Raffi Freedman-Gurspan has made history as the first openly transgender person to serve as an official in the White House.
President Barack Obama appointed Freedman-Gurspan as the outreach and recruitment director for the White House Office of Presidential Personnel this morning, thrilling LGBT advocates across the country.
Freedman-Gurspan previously served in trans advocacy as policy adviser for the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) on their Racial and Economic Justice Initiative, and has been noted for her leadership and commitment to trans activism.
“President Obama has long said he wants his administration to look like the American people. I have understood this to include transgender Americans,” said NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling, who said she was “elated” to hear the news. Keisling continued, “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.”
Indeed, violence against transgender people, specifically trans women of color, has been called an epidemic in the United States. In just this year alone, 19 trans women have been reported murdered– well beyond the record-high 14 reported murders of trans women in 2014. Of the 19 women murdered, 17 were women of color. As Feministing reports:
“The names of the 19 trans women reported murdered in the US this year are: Papi Edwards, Taja Gabrielle DeJesus, Bri Golec, Lamia Beard, Ty Underwood, Yazmin Vash Payne, Penny Proud, Kristina Grant Infiniti, Mya Hall, London Chanel, Mercedes Williamson, India Clarke, KC Haggard, Shade Schuler, Amber Monroe, Kandis Capri, Elisha Walker, Ashton O’Hara, and Tamara Dominguez.”
There is currently a petition calling for the Obama Administration to formally investigate violence based on gender identity against transgender women of color in the United States. LGBT advocacy organizations are also calling on major media outlets to increase airtime for the murders of transgender folks.
Freedman-Gurspan commented on this petition in April, calling violence against trans women an “undeniable crisis” in the United States. “Major news networks have largely ignored these attacks including the deaths of transgender women… To get the story right on news in America, that news must include the stories of transgender people,” she said.
Media Resources: Politico 8/18/15; NCTE Press Release 8/18/15; Feministing 8/18/15; WhiteHouse.gov Petition; Media Matters 4/8/15;