Gay pride inside the White House: Obama hires first openly transgender staff member

(Facebook/Raffi Freedman-Gurspan)Raffi Freedman-Gurspan is the new outreach and recruitment director of the White House Office of Presidential Personnel

In a clear show of support to the LGBT community, the White House has hired its first openly transgender staff member.

Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, a transgender woman, has been hired as the outreach and recruitment director of the White House Office of Presidential Personnel.

Before this, Freedman-Gurspan served as policy advisor on Racial and Economic Justice Initiative of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE).

President Obama made LGBT rights a main focus of his administration including assisting to end the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that prohibited openly gay service men and women from serving in the military, according to Reuters.

The US Department of Defense is currently reviewing a policy that bars transgender men and women from serving in the military, a move that was welcomed by the White House.

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

In a statement, NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling said, "President Obama has long said he wants his Administration to look like the American people. I have understood this to include transgender Americans. A transgender person was inevitably going to work in the White House."

She added, "That the first transgender appointee is a transgender woman of colour is itself significant."

Keisling said at NCTE, Freedman-Gurspan's work included advocacy on issues such as improving the conditions for transgender prisoners, addressing biased policing against transgender communities, limiting the use of detention for undocumented transgender immigrants, and finding solutions to address violence against transgender women of colour.

Carl Sciortino Jr., executive director of the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts described her as a "role model."

"As the first out transgender woman working at the Massachusetts State House, she showed leadership and courage, and among her many contributions, was instrumental in helping pass the Transgender Equal Rights Law," he said.

Transgender killings condemned

Meanwhile, the LGBT community in the US has condemned the killings of transgender individuals that have risen to 17 this year.

Recently, three more transgender women were killed: Tamara Dominguez, who was killed Saturday; Kandis Capri last Aug. 11; and Elisha Walker, whose body was discovered last Thursday, according to Buzzfeed.

Fifteen of the 17 victims were transgender people of colour.

The report said violence against transgender people rose 13 percent in 2014, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP).

It noted that there was a 32 overall drop in hate-motivated violence against all LGBT people that is attributed to the decline in reporting to the NCAVP partners in New York and Los Angeles.

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