Former National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) staff member Raffi Freedman-Gurspan became the first openly transgender official to work in the White House on Tuesday.
The Obama administration appointed Freedman-Gurspan to serve as Outreach and Recruitment Director in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel.
“Raffi Freedman-Gurspan demonstrates the kind of leadership this Administration champions,” Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to the president, said in a statement. “Her commitment to bettering the lives of transgender Americans, particularly transgender people of color and those in poverty, reflects the values of this administration.”
While sad to see her employee go, NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling said she is “elated” over the “historic appointment.”
“President Obama has long said he wants his administration to look like the American people,” she said. “I have understood this to include transgender Americans.”
Keisling said she knew a transgender person would work at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. eventually, but the fact that the first appointee is a transgender woman of color, she said, is significant in itself.
As a Hispanic woman, Keisling said Freedman-Gurspan 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,” she said. “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.”