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Raffi Freedman-Gurspan: A Hispanic Voice in the LGBTQ Community

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at American chapter.

As we celebrated Hispanic Heritage month, Raffi Freedfman-Gurspan’s remarkable journey showcases the Power and resilience of the LGBTQ+ Latinx community. Freedman-Gurspan, a trans-Latina and Jewish woman, has made remarkable strides for the LGBTQ+ community as the White House’s first openly transgender staffer.

Since her transition, Freedman-Gurspan’s activism and work have been barrier-breaking for the LGBTQ community, specifically the trans community. After college, Freedman-Gurspan went to intern at the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) after realizing that the state of Massachusetts didn’t have any laws that protect trans people’s rights. While there, she lobbied to convince lawmakers to pass a nondiscrimination law protecting transgender residents.

She then became the first transgender woman to work in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, where she was instrumental in passing the state’s Transgender Equal Rights Law. She then became a policy adviser for the National Center for Transgender Equality’s (NCTE) racial and economic justice initiative.

One month after legalizing gay marriage in the U.S., former President Barrack Obama appointed Freedman-Gurspan to his White House staff. The appointment made her the first openly transgender White House staffer; the year after, she became the first transgender LGBTQ+ liaison for the White House. 

The LGBTQ+ liaison’s job is to work within the White House to build rapport and trust between the president’s staff and the community the liaison is a part of and ensure that LGBTQ+ people receive equitable and competent service in the executive branch.

Before Freedman-Gurspan’s appointment, the role of LGBTQ liaison was only held by either a straight white woman or a cisgender (non-trans) gay or lesbian official. 

Freedman-Gurspan’s job was crucial in furthering the mission for trans rights and inclusion as the first transgender official to hold the position. Through her activism in the community, she advocated for better mental health and conversations on suicide by working with LGBTQ+ foundations dedicated to the cause. She lobbied for legislation to protect LGBTQ+ rights. And opened the door for LGBTQ+ members of color to obtain higher offices in policy-making.

At the announcement of her anointment, her former boss, Executive Director Mara Keisling of the NCTE, said, “A transgender person was inevitably going to work in the White House. That the first transgender appointee is a transgender woman of color is itself significant. And that the first White House transgender appointee is of a friend is inspiring to me and to countless others who have been touched by Raffi’s advocacy.” 

Freedman-Gurspan represented the LGBTQ community in good times and bad times. She was there for the unveiling of the Stonewall National Monument and the White House’s response to the Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting. 

While at the White House, Freedman-Gurspan’s liaison position broke down barriers, allowing trans legislators like Sarah McBride, Danica Roem, and Andrea Jenkins to sit at the table and have a voice in future policymaking. 

Throughout her time at the White House, Freedman-Gurspan worked with the Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization focused on suicide prevention efforts among LGBTQ+ youth, to brief them on substance abuse and mental health issues and what can be done towards prevention.

After her work at the White House, Freedman-Gurspan became the Deputy Director for the All on The Line campaign of the National Redistricting Action Fund (NRAF). She’s also a board member of SMYAL, a service provider based in Washington that works with LGBTQ+ youth. 

 She worked hard with the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)  and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to make sure they heard from the community about their mental health needs and challenges and that LGBTQ+ youth were able to receive the mental health services they need for their mental health struggles around the country. 

In an interview with Girlboss, Freedman-Gurspan discussed her early life and how she learned she was a transgender woman. For Freedman-Gurspan and most likely others in the LGBTQ community, “something deep down inside isn’t necessarily clicking.” 

As a child, Freedman-Gurspan read a book by a trans woman about her transitioning experience, she started to recognize that she was different from the other boys she knew. She liked playing with Barbies and was primarily friends with girls. It was the 90s and early 00s, and the only trans person she knew was the parent of a kid at her Hebrew school, so to Freedman-Gurspan, being transgender was an adult thing.

It wasn’t until college that Freedman-Gurspan had her ‘aha’ moment. Living in the boy’s dorm and witnessing other LGBTQ+ people coming out, she realized she wasn’t who she was supposed to be. 

“[B]y college, I just knew I didn’t want to live a lie. I think I knew it was a significant risk but was willing to take it,” said Freedman-Gurspan. “But gender never came up before because from a sociological standpoint, as a society, we just started opening the door to saying okay we’re willing to listen to transgender people and understand them and build space.” 

After coming out, Freedman-Gurspan decided to keep her name, Raffi, as she believed the name would always belong to her, even if she was different now.

Freedman-Gurspan now assists in teaching gender studies courses and research work at Boston University to spread the importance of trans inclusion.

Sydney Kamin

American '25

Sydney is a junior at American University majoring in literature and minoring in communication. She enjoys reading books as well as watching tv shows and movies while eating any dessert food. Sydney is currently a writer for HCAU and is living in DC.