The first openly transgender White House official has been appointed by none other than President Barack Obama. She is set to begin work on Monday in the West Wing.
Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, who was a policy adviser at the National Center for Transgender Equality, was hired by Mr. Obama’s team as the director of outreach and recruitment for the White House personnel office.
She started at the White House while Mr. Obama is on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, set to return to Washington on Sunday.
Valerie Jarrett, a senior White House adviser, said in a statement that Ms. Freedman-Gurspan’s hiring “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,” Ms. Jarrett said.
The symbolic move is part of Mr. Obama’s effort to advance sexual and gender-minority rights concerns during his time in office. Mr. Obama has increasingly taken action on the concerns of transgender Americans, which have long been treated as peripheral to the broader gay rights movement.
He’s taken steps, including barring discrimination against transgender government employees, and his administration has advanced efforts to allow transgender military personnel to serve openly.
While Mr. Obama’s policies have won accolades from gay rights activists, he has faced criticism for not doing enough on transgender issues. During his remarks in June at the White House for an event celebrating Gay Pride Month, Mr. Obama was heckled by a transgender attendee.
Still, the president is seen by transgender rights activists as one of their biggest champions, particularly during his second term.
“President Obama has long said he wants his administration to look like the American people,” NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling said in a statement on the hiring of Ms. Freedman-Gurspan. “I have understood this to include transgender Americans.”