Transgenders try to trump hatred – Debbie Pfeiffer Trunnell Staff Writer

Whittier – They have the highest probability of being murdered than any other minority group in the nation.

But it’s not just violence: People who choose to change their sex also suffer inordinately from job discrimination and a lack of access to health care – problems Elizabeth Mendia has experienced since she embarked on a journey two years ago to change the body she was born with.

She remembered how one local service group that had invited her to speak canceled after finding out Mendia, 39, who formerly went by Edric, was now Elizabeth.

“It was both disappointing and disturbing,” said Mendia, executive director of the Whittier Rio Hondo AIDS Project.

Nationwide, the murder rate of transgender persons is 17 times the national average – the highest rate of any minority group, according to the League Of Trans-Unified Sisters, or LOTUS, a support group of transgender people working to change society’s attitudes toward them.

“It’s ignorance, more than anything else, that creates fear,” said Vicky Ortega, who founded LOTUS and also works as a health education specialist at the Gay and Lesbian Center of Los Angeles.

“It seems like when people learn you are transgender, it’s a free ticket to pick on you,” Ortega said.