When most people talk about Andrea Jenkins, including Time magazine, the first thing that comes up is her status as “the first openly transgender African-American woman elected to office in the United States.”
But at the end of the day, Andrea Jenkins is just a human being — an impressive human by any measure, a human who transcends gender identity with all that she’s done.
She’s a parent (and grandparent), a writer, a poet, a performance artist and, P.S., Minneapolis’ City Council Vice President, who represents the 8th Ward of the city.
Her story is one of conquering diversity. She grew up on the south side of Chicago in a low-income, working-class community, with a single mother who loved her children and wanted them to get a good education.
Jenkins achieved that dream — and more — with a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees and even a Bush Fellowship in 2011 to advance the work of transgender inclusion.
She went on to serve as the curator of the Transgender Oral History Project at the University of Minnesota. She worked for a decade as a vocational counselor with Hennepin County and then went on to work as a staffer at City Hall, where she worked for 12 years for the council on which she now serves.
And she did it all while going through personal life changes I reckon few of us can imagine — and kept her creative passions going, too.
Not bad for 57 years on the planet.
And that’s only part of her story. You can read more — including some of her poetry — in the profile in this issue. You can also hear about her favorite accomplishments so far in her leadership role at one of the largest cities in the land.
Jenkins has been described as having an uncanny calm in the face of real danger for minority groups.
When I met her during our cover photoshoot at City Hall, I was struck by her grace and wisdom. I noticed how evenly and warmly she treated everyone she met — from high-powered folks in the hallways to the hard-working staff in her office.
Offering that kindness, of course, has nothing to do with gender.
It’s what good humans do.