August 18, 2015 at 9:00 am EDT | by Chris Johnson
In first, White House hires openly trans staffer
NCTE, Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, gay news, Washington Blade

Raffi Freedman-Gurspan (Photo courtesy NCTE)

The White House for the first time has hired an openly transgender person as a member of its staff, LGBT advocates and the Obama administration announced Tuesday.

Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, who formerly served in trans advocacy as policy adviser for the National Center for Transgender Equality’s Racial & Economic Justice Initiative, has been appointed to a senior position in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel. She’s set to begin her new role as an outreach and recruitment director in the Presidential Personnel Office on Tuesday.

Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Obama, welcomed the addition of Freedman-Gurspan to the White House in a statement to the Washington Blade.

“Raffi Freedman-Gurspan demonstrates the kind of leadership this administration champions,” Jarrett said. “Her commitment to bettering the lives of transgender Americans, particularly transgender people of color and those in poverty, reflects the values of this administration.”

According to the White House website, the Office of Presidential Personnel oversees the selection process for presidential appointments and works to recruit qualified candidates for service in departments and agencies across the government.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said she’s “elated” about the addition of Freedman-Gurspan to the White House staff.

“That the first transgender appointee is a transgender woman of color is itself significant,” Keisling said. “And that the first White House transgender appointee is a friend is inspiring to me and to countless others who have been touched by Raffi’s advocacy.”

During her tenure at the National Center for Transgender Equality, Freedman-Gurspan focused on the experiences of transgender people of color and those living in poverty. Among her duties was advocacy on behalf of improving the conditions of transgender people in prison, addressing biased policing against transgender communities, limiting the use of detention for undocumented transgender immigrants and finding solutions to address violence against transgender communities of color.

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.”

The Obama administration has appointed openly transgender people into federal government positions before, but no appointee so far could be considered a White House staffer. For example, President Obama appointed Dylan Orr in 2009 as special assistant in the Labor Department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, although he’s since left the government. Another openly trans Obama appointee is Amanda Simpson, who’s currently executive director of the U.S. Army Office of Energy Initiatives.

In June, Obama named Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, as another senior openly trans official by appointing him to the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships.

Aisha Moodie-Mills, CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, also praised the appointment of Freedman-Gurspan to the White House.

“For the first time in history, a transgender American will serve the president as a member of the White House staff,” Moodie-Mills said. “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.”

Wade Henderson, CEO of the Leadership Conference for Civil & Human Rights, said Freedman-Gurspan’s appointment represents “a remarkable step forward” for LGBT rights.

“As the old saying goes ‘if you’re not in the room, then you can’t possibly be at the table,’” Henderson said. “Our nation will be stronger with Freedman-Gurspan, an advocate from The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights coalition, both in the room and at the table as the first openly transgender White House staffer.”

Diego Sanchez, policy director for PFLAG National, said the addition of Freedman-Gurspan to the White House is important for transgender people everywhere.

“As a governmental trailblazer myself, as the first openly trans senior staffer on Capitol Hill, I know that educating from the inside is key,” Sanchez said. “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.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • Good luck to her, but Amanda Simpson was first.

  • “LGBT” represents sex discrimination and queer conversion therapy President Obama supports!

    • It’s cute how you set aside some special time to humiliate yourself publically by flaunting you ignorance.

      Do you designate some special self-humiliation time every day, or is today a special occasion?

      • Sorry if the truth hurts! I don’t remember “LGBT activist” asking all of us if we wanted to be “Included!” Look at the Transgender Surveys and groups! They claim there are 700,000 in the U.S where are they? What “Transgender” attracts outside of the kids is all the freakiest transvestites and wanna be transsexuals.

        • I’m sorry you can’t see all 700,000 of us trans* people in the U.S. , I guess we just blend in too well ! I’m truly sorry you can’t pin-point all of us accurately so you can focus your hatred on a one-on-one basis , I’m sure there must be other groups you can easily identify and hate at your leisure !

          • I’m sorry you are so ignorant as to think you have a right to “include” all of us in your sex discriminatory and queer conversion therapy word “Transgender.” I am a person that was listed male at birth and am now legally female. You got zero right to call me either “Transgender” or include me in the “Gay Community.” You guys need to quit sex discrimination towards people like me.

          • I fail to see what your complaint is all about, we are both both M to F and living full-time transitioning legally and medically as females. I have no grudge with you personally, I do however think you’re being overly critical of the transgender community. Sorry if I somehow hurt your feelings, but I have valid feelings of my own. Respect should be a mutual thing.

          • Its funny respect should be a mutual thing but where is the recognition of those of us that do not identify as or with Transgender and the gay community? All I ever saw was bullying those like myself with false accusations under the Transgender activist started Transsexual separatist movement.

