In the White House’s latest move to promote LGBT equality, the Obama administration has hired its first openly transgender staff member.
Raffi Freedman-Gurspan's appointment in the Office of Personnel as the outreach and recruitment director was announced on Tuesday.
The move is made doubly ground-breaking by the fact that Freedman-Gurspan is originally from Honduras, and grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts, according to the Associated Press.
Such a decision is particularly poignant against the backdrop of a rise in trans killings in the US, which has disproportionately affected members of ethnic minority groups, the Washington Post reported recently.
Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Obama, welcomed the addition of Freedman-Gurspan to the administration.
She said in a statement to the Washington Blade: “Raffi Freedman-Gurspan demonstrates the kind of leadership this administration champions.”
Referring to Freedman-Gurspan as a "person of colour", a term widely used in the US to describe people who are not white, she added: “Her commitment to bettering the lives of transgender Americans, particularly transgender people of colour and those in poverty, reflects the values of this administration."
Freedman-Gurspan took on the role after working as a policy adviser for the National Centre for Transgender Equality's racial and economic justice initiative.
LGBT advocates have praised her appointment as an important step forward for the representation of the voices and experiences of a wider range of US citizens.
Mara Kiesling, the executive director of National Center of Transgender Equality, told the Associated Press she was “elated” by the news.
"President Obama has long said he wants his Administration to look like the American people. I have understood this to include transgender Americans.
"A transgender person was inevitably going to work in the White House. That the first transgender appointee is a transgender woman of color is itself significant," she said.
LGBT rights across the globe
LGBT rights across the globe
Russia’s antipathy towards homosexuality has been well established following the efforts of human rights campaigners. However, while it is legal to be homosexual, LGBT couples are offered no protections from discrimination. They are also actively discriminated against by a 2013 law criminalising LGBT “propaganda” allowing the arrest of numerous Russian LGBT activists. (Picture: Riot police hold an LGBT activist during a Moscow rall.)
Men who are found having sex with other men face stoning, while lesbians can be imprisoned, under Sharia law. However, the state has not reportedly executed anyone for this ‘crime’ since 1987. (Picture: Chinguetti Mosque, Mauritania.)
3/7 Saudi Arabia
Homosexuality and transgender is illegal and punishable by the death penalty, imprisonment, corporal punishment, whipping and chemical castration. (Picture: The emblem of Saudi Arabia above the embassy in London.)
Bruno Vincent/Getty Images
The official position within the country is that there are no gays. LGBT inviduals, if discovered by the government, are likely to face intense pressure. Punishments range from flogging to the death penalty. (Picture: Yemen's southern port of Aden.)
Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is illegal and in some northern states punishable with death by stoning. This is not a policy enacted across the entire country, although there is a prevalent anti-LGBT agenda pushed by the government. In 2007 a Pew survey established that 97 per cent of the population felt that homosexuality should not be accepted. It is publishable by 14 years in prison. (Picture: The northern Nigerian town of Damasak.)
Homosexuality was established as a crime in 1888 and under new Somali Penal Code established in 1973 homosexual sex can be punishable by three years in prison. (Picture: Families use a boat to cross a flooded Shebelle River, in Jowhar.)
Although same-sex relationships have been decriminalised, much of the population still suffer from intense discrimination. Additionally, in some of the country over-run by the extremist organisation Isis, LGBT individuals can face death by stoning. (Picture: Purported Isis fighters in Iraq.)
The move is the latest in a number of historic steps the Obama administration has recently taken to promote LGBT equality, including legalising same-sex marriage.
The government has also passed an executive order banning government contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees, and has allowed trans people to openly serve in the military.
Additional reporting by APReuse content