Andrea Jenkins applied for a Bush Fellowship because she wanted to improve the ways in which transgender people were seen in the Twin Cities. In other words, she saw an opportunity to directly influence and lead change in her community.
“There was a deep need in the transgender community to build a leadership development program that was specifically targeting transgender people,” she says. Through that work and with the support of the Bush Foundation, Jenkins has developed herself into a national leader around transgender issues.
In her five years since becoming a Bush Fellow, Jenkins has spoken at various conferences, including the Trans Ohio Conference in 2013, and the Gender Odyssey conference in 2015—where she was a keynote speaker alongside fellow transgender activist and nationally acclaimed writer Kate Bornstein—and many more.
Jenkins is an accomplished poet, writer and performer who uses her art as a vehicle for transgender inclusion and equity. “My art is my advocacy, and my advocacy is my art,” Jenkins explains. “I really believe that art can have an impact on social change.”
Most recently, Jenkins has been integral in the Transgender Oral History Project, which is part of the Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in GLBT Studies at the University of Minnesota. The project comprises interviews with nearly 200 sources sharing their experiences as transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.
“It’s the pinnacle of documenting and then offering those stories to the broader community,” Jenkins says, adding that the Fellowship has been a vital part of that sharing.
You might say Jenkins’s work is the culmination of a lifetime deeply rooted in achieving complete acceptance and integration of transgender people, and you’d be right.
“That’s the real reason why I do this work,” she says. “We have to create awareness, understanding, empathy, acceptance and inclusion of transgender and gender non-conforming people fully and wholly.”