Two—yes, two—lesbian moms of color have been named to Joe Biden’s all-women White House communications team.

Karine Jean-Pierre at BookExpo at the Javits Center in New York City, May 2019. Photo: Rhododendrites. Used under a (CC BY-SA 4.0) license. Pili Tobar speaking at U.S. State Department, July 2016. Image: State Department/public domain.

Karine Jean-Pierre, a veteran political organizer, commentator, and author, who served as senior advisor to President-Elect Joe Biden and chief of staff to Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris during the campaign, will become principal deputy press secretary. She served as regional political director for the White House Office of Political Affairs in the Obama administration and as deputy battleground sates director for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, was more recently chief public affairs officer for MoveOn and an NBC and MSNBC political analyst. She is also on the faculty of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

In an interview with Hollywood Life at the end of July, she spoke about her reasons for being part of the Biden campaign, saying, “I felt like this is my job as a mom to step in. I thought about my six year-old and I thought about what kind of planet or world or country are we going to be leaving to her and her peers,” adding, “I’m a Black woman, I’m a gay woman and I’m an immigrant. And Donald Trump, he is someone who hates everything I am.”

Jean-Pierre was born in Martinique to Haitian parents but raised in New York City. In her 2019 book, Moving Forward: A Story of Hope, Hard Work, and the Promise of America, she writes about her unconventional path to political involvement and how and why others, no matter their backgrounds, need to step up and participate today.

Pili Tobar, who served as the communications director for coalitions on the Biden-Harris campaign, will become deputy White House communications director. She previously served as the deputy director for America’s Voice, where she advocated on behalf of immigrants. She has also served as the Hispanic media director for Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and held a number of other senior communications positions. Originally from Florida and raised in Guatemala, Tobar is a graduate of the University of Miami. She lives in Washington D.C. with her wife and daughter.

They are not the first LGBTQ people to have White House communications roles. Judd Deere is currently White House deputy press secretary, and Eric Schulz held the same position in the Obama administration, the Washington Blade reminds us. As queer women of color, however, and as queer parents, they break new ground. This is not to say that all queer parents should aspire to such lofty careers. Sometimes, we need to take the job that simply puts food on the table—or to forego outside employment in order to better care for our children. At the same time, I find it inspiring to see that increasingly, queer parents who want to ascend to positions of significant national power can do so.

Other members of the Biden-Harris communications team will be Kate Bedingfield, White House communications director; Jennifer Psaki, White House press secretary; Ashley Etienne, communications director for Vice President Harris; Symone Sanders, senior adviser and chief spokesperson for the vice president; and Elizabeth E. Alexander, communications director for First Lady Jill Biden.


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