Raffi Freedman-Gurspan Makes History As First Openly Transgender Official To Work In The White House

by Mara Keisling

President Obama has hand picked one of us.

Today, Raffi Freedman-Gurspan makes history by becoming the first openly transgender official to work in the White House.

Raffi follows a growing line of transgender appointees in federal government. She will serve as an Outreach and Recruitment Director for Presidential Personnel. It has been a joy to work with Raffi in her role as the National Center for Transgender Equality‘s Racial and Economic Justice Initiative Policy Advisor.

Raffi’s dedication and smarts have strengthened our organization’s advocacy on racial and economic justice. She has been vital to improving conditions for transgender prisoners, addressing biased policing against transgender communities, limiting the use of detention for undocumented transgender immigrants, and finding solutions to address violence against transgender women of color.

Raffi’s collaboration with partners nationwide has led to numerous policy advances.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s recently issued memo moved a step closer to improve conditions for transgender people in detention, though work remains to end their confinement. Homeless LGBTQ youth have explicit guidance ensuring equal access to shelters due in part to Raffi’s strategic thinking. And Raffi spoke at the first White House Trans Women of Color briefing organized by partners at the National LGBTQ Task Force.

While all of us at NCTE are saddened by Raffi’s departure, we are also celebrating her historic appointment. With Raffi serving in the Obama Administration, our government will look a little more like the nation it serves. And when our government looks like the nation it serves, it is better equipped to solve our biggest problems.

I am inspired by Raffi’s leadership, and I recognize the benefit she’ll bring to our country as she works to bring diverse voices into public service.

Raffi leaves NCTE’s Racial and Economic Justice Initiative stronger than ever, but this work must and will continue. The Initiative pressed the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing to include the needs of transgender people in their final report. But work remains with ensuring implementation of the Task Force’s recommendations among local law enforcement nationwide.

The complex problems contributing to the rise in murders of transgender women of color requires swift action by community groups, national advocates, and government.

And despite modest progress, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has a long path toward ending the detention of undocumented transgender people. NCTE’s Racial and Economic Justice Initiative will continue to be a leading focal point from which NCTE will aggressively fight racism, classism, and other systems of inter-connected oppressions of trans people.

Please join me in thanking Raffi by congratulating her on Facebook and Twitter.

And if the fight for racial and economic justice is one you wish to be a part of, consider joining our staff.

Photo provided by the National Center for Transgender Equality