Obama makes first trans appointments

Dylan Orr, Amanda Simpson make history in newest positions

By Lisa Keen

Amanda Simpson starts work this week as one of the first presidentially appointed transgender persons to the executive branch of any administration. The honor as the first belongs to Dylan Orr, a 30-year-old law school graduate from Seattle.

The Obama administration appointed both Simpson and Orr in late November. Orr began work on Dec. 7 as special assistant to assistant secretary of labor Kathleen Martinez in the Office of Disability Employment Policy at the Department of Labor. Simpson, 49, began work on Dec. 29 as Senior Technical Advisor in the Bureau of Industry and Security. The Bureau's mission is to protect national security through the management of international trade, the enforcement of treaties, and the promotion of economic, cyber and homeland security.

Orr, a native of Seattle, graduated from the University of Washington School of Law in July and was admitted to the bar in November. During law school, his studies focused on disability rights, civil rights and employment and immigration issues. He served as president of the law school's GLBT student organization. He did his undergraduate work at Smith College in Massachusetts, and also worked for a time with the Department of Social Services in Salem, Massachusetts.

Simpson, 49 and a native of Chicago, recently worked as a chief engineer with the Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson and holds degrees in physics, engineering and business administration, according to National Center for Transgender Equality. She has worked in the aerospace-defense industry for 30 years, is a certified flight instructor and has 20 years experience as a test pilot.

The YWCA of Arizona honored Simpson in 2004 as one of 12 "Women on the Move." She has also served on the boards of the Southern Arizona ACLU, Equality Arizona (formerly Arizona Human Rights Fund) and the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance. She has also served on the Tucson Commission on LGBT Issues and on the national board of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Simpson, a Democrat, ran in 2005 for a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives, but was defeated by the incumbent Republican in the largely Republican state. She attended the 2008 Democratic National Convention as a delegate pledged to Hillary Clinton. She shares custody of her 13-year-old son with her former spouse.

"I'm truly honored to have received this appointment and am eager and excited about this opportunity that is before me," said Simpson, in a prepared statement released by Transgender Equality on Dec. 31. "And at the same time, as one of the first transgender presidential appointees to the federal government," she said, "I hope that I will soon be one of hundreds, and that this appointment opens future opportunities for many others."

Simpson said that she put her name in for an appointment through the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund's Presidential Appointments Project, though she can't be sure that the appointment came through that association.

According to LGBT blogger Autumn Sandeen at pamshouseblend.com, Simpson announced on her Facebook page in late November that she had accepted the appointment from the Obama administration.

"I like the idea that Amanda Simpson, a trans-identified woman with an incredible resume, is becoming an inspirational figure for trans youth," blogged Sandeen. "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."

In an interview in 2008 with a Tucson cable show, Political Perspectives, on Access Tucson, Simpson noted that she has worked with "a lot of people in the military."

"And my customers at the time of my transition were Air Force and Navy officers," she said. "And they were very accepting and supportive."

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