I’m truly honored to have received this appointment and am eager and excited about this opportunity that is before me. And at the same time, as one of the first transgender presidential appointees to the federal government, it demonstrates a commitment to hire the best qualified for a position and thus this appointment is symbolic of future opportunities for many others.
Brian Bond, speaking as the White House Office of Public Engagement (aka the LGBT liaison), recently answered a question regarding visibility and role models of trans-identified people in the Obama Administration, and whether a trans-identified person would be appointed to Obama Administration in the first round of appointments. His answer to the questions:
You will definitely see that in the first round…[The] appointments are an ongoing process, as you know, but I can stand here with both feet on the ground and tell you that it will be LGBT in the Obama Administration.
So, perhaps it should be no real bit of news that back in late November, Amanda Simpson facebooked this bit of news:
Amanda Simpson: I have accepted an appointment by the Obama Administration to take the position of Senior Technical Advisor to the Bureau of Industry and Security. I will be working directly with the Under Secretary of Commerce and though the BIS dealing with the intersection of international trade and national security.
Ms. Simpson begins her new job in the Obama Administration this coming Tuesday. She’s going to be a presidential appointee at the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security; her job will encompass the managing exports of dual use technology, as well as press and media liaison work for the agency.
Politically, she’s been publicly involved as a Democrat for awhile. As an example, she ran as a Democrat for the Arizona House of Representatives back in 2004.
Amanda Simpson was the first transgender candidate I’d ever communicated with personally. We ended up emailing each other after I donated $35 to that 2004 campaign. Hey, as a then poor trans woman, $35 was a whole lot of money for me at the time — as I recall, it was the first political campaign I’d ever contributed to. I donated to her campaign not only because I liked her politics, but her candidacy and her life story were inspiring to me. And, for the record, she graciously treated me with respect and kindness in her emails when I was completely unknown with in the trans community, and definitely was an unknown person in the broader lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.
Ms. Simpson is highly qualified for this position at the Bureau of Industry and Security. Just from the technical side of things, she actually is a rocket scientist; she was a Deputy Director in the advanced programs organization at Raytheon Missile Systems. She also is an accomplished pilot — holding a Certified Flight Instructor’s License — as well as having worked as a test pilot for nearly 20 years.
Ms. Simpson wasn’t appointed to the Obama Administration because she’s transgender — the Obama Administration isn’t, for example, appointing horse stable managers to head departments like FEMA because they check the right political or demographic boxes. The Obama Administration has been looking for qualified people with the skill sets and character required to fill specific positions. Ms. Simpson was appointed because she has the right skill set for the job; she has the right character for the job; she’s actually the right person for the job. Her being transgender is a nice, checked box for those of us who track identity politics and diversity issues, but her appointment speaks more to how Ms. Simpson wasn’t disqualified from the position for which she is so highly qualified, simply for identifying as transgender.
I believe we can safely say Amanda Simpson’s appointment would not have been possible under the Bush Administration.
So, Amanda Simpson’s appointment says something wonderful about just how far trans-identified people have come in the past decade. Ms. Simpson is highest level appointee to a presidential administration in our country’s history; her appointment is actually historic.
As the mother of a young ten year old trans girl and the President of TransYouth Family Allies, Inc. (TYFA), Amanda’s appointment makes for a wonderful New Year’s gift. Parents encourage their daughters to be their best and strive to reach new heights, always mindful of the bias that some women receive in the work place. Parents of trans girls fear that the bias will be twofold for their daughters. Amanda has shattered that fear with her bravery and willingness to be in the public eye. Today begins a new era for trans women. I publicly applaud Amanda for her achievements, successes and her courage to be who she is. She has set a wonderful example for my daughter and for thousands of girls just like her.
~Shannon Garcia, President of TransYouth Family Allies, Inc.
I like the idea that Amanda Simpson, a trans-identified woman with an incredible resume, is becoming an inspirational figure for trans youth. Amanda Simpson’s appointment speaks to a new reality: The next generations of trans people can dream much bigger dreams than trans people in generations past.