In this op-ed series published exclusively on Out.com, members of the LGBTQ+ community discuss the major contenders in the 2020 presidential primaries. Participating candidates include Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, Michael Bloomberg, Joe Biden, and Cory Booker, and one editorial will be published every weekday. The editorials in this series do not reflect the views of Out magazine or its editors.
In today’s installment, Minneapolis City Councilmember Andrea Jenkins tells us why she believes Amy Klobuchar would be a fighter for LGBTQ+ rights in the White House.
My name is Andrea Jenkins. For the last 25 years, I’ve worked as a policy aide, a nonprofit director, and consultant and employment specialist. I’m an artist, a poet, and a performer. I’m an advocate for my neighborhood and my community, and I’ve worked to heal the racial divides in my city. I’m a parent and a grandparent. And in 2017, I became the first openly transgender African-American woman elected to public office in this country. Today, I am vice president of the Minneapolis City Council.
Earlier this year, I attended CNN’s nationally televised LGBTQ+ town hall in Los Angeles as a guest of my friend, Senator Amy Klobuchar. That night on the stage, Senator Klobuchar said that conversion therapy should be illegal nationwide, she called out the drug companies for the cost of HIV drugs, and she offered real solutions.
It was a historic night, with nearly all of the leading Democratic candidates gathered for such a forum. But there was also concern that the event would not give voice to the full spectrum of our community. For example, at the event, protestors had also gathered to speak out against the terrible epidemic of violence facing trans women of color.
Speaking to the national media after the event, a reporter asked about making sure that trans women of color — and specifically the issue of violence against trans women of color — are included in discussions of LGBTQ+ rights.
Instead of speaking for our community, Senator Klobuchar passed the mic to me. Around the country, a lot of people noticed that moment — it showed what kind of leader we have in Senator Klobuchar.
As I said that night, representation matters. It matters that we are part of the dialogue, it matters that we have a seat at the table, and it matters that we have a voice to speak for our communities and to be able to shape policies that are going to impact people’s lives. That night, speaking to media from across the country, I pointed out how trans women of color often have no options — no options for employment and no options for health care. I spoke about how society has pushed them aside, pushed them to the margins, and left them with no voice.
As the title of my recent collection of poems makes clear, The T is Not Silent. We’re especially not going to be silent while Donald Trump is in the White House.
That same night as the LGBTQ+ town hall, across the country, President Trump was back in Minnesota, holding a rally in my hometown and in the city where I am an elected official. He did what he always does: He boasted about winning Minnesota in 2020 and getting reelected. I know that if we stand together in 2020, that won’t happen this time.
Senator Klobuchar understands that LGBTQ+ voices need to be heard and has worked to make sure that we have a place at the table. Since 2014, I have hosted an annual Trans Equity Summit in Minneapolis. The summit has been an opportunity to celebrate trans artists, highlight our histories that have been silenced in the past, and connect our local community with the resources they need, including health care and legal services. Senator Klobuchar has been supportive of the summit from the beginning and has made it clear that her office is there for us. Before she was in the Senate, as the Hennepin County Attorney here in Minnesota, she was a leader in prosecuting hate crimes, and she has been a champion for equality in the U.S. Senate.
We have to undo the damage that has been done by the Trump Administration and move forward on LGBTQ+ rights. Earlier in this campaign, when Senator Klobuchar released her first 100 days agenda, she made sure that the key issues facing our community were a part of it.
On the campaign trail she has stressed the importance of passing the Equality Act to make discrimination against LGBTQ+ Americans illegal, in every state, once and for all. She has pledged to lift the ban preventing qualified transgender people from serving in the military and restore protections on education, health care and civil rights that have been rolled back by the Trump administration. Her campaign agenda for LGBTQ+ Americans also includes banning conversion therapy nationwide, building on what we have done here in Minneapolis, increasing access to PrEP, expanding protections for medically necessary transition related care, and expanding efforts to reduce homelessness and suicide in our community.
I believe that when we lift up the most marginalized in our society, that everyone benefits. Senator Klobuchar shares that vision. She knows that this is a country of shared dreams and that we have to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to live the life they want. She knows that despite the progress we’ve made, we still have a long way to go.
As a Senator, Amy Klobuchar has made sure we are heard, we are valued, and that we have a place at the table.
Andrea Jenkins is vice president of the Minneapolis City Council.