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Andrea Jenkins makes history as 1st openly transgender city council president

The Minneapolis Democrat first made national headlines in 2017 after becoming the first out Black trans person elected to public office in the United States.
Minneapolis City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins addresses the media during a news conference in Minneapolis, on March 12, 2021.
Then-Minneapolis City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins addresses a news conference in Minneapolis, on March 12, 2021.Nicholas Pfosi / Reuters file

Minneapolis Council member Andrea Jenkins, a Black transgender woman, made national history for the second time after being elected Monday as the first transgender official in the United States to lead a city council. 

Her latest victory comes after a unanimous vote from the Minneapolis City Council. Jenkins, who previously served as the council’s vice president, became the first out Black trans woman elected to public office in 2017. Three years later, she was thrust into the national spotlight once again after George Floyd, a resident of her district, was killed in police custody. Floyd’s death, which Jenkins called a “symbol for a knee on the neck of Black America,” sparked nationwide protests in the spring and summer of 2020. 

Jenkins, a Democrat, said she hopes her latest win can help bridge gaps in her community. 

“I hope that it serves as inspiration for other trans and gender-nonconforming people,” she told NBC News. “My vision for this council and for the city of Minneapolis is that we come together and begin the really significant work of healing after our city has been rocked by the murder of George Floyd and so many other Black and brown people who have lost their lives at the hands of the state.” 

Jenkins said she wants to continue fighting for a culture of accountability within the city’s police department. She said she is also focused on tackling issues that contribute to public safety, including access to affordable housing, health care and living wages. 

Jenkins said the sentencing of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of Floyd and the guilty verdict for ex-Minneapolis Police Officer Kim Potter in the killing of Daunte Wright are “sending a message to police officers that, in this community, we are going to hold you accountable.” 

Jenkins’ appointment as head of the Minneapolis City Council comes amid a “rainbow wave” of queer representation in public office. Last year, for the first time, the number of concurrently serving LGBTQ elected officials in the U.S. surpassed 1,000 , according to the political action committee LGBTQ Victory Fund. According to the fund’s Out for America map, which tracks lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer elected officials across the country, there are currently 1,051 LGBTQ elected officials nationwide, with 77 of them identifying as something other than a cisgender (nontransgender) male or female. 

Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, the president and CEO of both the LGBTQ Victory Fund and LGBTQ Victory Institute, applauded Jenkins for her advocacy. 

“As major cities face unprecedented challenges wrought by the pandemic and incidents of police brutality, Andrea leads her constituents and our country with the calm but steely determination the moment calls for,” Parker said in a statement. “The unanimous vote from her colleagues is a recognition of that leadership. Andrea is an elected official who serves all, but relentlessly champions those most marginalized, bringing an unmatched ability to spark empathy across divisions and communities. Minneapolis will be a better city with her as president and her history-making election will inspire more trans people to run and lead.”

Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBTQ rights group, also congratulated Jenkins on her historic victory. 

“The whole of Minneapolis will benefit from the leadership that Councilor Jenkins has delivered since she was first elected in 2017,” JoDee Winterhof, the organization’s senior vice president of policy and political affairs, said in a statement. “Councilor Jenkins’s reputation as a tireless advocate, her dedication to public service, and her efficacy in fighting on behalf of those on the margins of society have been recognized and reaffirmed by her peers on the council. We look forward to continuing to work with City Council President Jenkins in the years to come.”

Jenkins' win comes amid record levels of anti-trans violence and legislation, which limits the rights of transgender Americans in the U.S. Even in the face of these challenges, she said she is hopeful that visibility can counter some of these attacks.

“The attacks on trans and gender-nonconforming people are simply a reaction to the fact that this community … is beginning to really make inroads in our society and show up in spaces where we’re not expected to be,” she said. ”And that’s going to continue, we are not going away, we are not retreating into the background, and we cannot be written out of public life.”

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