          • Why are you two girls fighting for…its obvious that gender identity is different than sexual preference…as for Bruce Jenner…No fricken way he is a woman..he doesn’t have the “essence” that is woman…but the kid on I am Jazz totally has the essence of being female so I get that she is a girl born with the wrong sex organs…as a suburban mom who has a friend with a transgender teenager to us Bruce Jenner is making a mockery out of the whole transgender situation. His show constantly focusing on his Prada glasses or whatever the fuqk he was plugging,,, I wish you girls would call out that phony Bruce Jenner for what he is instead of fighting amongst yourselves

          • You make a valid point , we have far more in common than we have differences. Mostly a matter of semantics overall, I bear no grudge with Lisa . Jenner just makes me crazy, I get compared with her almost daily . “Why aren’t you pretty like Caitlyn, you’ve been transitioning far longer !” and other remarks tend to make me a little crazy. She has more money than God and has the means to do ANYTHING & EVERYTHING she desires. She has little if anything in common with poor people like myself fighting daily to just exist , she’s paid no dues. She just bought the whole Club instead.

          • I transitioned to become the female I always felt I should have been born. I never identified as a cross dresser and the closest I would say I felt like one is when I was presenting as male.
            Those who don’t want genital surgery and that when push comes to shove really identify as their birth sex but want to live as the opposite sex should not be being mixed up with those who best fit the medical definition of being transsexual.
            I never needed or wanted to be part of a “Transgender” group I wanted to become a woman. I live my life as a woman and at work I don’t go into it. I’m me.

          • Lisa, I can respect your viewpoint. My goal is to live out my life (I’m 64) as the female I always felt myself to be, I much prefer being considered simply a woman without a lot of qualifiers. I suspect we each are on our unique quests to be our real selves I wish you all the best in your life ahead, may you find your Truth your own way !

          • I’m sorry I cannot refer to Bruce as female….you and Lisa….yes I will respectfully refer to you as female. As a person born female I get your struggle that comes with being a woman….makeup hair all that…but its much much more to be a woman than what Bruce pretends it to be. He is NOT a pretty woman….and what woman IS pretty at 65 yo? If any other 65 yo woman dressed like a 25 …every gay on the planet would be dissing that queen right off her throne …but some reason this Bruce idiot gets a pass. Please don’t fight you and Lisa….to be honest I didn’t get your struggle until I found out about my friends teenager going through what you guys have and it really helped me understand that its not a choice or just someone being crazy. Its an “essence” that this kid clearly has…and its hard….also shows like I am Jazz…what an eye opener for a conservative mom like myself…Bruce’s show just set the trans community back 25 years in my opinion..because BRuce is a h orrible horrible so-called role model… Bruce is a cross dresser at best….take care of yourself and I bet you are beautiful!! Both you and Lisa!!

          • Thank You for your kind words and encouragement, they are always appreciated. Lisa and I found ourselves engaged in that wonderful thing known as a “cat fight” , I feel rather silly about the whole thing looking back on it a day later. I wish Jenner no harm, but if she would retreat from the public eye I’d breathe so much easier ! Personally, I think a great deal more of Kristen Beck being a spokesperson and follow her campaign closely. She’s a “go to” person that sets goals and achieves them the vast majority of the time. I respect her immensely and envy her sheer determination. I only wish I were so confident ! I probably should apologize to Lisa for over-reacting, I was feeling very nervous and vulnerable at the time.

          • Serious someone would be so mean as to say that you are not as pretty as Caitlin, Caitlin is not even as pretty as a Caitlin; disregard their comments because Jenner is not pretty.

          • Thank You for your very kind remarks,it was very sweet of you !

          • Really Transgender makes a mockery out of the proper word Transsexual. That vast majority of adult transgenders and those who self identify as Transgender or transsexual are not transsexual. A true transsexual will identify with the medical definition of the word Transsexual being an accurate description because they identify as the opposite sex they were listed at birth, but it is not their personal identity male or female is!

          • Lisa why did you just confuse me more…lol I just want you to be happy…in all seriousness Please have a blessed life and stay beautiful!! I get what you are saying…

        • Thanks for the illogical hodgepodge mishmash of opinion-stated-as-fact.

          LGBT people have been around since the dawn of time. People like Caitlyn Jenner are finally becoming their true selves.

          • We are not all “LGBT” and that is sex discrimination and a work of fiction that needs to come to an end.”LGBT” history is a work of fiction.

          • Lisa, I do feel we as members of the T community have very little (if anything) in common with the LGB movement. They are about sexual orientation and we are about gender orientation. Not the same thing, it probably confuses the general public no end, which makes acceptance of all of us unlikely.

          • I do not really see an all encompassing community. I see those who want to call themselves “Transgender” and part of the “Gay Community” as sexually exploiting and discriminating against everyone else!!! They are also being used by scientist to justify “including” all of us into research without our consent. It is really shameful stuff!!!

