White House Rainbow

White House answers Tumblr’s LGBT questions on #SpiritDay

Valerie Jarrett has proven to be a strong LGBT ally in government.


Mary Emily O'Hara


Published Oct 15, 2015   Updated May 27, 2021, 7:24 pm CDT

She’s the White House advisor whose office spurred gender-neutral bathrooms and the rainbow lights that lit up the presidential palace this June. Now Valerie Jarrett is directly responding to questions from LGBT youth on Tumblr.

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As part of #SpiritDay, the anti-bullying initiative launched by GLAAD that has turned everyone’s social media avatars purple on Thursday, Jarrett announced a White House Tumblr Q&A, inviting users to post questions related to LGBT policy.

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Some strayed from the #SpiritDay focus, instead asking Jarrett what her favorite bagel is (“cinnamon raisin, lightly toasted”) or simply offering a greeting (“Valerie I hope your day is going well”).

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But most of the questions delved into the Obama administration’s plans for increasing federal protections for LGBT people—and making sure that future administrations don’t take them all away.

The Tumblr Q&A came on the same day that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) published a study titled “Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth.”

The SAMHSA study basically reiterated what the American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, and National Association of Social Workers have already been recommending since as far back as 2008: that being part of the LGBT spectrum is normal and healthy, that conversion therapy is harmful to youth, and that research has shown it doesn’t work anyway.

The report inspired some of the Tumblr asks, too—and had people wondering what exactly the administration’s position on conversion therapy is.

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It was clear that Jarrett cherry-picked questions that highlighted the Obama administration’s LGBT policy successes. One question we asked was whether the White House had apologized, or planned to apologize, to activist Jennicet Gutiérrez, who was famously booed and ushered out of a Pride Week reception after challenging Obama on undocumented LGBT immigrant policy. That question remained unanswered, and was not posted to the Tumblr. But when we asked Jarrett what inspired her to become such a strong LGBT ally at the White House, she posted that question with a response.

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Jarrett also used the Q&A platform to nod to foster-care kids, who she said are often subjected to conversion therapy. She also assured Tumblr users that future administrations will not be able to strip away same-sex marriage rights (because they were won through a Supreme Court decision) or important acts passed by Congress during Obama’s terms, including the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, the Affordable Care Act, and the repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

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And in perhaps the most fluent attempt at getting down with the kids, the White House Tumblr even featured a GIF—in response to a question about Jarrett’s favorite breakfast food.

Photo via White House Press Office/Wikimedia

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*First Published: Oct 15, 2015, 5:42 pm CDT