Raffi Freedman-Gurspan becomes first openly transgender person to work as a White House staffer

August 15, 2015

White House LGBT Liaison Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, June 28, 2016. 

On August 18, 2015, Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, hired by Barack Obama, became the first openly transgender person to be a White House staffer when she began work as Outreach and Recruitment Director in the Presidential Personnel Office at the White House.  

Freedman-Gurspan was born on May 3, 1987, in Honduras. As an infant, she was adopted by a Jewish couple living in Brookline, Massachusetts. In 2016, she said of her Jewish upbringing: “My Jewish identity and family played an enormous role in shaping the individual I am today… 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.” 

Freedman-Gurspan received her BA in Political Science and Norwegian from St. Olaf College in 2009. Following her graduation, Freedman-Gurspan joined Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition and began working as a Course and Research Assistant for Boston University's Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program. In January 2010, she was hired by Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone of Somerville, Massachusetts, to serve as the city's LGBT liaison. In July 2011, Freedman-Gurspan joined State Representative Carl Sciortino's office as a legislative aide, becoming the first openly transgender legislative staffer in the Massachusetts State House.  In July 2014, she was hired as policy advisor at the National Center for Transgender Equality. 

In August 2015, Freedman-Gurspan left the NCTE to become Outreach and Recruitment Director in the Presidential Personnel Office at the White House. In 2016, she became the White House’s primary LGBT liaison, the first openly transgender person in the role; she remained in this position until early January 2017. On January 17, 2017, President Obama appointed her to a five-year term on the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, the Board of Trustees of the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.   

In 2017, Freedman-Gurspan returned to the National Center for Transgender Equality as director of external relations, a role that she left in 2019 to become Deputy Campaign Director for the All on the Line Campaign. In January 2022, President Joe Biden appointed her Deputy Director of Public Engagement at the U.S. Department of Transportation.  

 

Sources: 

Rozensky, Jordyn. “Q&A with Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, the White House’s Primary LGBT Liaison.” My Jewish Learning, January 20, 2022. https://www.myjewishlearning.com/2016/03/14/raffi-freedman-gurspan-the-white-houses-primary-lgbt-liaison/?_ga=2.176431781.1863845039.1678648396-389533840.1678648396

“Raffi Freedman-Gurspan.” A Seat at the Table, March 4, 2020. https://www.bringyourownchair.org/artists/?target=174

“Raffi Freedman-Gurspan.” The White House - President Barack Obama. Accessed July 14, 2023. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/author/raffi-freedman-gurspan

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Jewish Women's Archive. "Raffi Freedman-Gurspan becomes first openly transgender person to work as a White House staffer." (Viewed on May 28, 2024) <http://jwa.org/thisweek/aug/15/2015/raffi-freedman-gurspan-becomes-first-openly-transgender-person-work-white>.