What does it mean to be a woman or a man? In a culture where patriarchy clearly values one gender identity over another, these are not simply personal questions but political and social ones even if you wish they were. When faced with the challenge of being your true self in a world where such identities are barely acknowledged, some people give up but Raffi Freedman-Gurspan reached out.
Raffi Freedman-Gurspan was born on May 3, 1987, to indigenous parents in Honduras who were unable to support a child so she was placed for adaptation. Her adopted parents raised her in Brookline Massachusetts, where she became Jewish though she also identifies as Latina, an Indigenous Central American, and American. From her adopted parents she learned not only about Judaism but also about the important of helping others, a focus of her adopted family for at least three.
Freedman-Gurspan has done much to champion the rights of minorities during her life. She was the first out transgendered woman to work at the Massachusetts State House from 2009-2011. While there she was credited with helping to pass equal rights legislation.
Her first position at the National Center of Transgender Equality was as their Policy Advisor for Racial and Economic Justice Initiative from 2014-2015. This position may have led her to the attention of the Federal government because Valerie Jarret, a senior adviser to President Obama, said of Freedman-Gurspan: "Her commitment to bettering the lives of transgender Americans -- particularly transgender people of color and those in poverty -- reflects the values of this administration."
Freedman-Gurspan became the first openly transgender staffer at the White House in 2015 when she went to work with the Obama administration. Furthermore, Freedman-Gurspan being a woman of color was a milestone. You may not have heard of her however because while she served in two positions they did not routinely put her in front of millions via the news outlets. First she served as the Outreach and Recruitment Director in the Presidential Personal Office from 2015-2016. After only three months she became a Senior Associate Director for Public Engagement where she was primary liaison to the LGBTQ+ community from 2016-2017.
After the change of administrations in 2017, Freedman-Gurspan returned to the NCTE where she became the Director of External Relations. She is also currently serving a 5-year term on the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.
Barely into her 30s, Freedman-Gurspan has been recognized with several awards for her work toward equality for all. She was awarded the “Excellency in Advocacy Award” from the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston in 2016. The following year, in 2017, she was honored by a couple of organizations. GLAD GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders for her work at the Massachusetts State house. The Trevor Project honored Freedman-Gurspan during their annual fundraiser for her work with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration as well as at the U.S. Health and Human Services