The White House has hired its first transgender official.
National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) staff member Raffi Freedman-Gurspan has been appointed as an outreach and recruitment director for presidential personnel in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel.
Freedman-Gurspan previously served as NCTE's policy advisor for the Racial and Economic Justice Initiative.
In a statement, NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling said, ""I am elated that Raffi Freedman-Gurspan will become the first openly transgender staff member at the White House. President Obama has long said he wants his Administration to look like the American people.
"That the first transgender appointee is a transgender woman of color 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."
Previously, Freedman-Gurspan served as legislative director to Massachusetts state Rep. Carl M. Sciortino Jr.; a course/research assistant for the Boston University Women's Studies Program; and LGBT liaison for the City of Somerville, Massachusetts. She graduated from St. Olaf College in 2009.
From a National Center for Transgender Equality press release
Washington, DC - National Center for Transgender Equality ( NCTE ) staff member Raffi Freedman-Gurspan has been appointed as an Outreach and Recruitment Director for Presidential Personnel in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel. Freedman-Gurspan is the first openly transgender official in history to serve in the White House. She previously served as NCTE's Policy Advisor for the Racial and Economic Justice Initiative.
Of Freedman-Gurspan's appointment, NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling said:
"I am elated that Raffi Freedman-Gurspan will become the first openly transgender staff member at the White House. President Obama has long said he wants his Administration to look like the American people. I have understood this to include transgender Americans. A transgender person was inevitably going to work in the White House. That the first transgender appointee is a transgender woman of color 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.
"Raffi's decade of experience brings important qualities to this historic appointment. She has been a vital part of NCTE focusing on the experiences of transgender people of color and those living in poverty. Her work included advocacy on issues such as improving the conditions for transgender prisoners, addressing biased policing against transgender communities, limiting the use of detention for undocumented transgender immigrants, and finding solutions to address violence against transgender women of color. Her experience and knowledge of how to accomplish policy change, as well as her core commitment to racial and economic justice, has made NCTE's work better."
Reactions from community leaders and advocates:
Carl Sciortino Jr., Executive Director, AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts
"Raffi is a role model. As the first out transgender woman working at the Massachusetts State House, she showed leadership and courage, and among her many contributions, was instrumental in helping pass the Transgender Equal Rights Law. 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."
Aisha Moodie-Mills, President and CEO, Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and Institute
"Our government works best when it reflects the reality of who we are as Americans. For the first time in history, a transgender American will serve the president as a member of the White House staff. We're 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."
Courtney Cuff, President and CEO, Gill Foundation
"Transgender people face harsh inequalities when seeking jobs, housing, safety, healthcare, and a pathway to citizenship. Raffi and NCTE have led a national conversation about these issues, and we're proud to support their work.
"As the first openly transgender person to work for the White House, Raffi's appointment is another important step toward ensuring our federal government fully includes the voices and experiences of our communities. We're confident that Raffi will continue the Obama Administration's strong record of appointing qualified openly LGBT public servants to positions across the federal government."
Wade Henderson, President and CEO, The Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights
"Freedman-Gurspan's appointment represents a remarkable step forward for the LGBT community and for equality for all people. As the old saying goes 'if you're not in the room, then you can't possibly be at the table.' Our nation will be stronger with Freedman-Gurspan, an advocate from The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights coalition, both in the room and at the table as the first openly transgender White House staffer."
Marcia D. Greenberger, Co-President, National Women's Law Center
"Raffi Freedman-Gurspan understands how policy affects real people. It's of great importance that Freedman-Gurspan will bring her impressive track record and experience in advocating for social and economic justice to her new position in the White House. Her deep commitment in advocating for those most in need and without a voice in our society will be a tremendous asset to the White House and to the country as a whole. It has been a privilege to learn from and work with Raffi during her time at the National Center for Transgender Equality, and we look forward to continuing to do so in her new role."
Diego M. Sanchez, APR, Director of Policy, PFLAG National
"I am excited for Raffi and the historic value of having the first openly trans White House appointee be a woman of color, a Latina, and someone who is already actively bringing the progress we need. Raffi has the skills and experience to enrich opportunities offered, as she has in her immediate past work at the National Center for Transgender Equality, a treasured partner of PFLAG National. As a governmental trailblazer myself, as the first openly trans senior staffer on Capitol Hill, I know that educating from the inside is key. Raffi is another example of tremendous LGBTQ standouts chosen by this Administration, and it is gratifying that more trans people, including her generation and the ones that will follow, can know that their gender identity is not a deterrent, but rather a benefit that complements their professional prowess."
Gunner Scott, Director of Programs, Pride Foundation
"I had the opportunity to watch Raffi hone her skills with the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, from developing relevant and essential policy recommendations to addressing the needs of those who had experienced discrimination or violence. She is compassionate, smart, and generous. She is the kind of role model for transgender young adults and all young adults we need today. The White House is lucky to have her as we have been."
Cristina Jimenez, Managing Director, United We Dream
"This an important moment for all of us working for dignity and justice for marginalized communities. Raffi's appointment as an Outreach and Recruitment Director for Presidential Personnel is a historic moment for trans women everywhere. At United We Dream we're committed to uplifting the voices of LGBTQ immigrants and it's incredible to know that we'll have a strong trans Latina immigrant adoptee serving at the White House to make sure our communities are well represented throughout government."
The National Center for Transgender Equality is the nation's leading social justice advocacy organization winning life-saving change for transgender people. As a national social justice organization, NCTE is devoted to ending discrimination and violence against transgender people through education and advocacy on national issues of importance to transgender people.