Guest Author - Claudia Cuellar
Amanda Simpson has made headlines as the first presidentially appointed transgender woman to become part of the executive branch of any administration in the United States. She was appointed as the Senior Technical Advisor for the Department of Commerce by President Obama. Her nomination came rightly so; due to her impressive extensive list of credentials and experience.
She is a 49 year old Chicago native who holds degrees in engineering, physics and business administration. She worked for 30 years as a certified flight instructor, 20 years as a test pilot and held two high positions: one as Chief Engineer at Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson and another at Aeroscope Defense Industry.
Along with her job experience and current executive position she also holds the title as the first transgender person to win a primary election as a Democratic nominee running for a seat in the U.S. house of Representatives. She has won numerous awards including one of twelve 2004 YWCA of Arizona “Women on The Move”. She has also served on the board of South Arizona ACLU, Southern Arizona Gender Alliance and Equality Arizona.
Shortly after her appointment she was called out as a “token” believed to win the hearts of the LGBT community and many religious right groups became enraged. Some extremists even went as far as Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth, in accusing the Obama Administration as “pandering to the gay lobby”. Though, few in the right agree that she has the proper experience needed for the job even though she is transgender, others simply cannot look past her exterior.
Whether loved or hated, Amanda Simpson has become one of the most important transgender women of our times. Since becoming appointed as the Senior Technical Advisor, she has immediately made the possibility of other transgender people becoming appointed in to sought after high profile jobs not only realistic but more likely.
The basis of Amanda Simpson’s appointment may be more sensational since it involves an executive position but the view and doubt of a person’s abilities solely on their gender identity by people and organizations is not new. This distinct type of discrimination is a repeated experience for many transgender women and men who are looking for employment, recognition or simple acceptance from their community.
Amanda Simpson is a role model for many within the LGBT community and more leaders like her are needed within our government and community. The more LGBT people and allies we have within executive and high profile jobs, the quicker we come to experiencing justice and equality for all who identify within the LGBT community.