Obama White House Hires First Openly Transgender Staffer

Obama signs executive orders to protect LGBT employees from federal workplace discrimination
Obama signs executive orders to protect LGBT employees from federal workplace discrimination / AP
August 18, 2015

The White House has hired its first openly transgender staffer, the Obama administration announced Tuesday.

Mashable reported that the administration has named Raffi Freedman-Gurspan as the outreach and recruitment director for presidential personnel in the Office of Personnel months after she participated in the White House briefing on the state of transgender women of color.

Freedman-Gurspan previously worked as a policy adviser for the National Center for Transgender Equality and spearheaded the organization’s racial and economic justice initiative. She also worked on the staff of former Rep. Carl Sciortino, Jr., in the Massachusetts State House.

Sciortino lauded the hire as "a symbol of progress for the transgender community," adding that "it will be [Freedman-Gurspan’s] skill and hard work that will benefit many."

Freedman-Gurspan in her new position could help inform President Obama’s push to enact immigration reform. She has been vocal in her support of limits on the detention of transgender illegal immigrants because of their vulnerability to sexual assaults and violence.

"To really end the suffering transgender detainees face, the Obama administration must release transgender detainees for whom being in detention makes them a target of sexual assault and violence," Freedman-Gurspan declared in June.

The hire comes months after the White House opened a gender-neutral bathroom for staff and visitors in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

Obama also last year signed an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. And, the Pentagon is preparing to lift its ban on transgender individuals in the military.

The executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality Mara Keisling characterized Tuesday’s announcement as "significant."

"President Obama has long said he wants his Administration to look like the American people," Keisling said in a statement. "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."

Published under: Barack Obama