Visibili-T is dedicated to transgender members of our community in Central Florida and Tampa Bay, some you know and many you don’t. It is designed to amplify their voices and detail their experiences in life.
This issue, we chat with Ami Katherine Jenkins, a hardworking and strong person living and working in the Casselberry area of Orlando.
Jenkins, 48, comes from a Sicilian family in Vero Beach where, as a child, she had an aunt who was a lesbian and says that while her family knew, nobody talked about it. She said that her family is not accepting so she chooses to present herself in a masculine way in front of them.
“I do it out of respect for them, even though they don’t deserve it,” Jenkins says.
But in her everyday life, Jenkins presents as female and says that everyone at her workplaces — Green Parrot in Casselberry and Wing Shack in Downtown Orlando — recognize her as Ami and treat her with respect. She said guests and customers are encouraging and affirming of her identity.
“They respect me because I’m proud of who I am,” she says. “It’s one of those things where I am who I am. If you don’t like me, screw you.”
Jenkins recalls a memory from when she was 21, shopping for corsets for a cast member when she was the director of a production of “The Rocky Horror Show” and a worker asked for her size. She said she was reluctant to put the corset on but once she did, it felt comfortable.
“She put that corset on me and I said ‘You know what? This feels natural,’” Jenkins says.
Jenkins adds that even when she lived in Las Vegas 13 years ago, people there also respected her and addressed her as Ami. She says she’s been on the journey to becoming more “out.”
Jenkins says about her life, that she’s “gone through everything.”
“I have a son that I made, a 20-year-old son who likes to shop at Victoria’s Secret more than I do, and an ex-wife that I still love and adore,” she says.
Watermark first met Jenkins through a message she sent to our website in May.
“As a former student of journalism at the University of Florida, and a member of the trans community, I simply wanted to offer my gratitude,” she wrote. “I say that because I can spot typographical and grammatical errors all the way from Casselberry. You folks seem to be perfect, not only in your grammar and punctuation, but also in your content. I enjoy reading your articles and I am very intrigued by your perspectives.”
Along with being an avid reader and supporter of Watermark, Jenkins says that her favorite thing about the local LGBTQ+ community is that everyone is willing to help each other, adding that it’s not necessarily the trans community but the human community that has been supportive. She says that because she is Wiccan, she loves everyone and wants people to always have respect for others.
Jenkins says that one thing she wants people to know and take away from her story is that trans people are not threatening.
“We aren’t out to get you, don’t be scared,” she says. “We aren’t going to hurt you; we are going to be here for you. We are all human.”
When asked what advice she would give to her younger self, Jenkins made a very simple statement.
“Be who you are,” she says.
She notes advice that her mother once told her, “’Put your chest in the wind, stand up straight and be who you are.’ She told me that at a very young age and she may be regretting it now, but that’s the way I’ve been living my life for the past 30 years.”
Interested in being featured in Visibili-T? Email Editor-in-Chief Jeremy Williams in Central Florida at Jeremy@WatermarkOnline.com or Managing Editor Ryan Williams-Jent in Tampa Bay at Ryan@WatermarkOnline.com.