When Raffi Freedman-Gurspan started her new job as outreach and recruitment director for the Presidential Personnel Office today, she became the first openly transgender person to serve on the White House staff, the Advocate reports. Freedman-Gurspan served as a policy adviser at the National Center for Transgender Equality, and Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett says her "commitment to bettering the lives of transgender Americans, particularly transgender people of color and those in poverty" made her an easy choice. Freedman-Gurspan has made her mark as a champion for transgender prisoners and immigrants and worked to stop violence against transgender women of color.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the move is part of Obama's larger effort to support transgender people, which includes making it illegal to discriminate against transgender government employees and working toward letting transgenders serve openly in the military. The Advocate reports Obama already has appointed a handful of transgender people to posts in departments outside the White House. Freedman-Gurspan was previously the first transgender woman to work in the Massachusetts state house. (Read more transgender stories.)