Come November, Minneapolis could see its first transgender City Council member.
Andrea Jenkins, an archivist and lead of University of Minnesota’s Transgender Oral History Project, is running for the south Minneapolis Ward 8 seat whose incumbent — Elizabeth Glidden — isn’t seeking reelection.
Phillipe Cunningham, also openly transgender and a former aide for Mayor Betsy Hodges, is running for the Fourth Ward seat.
“I’m running for this seat because it’s the community that I live in … I know the ward well,” said Jenkins, who previously worked as a policy aide for Glidden.
Zenzele Isoke, a Gender and Sexuality Studies professor at the University said if Jenkins wins the election, it would show the rest of the country that transgender issues matter.
“It will be extremely important for Andrea to run a successful campaign … as one of the very few, if not very first, male-to-female transgender elected official in the country,” Isoke said.
Transgender issues have increasingly garnered awareness in Minneapolis — earlier this month, the City Council approved the creation of a Transgender Equity Council.
The group, which will contain 15 members chosen by the council, will meet monthly and forge explicit measures to protect rights of transgender city residents.
“It is really important for progressive, open-minded, committed fighters to step up and get involved in elected office,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins said as a transgender woman of color, she stresses the importance of representing diverse voices.
“As a person who represents multiple marginalized communities, I can bring a unique perspective to City Hall,” she said. “I think we have to have elected representation from those communities to deal with those issues.”
Two groups have endorsed Jenkins thus far — Women Winning, which supports women running for office, and OutFront Minnesota, an LGBTQ civil rights group. Jenkins said she is seeking the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party’s endorsement as well.
Lauren Beecham, executive director of Women Winning, said by endorsing Jenkins early on, the group will be able to provide more support as the campaign gains momentum. As the state grows more diverse, it is vital that women of color are put into elected positions, Beecham said.
Monica Meyer, executive director of OutFront, pointed to Jenkins’ wide range of experience — from working as a policy aide at City Hall to being an archivist and artist — as evidence of how she will bring about change.
This is Jenkins’ first time running for public office.
“We all have to work together and I plan on being a voice for all those communities, all the underrepresented and marginalized people,” Jenkins said. “If we do that, we improve life for everybody.”