BY: MELISSA MYERS
Raffi Freedman-Gurspan is the first openly transgender person to join the White House staff, and a transgender women of colour at that.
This announcement comes less than two months after same-sex marriage was declared a right in the United States on June 26 – an act that inherently improved the rights of the LGBT community as a whole. It has worked to advance the status of trans issues at the same time that the celebrity spotlight is heating up surrounding the likes of Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox.
But Freedman-Gurspan’s political career has been in the making for the better half of a decade. She leaves her previous position as policy advisor for the racial and economic justice initiative at the National Center for Transgender Equality to take her post as outreach and recruitment director for presidential personnel in the Office of Personnel, according to an NBC report.
In her position at the NCTE, her team worked with four main goals in mind. To end discrimination in the workplace, to increase access to health care, to ensure access to updated identity documents, and to end mistreatment in correctional institutions. It can only be assumed that she will bring similar values and pursue similar goals while at work inside the same walls as the President.
In a previous post, she also worked under State Rep. Carl M. Sciortino, Jr. as Legislative Director in Massachusetts. “Her hiring is a symbol of progress for the transgender community, but without a doubt I know it will be her skill and hard work that will benefit many,” Sciortino said in a statement to ABC News.
Politically, the U.S. has been progressing the status of the LGBT community at an accelerated pace this past year and is even considering implementing further equality clauses into the regulation of their military personnel.
“We have transgender soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines – real, patriotic Americans – who I know are being hurt by an out-dated, confusing, inconsistent approach that’s contrary to our value of service and individual merit,” said defense secretary Ash Carter in a CNN report published last month.
This type of expedient progression is long overdue, but it’s surprising that the U.S. is leading the way. North of the border, Canada has long been known to represent a more tolerant and accommodating society.
Jennifer McCreath is the first openly transgender person to run for a federal seat and is currently campaigning in the Avalon, a riding located in Newfoundland and Labrador. She is running as part of Strength in Democracy, an independent party seeded in 2014.
But this isn’t the first time McCreath has been in the public eye. After going public with her transition and losing her government job in 2009, she eventually found herself entering politics when she ran for deputy mayor in St. John’s. Reportedly, she is the first to receive candidacy in a federal election after a trans woman nominated to represent the NDP was dropped from the party’s election campaign in 2007.
Although Canada seems to be dragging behind in the realm of recognized transgender political staff, the presence of these two notable women suggests a cultural shift towards acceptance within North American society. Even the tiniest drop can create a wave upstream.