White House hires first openly transgender staff member

By Danielle Haynes Follow @DanielleHaynes1 Contact the Author   |   Aug. 18, 2015 at 7:32 PM
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 18 (UPI) -- The first openly transgender staff member to work at the White House began her new job Tuesday, the Obama administration said.

Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, 28, started her new role as the outreach and recruitment director for presidential personnel in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, the National Center for Transgender Equality said. She previously worked as policy advisor for the center's Racial and Economic Justice Initiative.

"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. "President Obama has long said he wants his administration to look like the American people. I have understood this to include transgender Americans. 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."

White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett told ABC News that Freedman-Gurspan "demonstrates the kind of leadership this administration champions.

"Her commitment to bettering the lives of transgender Americans, particularly transgender people of color and those in poverty, reflects the values of this Administration," she said.

In her role at the White House, Freedman-Gurspan will manage staffers in the recruitment of candidates to serve Obama in departments and agencies throughout the government. Before working with the NCTE, Freedman-Gurspan was the first openly transgender woman to work at the Massachusetts State House, Rep. Carl Sciortino Jr., D-Mass., said.

"Raffi is a role model," he 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."

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