Mara Keisling, Executive Director

Mara Keisling

Mara Keisling

Mara Keisling is the founding Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. Mara is a transgender-identified woman and a parent. As one of the nation’s leading voices for transgender equality, Mara has appeared on news outlets and is regularly quoted in hundreds of national and local print and broadcast media.

Since NCTE was founded in 2003, the organization was part of coalition efforts that have won significant advances in transgender equality.

Mara is a graduate of Penn State University and did her graduate work at Harvard University in American Government. Mara has almost twenty-five years of professional experience in social marketing and opinion research.

Lisa Mottet, Deputy Executive Director

Lisa Mottet

Lisa Mottet

As Deputy Executive Director, Lisa is responsible for stewarding the organizations advocacy, fundraising, and communications work. In addition, Lisa directs NCTE's local and state advocacy work.

Lisa was the first attorney working full-time on transgender rights at the national level when she started the Transgender Civil Rights Project at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (the Task Force) in 2001. Over the many years that she directed that program, she helped expand the number of people living in jurisdictions with transgender-inclusive legal protections from 5% to 45%. She is also known for her work on homeless shelter access, with the publishing of the guide “Transitioning Our Shelters: A Guide to Making Homeless Shelters Safe for Transgender People,” with the National Coalition for the Homeless. Lisa is also one of the co-authors of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, the largest study of transgender people ever conducted, which was a joint project of the Task Force and NCTE.

Lisa has also been a force in federal legislation and federal administrative policy advocacy, having led the successful behind-the-scenes strategy to add gender identity to the federal hate crimes bill before it passed and being a lead architect behind a transgender-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Lisa is a graduate of the University of Washington and Georgetown University Law Center. Before law school, Mottet was a board member of Equality Washington. Her writing and advocacy has earned her top recognitions from the National LGBT Bar Association and from numerous state and local transgender advocacy groups, such as Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition and Transgender Health Empowerment of Washington, DC.

Lisa recently published an informative and practical law review article advocating for the elimination of surgical and other burdensome and outdated requirements for the updating of gender markers on birth certificates: “Modernizing State Vital Statistics Statutes and Policies to Ensure Accurate Gender Markers on Birth Certificates: A Good Government Approach to Recognizing the Lives of Transgender People,” published by the Michigan Journal of Gender and Law.


Harper Jean Tobin, Esq., Director of Policy

Harper Jean Tobin, credit Tim Coburn

Harper Jean Tobin

As Director of Policy, Harper Jean coordinates all aspects of advocacy on federal administrative policies and regulations for NCTE. When she is not engaging with federal agencies and the current administration, she works to provide information for the public about laws and policies that affect transgender people. She also serves on the board of HIPS, a Washington D.C. organization that promotes the health, rights, and dignity of those impacted by sex work, sex trade and/or drug use due to choice, circumstance, or coercion.

Harper Jean previously worked at the National Senior Citizens Law Center’s Federal Rights Project, where she maintained a large attorney listserv, provided training and technical assistance to public interest lawyers, and wrote about court access issues for legal, policy and general audiences.

Harper Jean's writing on transgender equality and other issues has appeared in numerous academic and general publications. A Kentucky native, she received degrees in law and social work from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and is an alumna of Oberlin College.

Vincent Paolo Villano, Director of Communications

Vincent Paolo Villano

Vincent Paolo Villano

Vincent is NCTE’s Director of Communications, responsible for the organization's communications strategy and brand management. Vincent joins NCTE from the Center for American Progress where through the youth organizing arm, Campus Progress, he executed over 150 political, cultural and advocacy events that advance progressive policies in higher education, climate change, immigration and LGBT equality. While at Campus Progress, Vincent spoke across the country, training hundreds of students on campus organizing, lobbying and communications. Prior to his work at Campus Progress, Vincent cut his teeth in public relations working with recognized media expert, Cathy Renna.

Vincent is a Ronald E. McNair Scholar and 2008 graduate of the American University School of Public Affairs, where he received a high honor for his research on LGBT youth and intergroup relations. Committed to LGBT young people, Vincent served on the board of the Youth Pride Alliance where he launched a scholarship fund for Metro DC LGBT youth. Vincent is a 2009 New Leaders Fellow at the Center for Progressive Leadership, and a 21st Century Fellow with the Pipeline Project.

