BY Neal Broverman
January 11 2010 6:50 PM ET
Vilified by the right wing, granted a hero’s welcome by the LGBT establishment, and mocked and lauded in equal measure by the mainstream media, Amanda Simpson learned how hot the spotlight really is when she was unofficially identified as the first transgender presidential appointee. Trouble is, she’s not the first transgender staffer appointed by the executive branch — and we may never know who really is.
Weeks before that photo of an ebullient Simpson became ubiquitous and news of her appointment to the Department of Commerce as a senior technical adviser spread online, Dylan Orr (pictured) — a 30-year-old transgender man — quietly set up his desk at the Department of Labor after getting the nod from President Obama in late October. Working as the special assistant to assistant secretary Kathy Martinez in the Office of Disability Employment Policy, Orr started work on December 7 with a surprising amount of experience for someone so young — before moving to D.C., he worked at Disability Rights Washington, an advocacy organization in Seattle. Orr also put in time at a civil rights law firm and last year received his juris doctor from the University of Washington School of Law.
So why hasn’t the accomplished Orr been able to assume his place in history?
The National Center for Transgender Equality, of which Simpson was a board member for three years, initially circulated news of her appointment to the media. Mara Keisling, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, says there’s no conspiracy to promote Simpson at the expense of Orr.