The White House’s LGBT liaison and first openly transgender staffer shared her doubts that her position will continue under President-elect Donald Trump in a new interview.
Raffi Freedman-Gurspan was tapped by President Barack Obama to become the White House’s LGBT liaison in March 2016, making her the first-ever openly transgender person to fill the position. It was actually the 29-year-old public policy expert’s second, history-making appointment ― in August 2015, she was hired by Obama to serve as Outreach and Recruitment Director in the Presidential Personnel Office, making her the first openly trans White House staffer ever. (Watch a news report on her initial appointment above.)
Freedman-Gurspan turned out to be a pivotal figure early in her tenure, following the June 12, 2016 massacre at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub. In the days following the mass shooting, Freedman-Gurspan connected with victims’ families as well as Florida-based advocacy groups on the ground. Now, though, she told BuzzFeed, she’s concerned her role will essentially be eliminated once Trump is sworn into office Jan. 20, given that she’s had no contact with the president-elect’s transition team.
If that happens, the White House stands to “lose touch, ultimately, with what is going on out there. We lose that ability to inform our president about our community and our needs,” she told BuzzFeed’s Dominic Holden. “There is no one inside the hallways to advocate for the community, so we lose an internal advocate.”
Given that Trump’s victory cast a shadow on the future of queer rights, the LGBT liaison role could, in theory, be a critical one. If the position is scrapped, Freedman-Gurspan fears that the incoming president’s approach to LGBTQ issues would mirror that of the Reagan administration, whose lack of response to the HIV/AIDS crisis in the mid-1980s has since been deemed catastrophic.
“It actually gives me a little bit of chills thinking about not having a potential person here, if, God forbid, we have another outbreak of, say HIV or AIDS or something like that,” she said. “If we don’t have a particular individual here in this building who has an immense amount of influence and power and impact [within the LGBTQ community] — that’s a loss.”
Read the full BuzzFeed interview with Freedman-Gurspan here.