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

This June Keshet is so very excited to be partnering with the Jewish Women’s Archive to celebrate Pride. Each week we will bring you a profile of a different individual who has helped break down barriers and fight for her community as an LGBTQ (or ally) Jewish woman. To discover even more amazing, groundbreaking, Jewish women visit JWA.

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.

In 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.”

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