Theo George, Online Communications Manager

Vincent Paolo Villano

Theo George

As the Online Communications Manager, Theo is responsible for maintaining NCTE’s digital properties and growing the organization’s online audience. Theo came to NCTE by way of Pittsburgh, PA where he worked as a community-based activist, arts manager and musician. He is most passionate about promoting and preserving the cultural legacy of queer people of color. He received a Master of Arts Management degree from Carnegie Mellon University, and a B.A. in Africana Studies from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

As a Ronald E. McNair and Leuketmeyer Family Scholar, Theo has completed a wide range of academic research projects. His research has primarily focused on how underserved and marginalized urban communities have utilized cultural tools of resistance to respond to systemic discrimination. He has presented his research at conferences at the University of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania State University, and the University of Maryland. When not pondering the social injustices of the world, Theo can be found obsessing about the design of his future jazz club and picking out tracks for a DJ set.


Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, Racial and Economic Justice Initiative Policy Advisor

Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, Racial and Economic Justice Initiative Policy Advisor

Raffi Freedman-Gurspan

As Policy Advisor for the Racial and Economic Justice Initiative (REJI) at NCTE, Raffi Freedman-Gurspan focuses on expanding and enhancing the organization’s existing work for transgender people of color and those with low- or no-income. The REJI is a new project that broadens NCTE’s work for racial and economic justice.

Raffi previously worked in the Massachusetts House of Representatives as Legislative Director for former state representative Carl Sciortino. In addition, her professional experience has included working for the City of Somerville, Massachusetts as the city's LGBT Liaison; for the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition as the Legislative and Policy staffer; and for Boston University's Women's, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program as a Course and Research Assistant. A graduate of St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, Raffi was adopted from Intibuca, Honduras and grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts.



Alexandra Scott, Director of Development

Alexandra Scott, Director of Development

Alexandra Scott

Alexandra Scott, Director of Development, comes to NCTE after a career as an independent school head, Academic Dean, teacher and coach. As a school leader she ran a number of successful fund raising initiatives that included individual, foundation and corporate giving. Before her work as an educational leader, she taught English and world religions, coached tennis and basketball and ran numerous community service programs. For example, she conceived, fund raised and started the Free Summer Tennis Day Camp program on playgrounds in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods in Washington, DC. In addition, Alex consults with schools on transgender issues and writes for magazines and online blogs. Alex did her undergraduate work at Hiram College and earned two Masters degrees from Duke University.


Emily Rainone, Operations Manager

Emily Rainone, Operations Assistant

Emily Rainone

As Operations Manager, Emily Rainone is responsible for ensuring day to day operations of NCTE are carried out and that staff have what they need to continue working for transgender rights and equality. She has a Bachelors in Political Science from Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, WV. In her previous positions with the City of Gaithersburg, Maryland, Emily worked to help mediate landlord tenant disputes and was a founding member of the Gaithersburg Hoarding Task Force.


Sandy James, Survey Project Manager

Sandy James, Survey Project Manager

Sandy James

As Survey Project Manager, Sandy James works with a research team to lead the development, fielding, analysis, and presentation of the U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS), the second iteration of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS).

After a career as a forensic toxicologist, Sandy became a civil rights advocate with a focus on laws and policies that affect transgender people. Sandy previously worked extensively with the NTDS as the Urvashi Vaid Research Fellow at the National LGBTQ Task Force. Sandy received a J.D. and an M.A. in American Government from Georgetown University and is currently pursuing his Ph.D. at Georgetown University.


Arli Christian, Policy Counsel

Arli Christian, Policy Counsel

Arli Christian

Arli graduated from American University, Washington College of Law in May 2013 and joined NCTE as a JD Distinguished Fellow in the Fall of 2013. Arli is advocating for modernized name and gender change policies across various jurisdictions, including driver's licenses/state identifications, birth certificates, passports, and legal name change orders. Through the fellowship, Arli is concurrently working for Whitman-Walker Health providing direct legal assistance to transgender clients in the DC metropolitan area through the free legal Name and Gender Change Clinic, a joint effort of Whitman-Walker Health and Trans Legal Advocates of Washington (TransLAW). She also serves on the steering committee of TransLAW.

Throughout law school Arli focused on the intersection of LGBT rights, immigration, and poverty law. She was an active leader with Lambda Law Society and the Immigrants' Rights Coalition, and gained a variety of hands-on experience in her interest areas at government agencies, policy nonprofits, and direct service providers. Internationally Arli participated in human rights legal projects in El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Cameroon, and Geneva. Prior to law school Arli worked for three years as a paralegal at an immigration law firm in San Francisco specialized in LGBT asylum law and three years as an associate doing legal documentation for microfinance loans at the Calvert Social Investment Foundation. Arli speaks English and Spanish, received her BA from Wesleyan University in 2004,and grew up in New York City.


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