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Hagerstown vigil promotes tolerance of transgendered

November 20, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- As traffic whizzed through Hagerstown's Public Square, TerriLee Bell stood on the sidewalk and promoted tolerance.

Bell held up a sign telling motorists that Thursday was a day to remember transgendered people who have faced discrimination, crime and even death for who they are.

Thursday was the 10th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.

The occasion brought members of Hagerstown TGs to Public Square for a candlelight vigil and to hold up signs to catch the attention of those passing by.

Hagerstown TGs is a social network and support group for "transsexuals, cross dressers, transgenderists, androgynes and anyone who considers themselves gender conflicted," according to a notice describing the group.

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Bell said the Hagerstown TGs has about 30 members and reaches as far as Chambersburg, Pa., Stephens City, Va., and Sykesville, Md.

"Transgendered" usually refers to people who wish to switch to the opposite sex.

Hagerstown TGs member Dana Kern of Funkstown said the people she works with at Chase Bank in Frederick, Md., have been supportive about the transition in her life.

"I think Hagerstown is more compassionate and understanding and open-minded than a lot of people give us credit for," Bell said.

A Web site devoted to the Transgender Day of Remembrance says the event is held in November to remember Rita Hester, who was killed Nov. 28, 1998. The case has not been solved, the Web site says.

"We live in times more sensitive than ever to hatred based violence, especially since the events of September 11th," the site says. "Yet even now, the deaths of those based on anti-transgender hatred or prejudice are largely ignored."

In 2005, the Maryland General Assembly expanded the state's protection against hate crimes. Sexual orientation was added as a category, joining race, color, religious beliefs and national origin.

Sexual orientation was defined as "the identification of an individual as to male or female homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality or gender-related identity."

Kerns said members of Hagerstown TGs are working to fight for more specific legal protections to combat discrimination against transgendered people.

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