Raffi Freedman-Gurspan

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Raffi Freedman-Gurspan
Raffi Freedman-Gurspan.jpg
Born (1987-05-03) May 3, 1987 (age 31)
ResidenceWashington, DC
EducationSt. Olaf College (BA)
EmployerNational Center for Transgender Equality (2014-2015, 2017-present) White House (2015-2017)
Known forTransgender rights activism
Home townBrookline, Massachusetts

Raffi Freedman-Gurspan (born May 3, 1987 in Intibucá, Honduras) is an American transgender rights activist and the first openly transgender person to work as a White House staffer.[1][2][3][4][5] She was also the first openly transgender legislative staffer to work in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.[4] She currently serves as director of external relations at the National Center for Transgender Equality, based in Washington, DC.[6] She is a longtime advocate and public policy specialist on matters concerning human rights, gender, and LGBT people.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Freedman-Gurspan was born to a Lenca family living in Intibucá, Honduras on May 3, 1987.[7] The Lenca are the indigenous people of western Honduras and eastern El Salvador. Unable to be raised by her birth family, she was adopted as an infant by an American Jewish couple and raised in Brookline, Massachusetts, where she attended the Edward Devotion School and Brookline High School.[4] As a teenager, she developed an interest in Norway and Scandinavia, and went to Skogfjorden, a Norwegian language immersion summer camp in Bemidji, Minnesota run by the Concordia Language Villages. She self-identifies as an indigenous Central American, a Latina, and as Jewish.[2][3]

Freedman-Gurspan received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Norwegian with a Concentration in Nordic Studies from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota in 2009.[8][9] During her junior year, she studied abroad at the University of Oslo Faculty of Law where she took classes in international law with a focus on human rights and gender equality.[9] She is a proficient Norwegian speaker.[10]

Political career[edit]

Freedman-Gurspan on June 28, 2016 at the Department of Labor

After graduating from university in 2009, Freedman-Gurspan joined the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC), where she worked on legislative and policy issues.[10] In January 2010, she was hired by Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone of Somerville, Massachusetts to serve as the city's LGBT Liaison.[11] Through her work with the MTPC and as Somerville LGBT Liaison she met then-Massachusetts State Representative Carl Sciortino, a Medford Democrat.[4][5] At the time he was one of the lead sponsors on a bill in the state legislature that would expand state civil rights protections to transgender residents.[12]

In July 2011, Freedman-Gurspan join Sciortino's office as a legislative aide, becoming the first openly transgender legislative staffer in the Massachusetts State House.[4] She played an instrumental role in helping Sciortino pass the transgender civil rights bill in November 2011, which was signed into law by then-Governor Deval Patrick in January 2012.[12][13] Freedman-Gurspan worked as Sciortino's legislative director until he retired from the Massachusetts House of Representatives in the spring of 2014.[14]

In July 2014, Freedman-Gurspan was hired as policy advisor at the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and moved to Washington, DC.[15] There her work focused on issues facing transgender people of color and those living in poverty. Her work included criminal justice and incarceration reform, immigration detention conditions, housing and homeless shelter policies, and sustainable economic development opportunities for transgender people in the United States.[15]

On August 18, 2015, Freedman-Gurspan was hired by President Barack Obama as Outreach and Recruitment Director in the Presidential Personnel Office at the White House, becoming the first openly transgender person to work as a White House staffer.[16] He subsequently appointed her as the White House’s primary LGBT liaison in 2016, making her the first openly transgender person in the role.[17] She served in this role until January 6, 2017.[18] On January 17, 2017, President Obama appointed her to a 5-year term as a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, the Board of Trustees of the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.[19]

On April 3, 2017, Freedman-Gurspan rejoined the National Center for Transgender Equality as its new director of external relations. In this role she leads and enhances NCTE's organizing and public education efforts, and supports the organization’s policy and communications programs.[20]


  1. ^ a b Shear, Michael D. (2015-08-18). "White House Hires First Openly Transgender Staff Member". The New York Times - First Draft. Retrieved 2017-08-04.
  2. ^ a b "Jewish woman becomes first openly transgender White House official". Retrieved 2015-09-11.
  3. ^ a b "Hondureña, primer transgénero contratada por la Casa Blanca". Diario La Prensa (in Spanish). Retrieved 2017-08-04.
  4. ^ a b c d e "The White House has appointed its first transgender staffer - The Boston Globe". BostonGlobe.com. Retrieved 2017-08-04.
  5. ^ a b "White House Appoints First Transgender Person As Primary LGBT Liaison". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 2017-08-04.
  6. ^ "Raffi Freedman-Gurspan". National Center for Transgender Equality. 2017-04-03. Retrieved 2017-08-04.
  7. ^ Birkey, Andy (2015-08-19). "St. Olaf alum becomes first transgender woman hired by White House - The Column". The Column. Retrieved 2017-08-04.
  8. ^ "Alumna's appointment to White House staff garners international attention — St. Olaf College". wp.stolaf.edu. Retrieved 2017-08-04.
  9. ^ a b "The Massachusetts Commission on LGBT Youth Commissioner Face Book Directory, 2014" (PDF). Mass.gov | The Official Website of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 2014.
  10. ^ a b "Activist for Life: Q&A with Raffi Freedman-Gurspan - Metro Weekly". www.metroweekly.com. Retrieved 2017-08-04.
  11. ^ McLean, Danielle. "Former Somerville city worker first transgender woman to serve at White House". Somerville Journal. Retrieved 2017-08-04.
  12. ^ a b News, A. B. C. (2011-11-16). "Mass. Passes Transgender Rights Bill". ABC News. Retrieved 2017-08-04.
  13. ^ "Deval Patrick, Massachusetts Governor, Signs Transgender Equal Rights Bill Into Effect". Huffington Post. 2012-01-20. Retrieved 2017-08-04.
  14. ^ "Carl Sciortino New Executive Director of AIDS Action - The Rainbow Times | Boston LGBT Newspaper Serving New England | Gay News : The Rainbow Times | Boston LGBT Newspaper Serving New England | Gay News". 2014-03-26. Archived from the original on 2014-10-25. Retrieved 2017-08-04.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  15. ^ a b "NCTE Policy Advisor Becomes First Openly Trans White House Official". National Center for Transgender Equality. 2015-08-17. Retrieved 2017-08-04.
  16. ^ https://www.facebook.com/aohlheiser. "Meet the White House's first transgender staffer". Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-08-04.
  17. ^ "This Latina Just Became the First Transgender White House LGBT Liaison". 2016-03-14. Retrieved 2017-08-04.
  18. ^ "The White House LGBT Liaison Is Worried Trump Will Scrap The Position". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 2017-08-04.
  19. ^ "President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts". whitehouse.gov. 2017-01-16. Retrieved 2017-08-04.
  20. ^ "Raffi Freedman-Gurspan Rejoins NCTE from White House". National Center for Transgender Equality. 2017-04-03. Retrieved 2017-08-04.