The White House announced Tuesday that it has hired its first openly transgender staff member, Raffi Freedman-Gurspan.
Freedman-Gurspan, a 28-year-old Latina trans woman, is a former National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) policy advisor and will serve as an outreach and recruitment director in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel.
The administration has several transgender employees, but Freedman-Gurspan will be the first to work in 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,” NCTE executive director Mara Keisling said in a statement. “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.”
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In her work for the Racial and Economic Justice Initiative at NCTE, Freedman-Gurspan advocated for undocumented transgender immigrants, calling on the government to release them from detention because of their high risk of being targeted for sexual assault and violence.
Freedman-Gurspan was somewhat critical of new administration guidelines to consider gender identity in detention issues, which came out shortly after Obama was heckled by a transgender immigrant protester.
“This is all interesting on paper, to say the least, but we need to see how this actually plays out,” Freedman-Gurspan said in June. “We don’t think these folks should be in detention centers, period.”
Freedman-Gurspan has also urged the government to address the high rate of transgender homicides.
Senior Obama administration advisor Valerie Jarrett said in a statement that Freedman-Gurspan’s “commitment to bettering the lives of transgender Americans—particularly transgender people of color and those in poverty—reflects the values of this administration.”