As President Obama prepares to leave office, he’s still taking steps to ensure his legacy of inclusion lives on: This week, the president appointed Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, the White House’s first openly trans staff member to the Holocaust Memorial Council.
Brought in to serve in the Presidential Personnel Office, Freedman-Gurspan, 28, recently ended her tenure as the White House liaison to the LGBT community. She worries, though, that President-elect Trump may do away with the position altogether.
“If we don’t have a particular individual here in this building who has an immense amount of influence and power and impact—that’s a loss,” she told Buzzfeed. “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.”
President Obama also appointed Shawn Skelly, a Navy veteran who most recently served at the Department of Transportation, to the newly formed National Commission on Military, National and Public Service, which will examine how to promote military service and other forms of national and public service.
Skelly served for more than 20 years in the Navy and retired at the rank of Commander in 2008.
“We are grateful that President Obama has chosen these two stellar government officials to continue their work,” said Mara Keisling of The National Center for Transgender Equality.
“This shows yet again that the President is committed to ensuring that our government truly reflects the people it is representing.”
As president, Obama was the first to appoint openly transgender Americans to his administration—including Amanda Simpson, first appointed to the Department of Commerce and then the Department of Defense, Jay Davis of the EPA, and Shannon Price Minter, a trans man and legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, who was appointed to the Commission on White House Fellowships in 2015.
Dylan Orr became the president’s first openly trans appointee in 2009, when he was named special assistant in the Labor Department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.