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Amanda Simpson: The First Transgender Individual to Hold An Executive Position

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This story comes to us from Keshet, which works for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Jews in Jewish life. This post originally appeared on Keshet’s blog on MyJewishLearning.

This June Keshet is so very excited to be partnering with the Jewish Women’s Archive to celebrate Pride. Each week Keshet will publish a profile of a different individual who has helped break down barriers and fight for her community as an LGBTQ (or ally) Jewish woman. 

In what feels like eons before “Moppa” (the nickname given to Jeffrey Tambor’s transgender character on the Golden-Globe winning show Transparent), before Janet Mock and Laverne Cox helped to bring #GirlsLikeUs and transgender issues into the mainstream media, and before 17 million people huddled around their televisions as Bruce Jenner came out as transgender on a national platform, Barack Obama appointed Amanda Simpson, a transgender Jewish woman, to hold an executive branch position.

AmandaSimpsonIn 2010, Simpson became the first openly transgender woman appointed by any administration.

She held the position of Senior Technical Adviser in the Bureau of Industry and Security at the U.S. Department of Commerce until she moved to the Pentagon in 2013.

Simpson now works as the Executive Director of the U.S. Army Office of Energy Initiatives (OEI) where her work centers on renewable energy projects. Simpson is helping to pave new inroads to the army for transgender individuals.

Simpson, who is an experienced flight instructor and test pilot with degrees in physics, engineering, and business administration, spent 30 years in the aerospace and defense industry. While working at Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ, she made a six-year transition from male to female and successfully lobbied to add gender identity and expression to the company’s corporate employment policy.

Simpson has long been an advocate for LGBT issues, serving on the boards of various equal rights organizations, including the National Center for Transgender Equality.

When asked if she had any advice for her younger self she shared, “Mostly, just believe in yourself. If I’m talking to a twentysomething or even someone in their teens, I’d say it looks immensely difficult to break out of the path that society, your parents, your teachers, your mentors have defined for you. But, try… Try to do something different.”

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is proud to empower emerging leaders to explore their values, identity and new ways to strengthen their communities. We believe that as we work together to repair the world, it is important to share our diverse experiences and perspectives along the way. We encourage the expression of personal thoughts and reflections here on the Schusterman blog. Each post reflects solely the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation, its partner organizations or all program participants.