Who Is Raffi Freedman-Gurspan? This Latina Marks A Milestone At The White House
For the first time ever, a transgender individual has been named the White House's LGBT liaison. Her name is Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, and this is actually the second time she's made history. Just last year, she became the first openly transgender staff member ever to work at the White House — and all this before turning 30. Not to mention that she's a Jewish Latina born in Honduras — who speaks some Norwegian, to boot. Her appointment makes her the lead White House contact on all issues facing gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans, from employment to healthcare equality. She will also continue with her post as the director of outreach and recruitment for presidential personnel.
This is not Freedman-Gurspan's first time working on LGBT issues. She publicly shared that she was a transgender woman while studying at St. Olaf College in Minnesota (where she majored in political science and Norwegian). At the time, the state was on the forefront of trans-inclusive nondiscrimination laws. But upon finishing school, she moved back to her home state of Massachusetts.
"When I moved back to Boston after graduation, I quickly realized that Massachusetts had no state civil rights protections for people like me," she told the blog of Keshet, an LGBT Jewish organization. Freedman-Gurspan grew up in Brookline. She was born in Honduras, but was adopted by a Jewish family.
She became involved with a group trying to pass trans-inclusive civil rights protections, working as a legislative and policy staffer, while serving as the LGBT liaison for the city of Summerville, a suburb outside Boston. Through her connections with the civil rights work, she got a job with a state representative as a legislative aid. From there, she moved down to Washington, D.C., where she got to work with one of the most important trans rights groups in the country, the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Mara Keisling, executive director of the NCTE, where Freedman-Gurspan worked as a policy advisor on racial and economic justice issues until she was appointed last year, said that she is a great choice. Keisling told BuzzFeed:
President Obama has said he wants his administration to look like America, and they have moved to include trans Americans. Raffi’s skills and personality make her the exact right person for this important job.
Keisling was one of many to sing Freedman-Gurspan's praises both now and back in August, when she was first hired. After her initial appointment, influential Obama adviser Valerie Jarret said in an email to The Advocate, "Raffi Freedman-Gurspan 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."
Freedman-Gurspan replaces Aditi Hardikar as LGBT liaison. Hardikar left the White House to work on Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. These past years — especially since the president "evolved" on same-sex marriage — the administration has worked hard to ensure LGBT equality, doing everything from creating gender-neutral bathrooms in the executive office to protecting trans students around the country through the Justice Department. With Freedman-Gurspan taking Hardikar's place, there's no doubt the Obama Administration will continue to be at the forefront of LGBT equality for the rest of his term.