Join us for the LGBT Congressional Staff Association’s May Speaker Series event featuring our special guests: Diego Sanchez & Ben Panico, the first openly transgender staffer & only current openly transgender staffer, respectively.
This members-only discussion will be a great opportunity to have a personal conversation regarding Diego and Ben’s experiences as openly trans staffers, including ways LGB staffers can make Capitol Hill a more inclusive workplace for our transgender brothers and sisters. Lunch will be provided and space is limited, so RSVP today!
Ben Panico works for the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus as the David Bohnett Victory Congressional Fellow. He supports the work of the Equality Caucus by tracking legislation, drafting memos and letters, and developing the Caucus' website and social media platforms. He recently received media attention for being the only openly transgender staffer on Capitol Hill.
Panico graduated in 2014 from Johns Hopkins University (JHU) with a Bachelor’s in English and a minor in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. At JHU, he served as the Director of Operations for the Diverse Sexuality and Gender Alliance, successfully lobbied university administrators for gender-inclusive housing, and spearheaded the development of a Safe Zone training program. He also interned with Equality Maryland where he worked on the state's successful campaigns for marriage equality and gender-identity non-discrimination protections in employment, housing and public accommodations.
A Connecticut native, Panico enjoys playing the guitar, painting, and rock climbing.
Diego Miguel Sanchez is a native of Augusta, GA and a 24-year Massachusetts resident. Since February of 2013, Diego has been the Director of Policy at PFLAG National, the nation’s largest organization of parents, families, friends, and allies, united with LGBTQ people to move equality forward, with more than 350 chapters and 200,000 members and supporters across all 50 states in urban, suburban, and rural communities.
Diego was Senior Policy Advisor to Congressman Barney Frank (MA-4) from Jan. 2009 - Jan. 2013, as the first openly transgender person as a senior legislative staffer on Capitol Hill. There, he drove LGBT civil rights -- including leading on successful passage of The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009 and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in 2013. His portfolio also included healthcare -- leading on the successfully passed Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) plus social security, labor, veterans, disability and other key issues, where he was the lead staffer of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, Director of Policy for the LGBT Congressional Staff Association and the Congressional Latino Staff Association. Diego was also the President and COO of Federal Equality Council (FedQ), the organization for all LGBT federal employees. He is also the first openly transgender person appointed to a DNC standing committee, appointed to the Platform Committee in 2008 by then-DNC Chair Gov. Howard Dean, with the task of successfully adding as policy priorities transgender people in employment anti-discrimination, HIV/AIDS as a national priority and same-sex couples in the definition of families. Earlier that year, Diego testified in the historic first Congressional hearing on transgender workplace discrimination. Recently, the video of him delivering that testimony was featured in ABC’s 20/20 interview by Diane Sawyer of Bruce Jenner.
Before Capitol Hill, Diego spent five years as Director of Public Relations and External Affairs at The AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts in Boston and AIDS Action Council (now AIDS United) in DC, where he was an original author and framer of the National AIDS Strategy, now a federal policy priority, also serving on the Massachusetts HIV/AIDS Prevention and Planning Group (MPPG), mandated in each state that receives CDC funding. At JRI Health in Boston, he was Director of TransHealth -- the nation’s only government-funded transgender health education program -- and Director of The GLBT Health Access Project for four years. Prior to working in non-profit, he was an award-winning global marketing, diversity management and public relations executive at world headquarters of Fortune 500 companies, including The Coca-Cola Company, ITT Corporation/ITT Sheraton, Holiday Inn Worldwide, with his last corporate position as Vice President of Communications and Diversity at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide through 1999.
He was among the 100 Most Powerful Latino/as in Corporate America by Hispanic Business Magazine and so-named twice in Massachusetts in Poderometro by El Planeta. In May 2015, Diego was named an awardee of the Vicki Sexual Freedom Award, to be presented in August. Also in 2015, he was granted the Lifetime Achievement Award from Massachusetts’ LGBTQ Youth Promise Place School alongside Rep. Joe P. Kennedy III’s Legislative Achievement Award. In 2014, he was profiled in the landmark book “TransBodies, TransSelves.” In 2013, Diego was named in the Out 100 and the inaugural Trans 100 and was voted Congressional Staffer of the Year in 2012 by Q Street LGBT lobbying consortium. He was named an LGBT Latino Hero in 2009 and a Capital Champion in 2010, both in Washington, DC. Diego is Accredited by The Public Relations Society of America, a Senior Fellow of U/Mass Boston’s Emerging Leaders Program in the Center for Collaborative Management and holds a Bachelors of Arts in Journalism from the University of Georgia, where he is the first male letterman (G-Club Member) to earn it on the women’s tennis team, and where he was a Rhodes Scholar candidate and Mortar Board member. Diego today serves on the Board of Trust for UGA’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication since 2013. He is a nationally recognized speaker, writer and media interviewee on LGBTQ civil rights, healthcare access, HIV/AIDS, public relations, marketing and diversity.
Raffi Freedman-Gurspan is Policy Advisor for the Racial and Economic Justice Initiative at the National Center for Transgender Equality, a social justice organization devoted to ending discrimination and violence against transgender people. Raffi focuses on social policy matters for trans people of color and those in poverty. She works on issues that include criminal justice and incarceration reform, immigration, housing and homeless shelters, and sustainable economic development opportunities for transgender people.
Raffi previously worked in the Massachusetts House of Representatives for three years as a Legislative Director. She has also worked as an LGBT Liaison for the City of Somerville, Massachusetts, and for the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition on legislative and policy affairs. Raffi is adopted from Honduras and grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts, and she is a graduate of St. Olaf College in Minnesota.