Obama Appoints First White House Transgender Staffer

Tara Dodrill

President Obama has hired the first White House transgender staffer. Raffi Freedman-Gurspa was appointed as the Outreach and Recruitment Director for Presidential Personnel on Tuesday. Freedman-Gurspa, 28, was previously known as Rafael and is an orphan from Honduras who grew up in Massachusetts.

Raffi Freedman-Gurspa was a National Center for Transgender Equality policy adviser focusing on economic justice and racial justice issues, according to a Daily Mail report. The appointment of the first White House transgender staffer sparked controversy and online backlash almost immediately after following the announcement by the Obama administration.

LGBT advocates have hailed the Freedman-Gurspa White House appointment as a win and an "important step." Senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarret said the new hire is committed to improving the lives of other transgender people and "reflects the values" of the Barack Obama administration.

Freedman-Gurspan's LinkedIn profile shows past professional milestones including serving as the legislative director to State Rep. Carl M. Sciortino Jr. in Boston, LGBT liaison for the city of Somerville, Massachusetts, and as a legislative and policy staffer at the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. The first White House transgender staffer also lists human rights, LGBT rights, and social justice in the interests section on the social media platform.

Massachusetts State Representative Carl Sciortino, Jr. called Freedman-Gurspan a "role model." Freedman-Gurspan was a graduate of St. Olaf College with a degree in political science and Norwegian and was a member of campus Jewish Students Organization.

National Center of Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Kiesling was "elated" about the White House transgender appointment.

"President Obama has long said he wants his Administration to look like the American people. I have understood this to include transgender Americans," Kiesling said. "A transgender person was inevitably going to work in the White House."

What do you think about President Obama appointing the first transgender person to work in the White House?

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