          • I agree with you on this, I see myself more as a trans-sexual but the whole medical community marks me down as trans-gender. Apparently being trans-sexual is no longer considered politically correct, my OB/GYN who administered my HRT insisted on listing me as being a trangender with associative gender disorder. So even my friendliest medical provider sees me as mentally ill, not all that flattering somehow. I now prefer to think of myself as just another (albeit somewhat unique) woman, I think I’ve “arrived”. We tend to be treated as freaks by the medical community at large. “They laugh at me because I’m different. I laugh at them because they’re not .”

          • I don’t know where you go for treatment but the word Transsexual is in my medical records and I forbade the VA from using the word Transgender on me. I don’t self-identify as transsexual but I think it is the word that when used properly best describes a person in my circumstance.

          • I go to Planned Parenthood for my HRT, which puts me in the rather unique position of being a father with the same OB/GYN as my two daughters ! PPH has their own style of classifying Trans* people but have always treated me with respect and kindness. I feel lucky I found them when I did, they saved me from driving 2 1/2 hours to Seattle for care.

          • Each of your posts gets gibberishier and gibberishier.

            Medical science confirms that there is a biological basis for homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism — certainly being intersex is proof that people are born that way (no one wills themselves to have a penis and a vagina).

            Put down your tinfoil hat and pick up a medical book.

          • There is proof that people who are specifically Transsexual are born that way but that does not cover the vast majority of those who self-identify as “Transgender” a supposed umbrella term. Show me brain research showing a crossdresser is born that way. Show me research that someone other than an intersex person can identify as neither male or female and is born that way! The fact is “Transgender” sexually exploits what it means to be transsexual and sexually discriminates against people who best fit the definition of being Transsexual and that do not identify as or with the “LGBT.”

          • There is plenty of research out there, you are just choosing to avoid and ignore it.

            What’s it to you what other people’s gender issues are? Why are you so fearful?

          • I’m not avoiding the research and have probably read a lot more than you have. Many research articles point to problems with LGBT research being biased towards the most dysfunctional and LGBT activist, convenience sampled because it either comes from those in treatment or known LGBT places. For the same reasons it is sample biased and it is also methodologically flawed.

          • You need to step away from paranoid agenda-driven content and look at research done by reputable scientists.

            There is no “gay agenda” — that is merely the stuff of paranoid minds.

            All the reliable, reputable research points to people being born LGBT. Even animals are gay (a big problem for conservationists) –Do you think 1/3 of all turtles are gay because they have hatching-issues or were influenced by gay activists?

            You are silly.

          • You are being silly and showing your LGBT bias. The vast majority of same sex attracted people I’ve ever met didn’t identify as or with the word “Gay.”
            There is an LGBT agenda and it is not a good one and no less conversion therapy then what is on the right side.

          • Yeah, you’re a full-blown lunatic.

            Conservation therapy has been proven to be ineffective at best, but very harmful in most cases. There is zero evidence that pray-away-the-gay charlatans are anything but snake oil salesman.

            You are so deep in the closet your mailing address is Narnia.

          • No I just happen to be a lot smarter than you. Calling someone who best fits the definition of being transsexual “Transgender” is conversion therapy and sex discrimination against them. You are saying because I was listed Y at birth and now am X you have a right to label me “Transgender” and “Include” me in the gay community. How is that not sex discrimination and undermining my legal rights as a person now legally X sex?

          • By immediately trying to assert that you are of superior intelligence you have inadvertently revealed a few things about yourself.

            1. That you are not really intelligent at all.
            2. That you’re in love with yourself.
            3. Conversing with me reminds you of how stupid you are, and that makes you uncomfortable.

            But enough about you — you are boring. Back to the topic at hand….

            Take, for example, a woman in Britain named Hayley Haynes. She went through puberty like every other girl, but never got her period. She went to the doctor. Test revealed that she had XY chromosomes –therefore she was a man. But because of a glitch, she developed as a woman.

            Gender is complicated.

          • I have honors to show my intelligence level. Plus we were not talking about genetic variations. We are talking about people who are chromosomal and genitally one sex but identify as the opposite sex. We are not talking about someone who identifies as their birth and chromosomal sex but that wants to live as the opposite sex (Transgender.) We are specifically talking about Transsexualism and brain sex differentiation as being the source of transsexualism.

          • That young Lady was born with a Intersex condition which can be medically and scientifically proven unfortunately there is no proof to why a person feels transgender.

    • WTF are you even trying to say here?

  • What I want to say will be deleted because this site is FOR gays and freaks. Here goes:
    Our country has gone BONKERS!!!!!!!!! Can someone pinch me and tell me I am in the middle of a nightmare?

  • …as President Obama continues his epic trolling of the GOP…

  • No she’s not the 1st Michelle Obama is the first

  • I’m sorry this has got to be the ugliest hispanic jew guy I have ever seen. How on God’s green earth are we supposed to REALLY believe that he is a woman? Seriously? Seriously? No…not gonna happen!!

  • That’s fantastic; however, are we just checking a box or is this person actually qualified?

© Copyright Brown, Naff, Pitts Omnimedia, Inc. 2020. All rights reserved.