour is itself significant. And that the first White House transgender appointee is of a friend is inspiring to me and to countless others who have been touched by Raffi’s advocacy.
Other LGBT+ organizations celebrated the news as well. President and chief executive of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund and Initiative said that they were "celebrating because this is an important milestone for the transgender community, but we're also thrilled that Raffi Freedman-Gurspan an incredibly smart, talented, and committed professional, will now be working for the American people". Gill Foundation president Courtney Cuff called the appointment "another important step toward ensuring our federal government" includes a diverse range of voices in order to "fully" represent society.
Freedman-Gurspan's new role will be as an outreach and recruitment director for presidential personnel at the White House. When confirming the appointment, President Obama's senior advisor Valerie Jarrett said that Freedman-Gurspan's "commitment to bettering the lives of transgender Americans - particular transgender people of colour and those in poverty - reflects the values of this administration".
President Obama's administration has hired several openly transgender employees, including Jay Davis and Amanda Simpson, who spoke in a video produced by the White House in support of banning conversion therapy. Freedman-Gurspan will be the first to actually work in the White House.