“Being the first sucks,” says Amanda Simpson, America’s first openly transgender presidential appointee. This is true! Because now, whenever we talk about transgender men and women in history, her name will be at the top. But we’re not “in history” yet; we’re in the present. And it’s there, too, that Simpson doesn’t want to feel like the token T of the Obama administration. Which is too bad, because that’s exactly what she is.
Just like Annise Parker becoming mayor of America’s fourth largest city, Simpson too gets lumped into the trailblazers, voluntarily or not. “I’d rather not be the first but someone has to be first, or among the first,” she tells ABC News. “I think I’m experienced and very well qualified to deal with anything that might show up because I’ve broken barriers at lots of other places and I always win people over with who I am and what I can do.” And she’s right: Working in missile systems for 30 years, it would seem she’s quite qualified to help out at the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security, where she’ll oversee the export of weapons technology, like when we send new rockets to Israel and deliver arms with Iran’s opposition leaders, hoping they don’t fall into the wrong hands.
But being labeled a “token” — as in, Obama picked her more to appease LGBT activists than because she’s qualified — is the least of Simpson’s concerns. (Nor is being the butt of David Letterman’s jokes.)
Her real worry should be with groups like MassResistance and Fox News, which have spearheaded efforts to slime other LGBT Obama appointees, including Kevin Jennings. These radical right-wing mouthpieces don’t care about the substance of your work nor your job qualifications, but about what makes you different. And we fully expect an assault on Simpson’s character, disguised as her “work ethic” or “prior missteps.”
Possible scenarios: Accusing her of “deceiving” Americans about her gender; pulling out the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell argument and calling a transgender person’s involvement in America’s arms a threat to our safety; or, as the divorced mother with a 15-year-old son, proof that she’s a bad parent and bad for American families.
Fortunately, the last thing Sean Hannity will be able to call Simpson is “weak on national security.” This is a woman who, after all, spent 30 years with a company — Raytheon Missile Systems — with a business model called “blowing shit up.”
ON THE NEXT PAGE: Amanda Simpson speaks, with transgender man C. Michael Woodward, to Political Perspectives host Cynthia Dickstein in 2008 about the challenges of being a transgender American.