Raffi Freedman-Gurspan made history on Tuesday when she became the first transgender woman to be hired by the White House. Freedman-Gurspan, a 2009 graduate of St. Olaf College in Northfield, was appointed to a senior position in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel. While the Obama administration has made history in the hiring and appointing of transgender personnel, Freedman-Gurspan’s hire marks the first transgender White House appointment.
Raffi Freedman-Gurspan was previously a Policy Advisor for the Racial and Economic Justice Initiative at the National Center for Transgender Equality, was the LGBT Liaison for the City of Somerville, Massachusetts, and worked for the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, among several other positions.
Freedman-Guspan studied political science and Norwegian at St. Olaf. She spoke about her story in a 2009 presentation at St. Olaf, including her birth in Honduras, her Lenca parents, her adoption by a Jewish family in Boston, and her journey to Minnesota to study Norwegian. The presentation is available at the St. Olaf website and begins at the 6-minute mark.
“My name is Raffi Freedman-Guspan and I am a Jewish transgender woman adopted from the Lenca people of western Honduras, here to alleviate the suffering of all living beings,” Freedman-Guspan concluded. “This is my name forever and this is my title for all generations” she said, a reference to Exodus 3:15.
Of Freedman-Gurspan’s appointment, National Center for Transgender Equality executive director Mara Keisling said:
“I am elated that Raffi Freedman-Gurspan will become the first openly transgender staff member at the White House. 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. And that the first White House transgender appointee is of a friend is inspiring to me and to countless others who have been touched by Raffi’s advocacy.”