First Trans-Woman Of Color Elected To Office
By: Josiah Akhtab
History was made on the night of Nov 7, 2017 as Andrea Jenkins, 56, became the first transwoman of color to be elected into political office.
Winning seventy-three percent of votes in Minneapolis’ Eighth Ward, Jenkins also became the second openly transgender candidate to be elected into office.
The Washington Post reported that Jenkins believes her victory is proof that communities won’t succumb to hatred, bigotry, or transphobia and is willing to fight for justice and equality to all social groups.
“Transgender people have been here forever, and black transgender people have been here forever,” Jenkins expressed to The Post after the election. “I’m really pleased to have achieved that status, and I look forward to more trans people joining me in elected office, and all other kinds of leadership roles in our society.”
In her acceptance speech she stated, “as an African-American trans-identified woman, I know firsthand the feeling of being marginalized, left out, thrown under the bus,” KMSP-TV in Minneapolis reported.
“Those days are over. We don’t just want a seat at the table, we want to set the table.”
Aisha Moodie-Mills, president and CEO of Victory Fund, LGBTQ political committee that supported Jenkins’ candidacy, stated Jenkins’ victory was about “fighting back,” NBC News reported.
“Hostile political forces at every level of government are targeting the trans community with legislation and policies that deny their equality.” Moodie-Mills said in her statement sent to NBC Tuesday night.
“Tonight was about fighting back—an unprecedented number of brilliant trans candidates asking for the votes of tens of thousands of Americans, and getting them.”
Jenkins, before elected to Minneapolis City Council, worked as a policy aid for two previous council members. She is a poet, activist, and historian who has a passion for social issues.
She currently curates the Transgender Oral History Project at University of Minnesota. The project serves to give historians, and the public, access to primary source materials regarding the trans community.
So far, Jenkins has interviewed 194 people and recorded their conversations.
“One of the reasons we take that approach is because transgender people have been undercover for so long. They didn’t have. . .artifacts and factual records.” She states, “We had to go out and collect these stories, digitize them and make them available online.”
She further discusses the project, which is part of the Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection of GLBT studies at the University for Minnesota, and its purpose with Splinter News.
“We had a whole lot of information about white gay males [in the collection],” she reveals. “Less about Lesbian culture. We had much much less about bi culture, even though that has been growing, but we had literally nothing about the transgender community.”
Jenkins, when regarding the project’s core purpose, said, “We need to tell our own stories. People are trying to co-opt the stories of transgender and gender non-conforming people, and framing it in their own perspectives. So we need to tell our own stories.”
When the core of Jenkins’ political and personal philosophy was examined, she told Splinter News,“I’m a poet, I’m a visual artist, I’m a performance artist.” She expressed.
“I try to make art. I try to make understanding of the world around me through art. I believe in the power of art. I believe that art is a catalyst for change in communities.”
Though Jenkins is a strong advocate for the LGBTQ community, she also seeks to pass legislation that will make society a better place for everyone.
She plans to focus on increasing minimum wage, obtaining affordable housing, and working on law enforcement reforms.