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Jennifer Finney Boylan: Few are at greater risk than transgender citizens

CBS News asked noted figures in the arts, business and politics about their experience in today's civil rights movement, or about figures who inspired them in their activism.

Jennifer Finney Boylan, author ("She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders"); national co-chair of GLAAD

When it comes to equality, what issues/actions are most important to you?

Courtesy Jennifer Finney Boylan

Historian Barbara Fields famously observed that "The Civil War is still going on. It's still to be fought, and regrettably, it can still be lost."

There are few groups in America at greater risk than its transgender citizens. Seventy-eight percent of us report harassment as students at primary or secondary schools; a fifth of us report harassment by the police; and 41 percent of us have attempted to take our own lives.

And yet instead of embracing these precious, endangered souls, some people, in speaking of us, focus on bathrooms and operations and sequins. They fight for their right to call us by names which we consider slurs. They think of us as marginal, as entertainers or aberrations, rather than as fellow citizens seeking dignity and respect.

On the night that Martin Luther King was killed, Robert Kennedy consoled a crowd in Indianapolis with an improvised speech with these words: "What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our own country, whether they be white or black."

Now, 46 years later, we can add, "or gay, or lesbian. Or trans."

With faith, and hope, and humor, the battle will be won. As Paul Simon once wrote, "I believe in the future we will suffer no more. Maybe not in my lifetime, but in yours I feel sure."

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