The first openly transgender White House official began work Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported. Raffi Freedman-Gurspan was hired to work as the director of outreach and recruitment for the personnel office in the West Wing of the White House.
The decision to hire an openly transgender person was celebrated by transgender rights activists across the nation, and advocates in the LGBT community hailed the decision as an important step in ensuring that the federal government includes the voices and experiences of all Americans, the Associated Press reported. “Her commitment to bettering the lives of transgender Americans, particularly transgender people of color and those in poverty, reflects the values of this administration,” said senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett in a statement, the Wall Street Journal reported.
During his time in office, President Barack Obama has made several moves in advancing sexual and gender minority rights, including barring discrimination against transgender government employees. His administration has also advanced efforts to allow transgender military personnel to serve openly. Still, Obama was heckled by a transgender attendee during an event at the White House celebrating Gay Pride Month in June over his treatment of LGBTQ immigrants.
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Freedman-Gurspan previously worked as the policy adviser for the racial and justice initiative at the National Center for Transgender Equality. She also served as the legislative director to state Rep. Carl M. Sciortino Jr. in Boston, the LGBT liaison for the city of Somerville, Massachusetts, and as a legislative and policy staffer at the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. She graduated from St. Olaf College near Minneapolis in 2009 with a degree in political science, according to her LinkedIn profile.
There are an estimated 100,000 transgender individuals living in the U.S., according to a study by the U.S. Census Bureau using 2010 data.