First Transgender Presidential Appointee Fears Being Labeled 'Token'

Some see political rationale for appointment of Amanda Simpson to Commerce Dept.

ByABC News
January 4, 2010, 7:01 PM

Jan. 5, 2010— -- For Amanda Simpson, believed to be America's first openly transgender presidential appointee, the job she starts Tuesday in the U.S. Commerce Department is an honor and the culmination of a career dedicated to understanding military technology.

But what gnaws at her, she says, is the fear of being labeled a token who was hired because of her sexual identity rather than on her merits.

"Being the first sucks," she told ABC "I'd rather not be the first but someone has to be first, or among the first. 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."

Simpson has been named senior technical adviser in the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security, a job in which she will monitor the exports of U.S. weapons technology.

She has 30 years in the industry but can't escape the feeling that some will see her appointment as a political maneuver.

"[There will be] questions like: Is this a token? Are you here to do a job or just to fill a quota or appease other people? In that regard it makes it a bit more difficult," she said. "I'm sure I will have to do and intend to do a far superior job than any other person. But I'm sure I will always be second guessed."

President Obama has walked a fine line when dealing with members of the gay and transgender community. He was widely supported by gay voters in 2008, but has since come under criticism from many of those same proponents for not acting fast or hard enough to expand their rights, in their view. Obama opposes gay marriage and has made only vague commitments to ending the military's ban on openly gay service members, aka "don't ask, don't tell."