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Obama administration appoints first openly trans White House official

The Obama administration announced on Tuesday that it had appointed the first openly transgender official in history to serve as a White House staffer.
Raffi Freedman-Gurspan
This handout photo provided by the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) shows Raffi Freedman-Gurspan in Washington. 

In its latest step for LGBT equality, the Obama administration announced on Tuesday that Raffi Freedman-Gurspan had been appointed to a senior position in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, becoming the first openly transgender official in history to serve as a White House staffer.

“Raffi Freedman-Gurspan demonstrates the kind of leadership this administration champions,” said Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to the president, in a statement Tuesday. “Her commitment to bettering the lives of transgender Americans, particularly transgender people of color and those in poverty, reflects the values of this administration.”

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Gurspan, who previously served as policy adviser for the National Center for Transgender Equality’s (NCTE) Racial & Economic Justice Initiative, will work as an outreach and recruitment director for presidential personnel in the office that recruits qualified candidates for service in departments and agencies across the government. Her appointment marks the latest in a series of groundbreaking steps that the Obama administration has taken to advance LGBT equality -- including signing an executive order that bars federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees; directing the military to end its ban on openly transgender service members; and endorsing equal marriage rights for same-sex couples.

The fact that Gurspan is herself a transgender woman of color is significant. Despite the historic achievements for LGBT equality in recent years, transgender women of color still face disproportionate levels of discrimination, incarceration, and violence. Eleven transgender women of color have been killed so far this year, according to The Washington Post, making 2015 the deadliest year in history for that group.