FEATURE-Transgender activists seek laws, acceptance, to combat violence
By Kieran Guilbert
LONDON, Nov 20 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When a 12-year-old boy went on the Oprah Winfrey show to announce he was transgender, Mara Keisling realised how far the once ostracised community had come despite hundreds of hate crime murders in recent years.
The boy had decided to kill himself at the age of nine but saw another transgender child on television and identified his own turmoil.
"He'd felt lost, worthless, and suicidal... that revelation saved his life, and he wanted to go public in the hope of saving others," said Keisling, 55, who was formerly called Mark and is founder of the Washington-based National Center for Transgender Equality.
People who are transgender are described as people who feel they have been born into the wrong gender body.
Many transgender people are prescribed hormones by their doctors to change their bodies, while some undergo surgery. But not all can or will take those steps, and transgender identity is not dependent upon medical procedures.
Yet while many societies have become more accepting of gay, lesbian and bisexual communities, transgender campaigners fear they still have a long way to end discrimination.
Hundreds of transgender people are killed every year and many live in constant fear of abuse, assault and alienation.
"The lack of understanding of our humanity is actually killing us," said Keisling, who began the transition to Mara about 20 years ago, having told friends and family of feeling like a female since childhood. Continuación...