Raffi Freedman-Gurspan made headlines last summer when she became the first transgender person appointed to an official position within the White House. Now, she’s got a new title, the first transgender woman to lead outreach and recruitment as director for presidential personnel and associate director for public engagement.
A public policy expert, Freedman-Gurspan started her work with the National Center for Transgender Equality in Massachusetts in 2009. She worked her way up the political ladder through the state’s congress and before long found her square at the White House.
Aditi Hardikar, an Indian-American, was appointed to the position in 2014 but stepped down to work on the Hilary Clinton Campaign.
“White House officials credited [Hardikar] with playing a critical role in some of the administration’s more cutting edge and controversial moves on gay and transgender rights, such as the opening of the first-ever all-gender restrooms at the White House and the decision to light up the White House in rainbow colors the day the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationally,” said the Washington Post of Hardikar’s work.
In an interview with MyJewishLearning, Freedman-Gurspan credited her pursuit for social justice to the work her family had done long before she was around.
“My great-grandmother was a suffragette who fought for women’s right to vote; my grandparents advocated for unions, fair wages, and worker protections; and my parents, as social workers, have consistently supported social justice causes including voting and civil rights for people of color, destigmatization of mental illness, and women’s and LGBTQ rights,” she said in the Q&A session. “I believe this progressive Jewish upbringing, both at synagogue and at home, deeply impacted the path I took to work on public policy matters that affect the neediest in our society.”
“Raffi Freedman-Gurspan demonstrates the kind of leadership this Administration champions,” senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett told The Advocate when Freedman-Gurspan was first appointed to the White House in 2015. ”Her commitment to bettering the lives of transgender Americans, particularly transgender people of color and those in poverty, reflects the values of this Administration.”
“Raffi Freedman-Gurspan understands how policy affects real people,” said Marcia D. Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center last year. “Freedman-Gurspan will bring her impressive track record and experience in advocating for social and economic justice to her new position in the White House. Her deep commitment in advocating for those most in need and without a voice in our society will be a tremendous asset to the White House and to the country as a whole.”