Transgender community says military ban increases stigma

Members of the Bay Area transgender community tell KTVU the ban on them serving in the military only further fuels discrimination against them.

They say their gender identity has stigmatized them, making it difficult for them in many aspects of their lives.

Janet Halfin and Tiffany Woods work for TransVision, a program that offers health services to the transgender community.

They hope sharing their experience will help gain acceptance.
 
"We need help just like everybody else. We don't need to be pushed aside, thrown to the wolves, made a stigma of ," says Halfin, " We give them courage and confidence."

Traits that Halfin gained over years of struggling with the stigma of being a transgender woman. She works as a medical assistant for TransVision.

She says it' a constant battle against ridicule. "Give us a chance. Don't go ahead and just count us out," says Halfin," We want to stand up but we can't do it if you constantly have your foot on our necks."
 
The Oakland native was born a biological boy, but says she knew as a child, she 's a girl.
 
"I got sent to a psychiatrist who told my parents it's just a phase," says Halfin. She joined the U.S. Army and served for four years. She was married twice and has seven children.
 
"I wasn't happy. I didn't feel right. I knew who I was," says Halfin.
 
"Trans people have been in existence since the beginning of time. We're not a social experiment. We never were. We're part of the fabric of humanity and society," says Tiffany Woods, program manager for TransVision.
 
She's a transgender woman who is married with three children.

Woods estimates the program has helped one thousand clients make the transition in the past seven years.
Halfin paid a high price when she told her family.
 
"I ended up being homeless. I ended up being on the streets for a very long time," says Halfin," There's nothing harder than being alone totally and that's the life that most trans people lead."

After 15 years of being homeless, Halfin says ran into an aunt who took her in.

Halfin now enjoys a relationship with her grown children and she's a proud grandmother.

"Everyone does a part of not buying into the stigma. So when you hear stigma or someone making comments, you say hey, that's not cool," says Woods.
 
Transgender people say common taunts that they are mentally ill and other disparaging remarks come from a lack of knowledge.
 
"If you get to know me, you'll know it nothing mental. Tha's just me," says Halfin," We want to succeed. We want the American dream just like everybody else does."
 
Both women say the transgender community is asking for acceptance with the hope that understanding will follow.

 

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