On Tuesday morning, Washington Blade writer Chris Johnson reported on the appointment of Raffi Freedman-Gurspan to the White House staff, making her the first openly transgender person to be hired as a White House staffer.
“Raffi Freedman-Gurspan demonstrates the kind of leadership this administration champions,” wrote Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Obama, in a statement to the Washington Blade. “Her commitment to bettering the lives of transgender Americans, particularly transgender people of color and those in poverty, reflects the values of this administration.”
Freedman-Gurspan, who grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts, also appears to be Jewish. According to her LinkedIn profile, she was a member of the Jewish Students’ Organization while a undergraduate student at St. Olaf College in St. Paul Minnesota. After college she went on to work at a number of political organizations in the Greater Boston area, such as the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, the City of Somerville, and the office of State Representative Carl M. Sciortino, Jr. Reported Johnson:
Carl Sciortino, a gay former lawmaker in the Massachusetts State House and executive director of the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts, called Freedman-Gurspan a “role model,” recalling her days working for the state legislature. “Among her many contributions, she was instrumental in helping pass the Transgender Equal Rights Law,” Sciortino said. “I am proud to see her continue to lead by example, as she takes her voice and her passion to the White House. Her hiring is a symbol of progress for the transgender community, but without a doubt I know it will be her skill and hard work that will benefit many.”
Prior to her appointment as a White House staffer, Freedman-Gurspan was a policy advisor for the National Center for Transgender Equality’s racial and economic justice initiative in Washington, D.C.
Freedman-Gurspan is not the first transgender person to be appointed to a position in the federal government—in 2009 Dylan Orr served in the Labor Department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, although he’s since left the government and Amanda Simpson is currently the executive director of the U.S. Army Office of Energy Initiatives—but she is considered to be the first openly transgender White House staffer, reported the Washington Blade.
Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.