Raffi Freedman-Gurspan: White House hires first transgender member of staff

A trans-rights advocate has said she is "elated" by the decision

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The Independent US

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.

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 AP