Nor have they experienced the kind of broad successes the gay community has won in recent years, with same-sex marriage now legal in 12 states and the repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which banned openly gay military service. The U.S. military still prohibits transgender people from serving openly.
Marsha Boxter is co-founder and chair of the Ingersoll Gender Center, a Seattle-based organization that works with transgender people and has become one of their best-known advocates on a local and national level.
She said "like any group, there's a period of survival, early organizing, then a stage where the community widens and matures, and at some point there's the public identification of the community."
The transgender community has now arrived at that point, she said.
Trans Pride, in which Ingersoll will participate, should help "increase visibility for the community; and if it brings more energy at all _ and it will _ that's always welcome and wonderful," she said.
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Boxter said the findings of the national poll, conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce, are mirrored in Washington state, where concerns over joblessness and underemployment are among the reasons the Ingersoll center began an employment project.
Advocates believe transgender people face discrimination in large part because of how they may look _ a male-to-female transgender person might be much taller than the average woman or have a deeper voice, or a trans male might still have hips and female breasts.
Some employers might find that unsettling, out of sync with their view of gender as being immutable.
Access to health care, particularly health insurance coverage, is another primary concern for transgender men and women.
Most employer-based health insurance plans exclude coverage for transition-related treatment and other care on the grounds they're cosmetic or elective in nature _ claims that have been challenged by medical professionals.
Askini, 30, who was raised by foster parents from around age 15 when she began transitioning to female, represents a new generation of activists. Like many young people throughout the LGBT movement, she is eager for change.
But she and other transgender people recognize the limitations of the law in addressing many of the challenges they face.
Laws alone, she points out, won't stop negative media portrayals or prevent transgender people from taking their own lives. "The law can't force your neighbor to like you," Askini said.
She believes society is growing more familiar with those in her community as transgender people come out publicly.
Chaz Bono, the only child of celebrities Cher and the late Sonny Bono, announced his transition from female to male about four years ago, and President Barack Obama three years ago became the first U.S. president to appoint a transgender person to his administration.
Askini believes the next step is for transgender people to gain more acceptance through visibility, by allowing others to get to know them as neighbors, co-workers and friends _ much as the larger gay and lesbian community has done.
"That cultural shift has started to happen," she said. "The reason we started Trans Pride is to highlight that, to increase visibility, while creating something where we in the community can see one another and celebrate ourselves."
(c)2013 The Seattle Times
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