The first openly transgender official appointed to serve in the White House is making history as she begins her new job today, the Obama administration announced.
Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, 28, is breaking barriers as the new outreach and recruitment director for presidential personnel in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE). Freedman-Gurpsan formerly served as a policy advisor for NCTE’s Racial and Economic Justice Initiative.
She “demonstrates the kind of leadership this Administration champions,” White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett told ABC News 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.”
Freedman-Gurspan will be directing presidential personnel staffers who work to recruit qualified candidates to serve the president in departments and agencies across the government, according to the White House’s website. The office also ensures that personnel priorities of the administration are being addressed.
While a handful of transgender people have been appointed to presidential commissions and boards previously, Freedman-Gurspan is the first openly trans appointee to work inside 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
The historic appointment is being lauded by LGBTQ+ advocates, who say they’re happy that the presidential administration is beginning to reflect the actual diversity of America.
“I am elated that Raffi Freedman-Gurspan will become the first openly transgender staff member at the White House,” 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.”
While in the NCTE, Freedman-Gurspan addressed improving conditions for transgender prisoners, addressing biased policing in trans communities, limiting use of detention for undocumented transgender immigrants and finding solutions to address violence against trans women of color, Keisling added.
Prior to working for NCTE, Freedman-Gurspan also made history in Massachusetts, where she was the first outwardly transgender woman working at the Massachusetts State House, according to Massachusetts state Rep. Carl Sciortino Jr., who is also the executive director for the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts.
“Raffi is a role model,” Sciortino said in a statement. “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.”
A Human Rights Campaign (HRC) advocate who’s worked with Freedman-Gurspan in the past said she “is a smart, quiet woman who is very thoughtful and very diplomatic.”
“It’s very illustrative of how she likes to listen first before she talks,” David Stacey, head of government affairs for HRC, told ABC News.
The White House told ABC News that Freedman-Gurspan was not immediately available for interviews.