Andrea Jenkins: the first Black openly transgender woman to hold US public officeShe has backed legislation to reform the police department and also how calls are handled by 911 operators.
As the George Floyd murder trial opens in Minneapolis, the city councillor talks about coming out as trans, the prejudices she has had to overcome – and how policing must change
By Oliver Laughland
March 11, 2021
Andrea Jenkins lives just a few blocks away from 38th and Chicago, the crossroads in Minneapolis where George Floyd was killed on 25 May last year. She spent two decades of her life working to revitalise the community there, and kicked off her 2017 campaign for the city council’s Eighth ward in an arts centre a few yards away.
After Floyd’s death, when the crossroads became a space for collective mourning, Jenkins visited every day. But in the midst of a bitter Minneapolis winter and with the neighbourhood reeling from the long-term effects of Floyd’s death, Jenkins hasn’t been in months.
Jenkins, the first Black, openly transgender woman elected to public office in the US, became one of the most forceful voices to emanate from Minneapolis. She is not only a politician but also a poet, oral historian and an activist. She sang gospel in front of the nation’s media at a press conference in the days after Floyd’s death and played a central role in re-examining how the city’s long-criticised police force was funded. She insisted that racism be treated as a national public health emergency. And this month, with the murder trial of former officer Derek Chauvin, she is trying to prepare the city for the potential fallout.
In Minneapolis, where Jenkins holds her formal political power, she has played a pivotal role in the city’s reimagining of its public safety and policing. The city council had initially considered disbanding its entire police department, a drastic move that was eventually reconsidered, leading instead to a swathe of budget transparency measures, oversight and reallocation of resources. The most striking of which was reallocating nearly $8m into launching new mental health teams that will respond to certain 911 calls.I think that is where changes need to be made, sometime you don’t need the police when EMTs are what is really needed along with a mental heath specialist.
Jenkins is positive about the reforms, but honest. “To be quite frank with you, I am not sure if anything has really changed or if anything really will change. Because it’s in people’s hearts,” she says. “When those cops are out there on the streets, it doesn’t matter how many fucking rules I make. When they killed Jamar Clark [an unarmed African American man killed by Minneapolis police in 2015] that took 61 seconds – from the second the police arrived until Jamar Clark had a bullet in his brain. So I can make them have a body camera, I can give them de-escalation training, and all of these things, and he still fucking shoots the kid in 61 seconds.”
Who would have expected ten years ago that we would have trans people elected to office and making a difference.
Then in the “You Aught To Be In Movies”
Disney just had their first trans actress for an animated movie.
She plays the Tail Chief in Raya and the Last Dragon.ThemBy Michelle KimMarch 8, 2021Disney’s new animated film Raya and the Last Dragon has sparked debates about whether the two main characters, Raya and her enemy Namaari, are queer or not. Yet even as the major studio has decided to leave the sexuality of their main characters ambiguous, there’s one instance of explicit queer representation in the film: Patti Harrison’s appearance in the small role of Tail Chief. It makes Harrison the first known transgender actor to appear in a Disney animated film, as pointed out by Out.The movie is set in the fictional world of Kumandra, which is divided into five lands: Heart, Talon, Spine, Fang, and Tail. Thus, Harrison’s character is the leader of the Tail land.[…]Though the Raya role is small, it’s notable that Harrison, a trans actor, has been cast as a character who is not explicitly trans or queer, as writer Mey Rude notes for Out. “While there’s been a lot of progress in TV shows and movies casting trans actors in trans roles, there are still very few of those trans roles,” Rude writes. “As long as trans actors can only get trans roles, their job opportunities will be limited. The praise here lies with Harrison for breaking that barrier.” Rude then went on to point out that Disney could do better to give said trans actor a bigger role in the film.
One small step...