Rebekah Davis

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Members of the Winthrop University community recently had the opportunity to hear a transgender woman speak about her life and experiences as a member of the LGBTQ community.

Roughly 30 students and community members attended the event April 9, entitled “True Life: Life as a Transgender Woman,” to hear Charlotte resident Roberta Dunn’s story.

“The goal is for people to know about us, to know who we are, that we’re no different from anyone else. We may seem different than you think we are, but we’re just people and we just want to be able to be happy and enjoy life,” said Dunn.

Dunn told those in attendance about her fear of coming out to her family and others in the community, who she described as very conservative. She said she also feared losing her job.

“In the ’50s and ’60s and ’70s we had to hide who we were, but now the world is ready to hear it,” said Dunn.

According to a 2016 study by the Williams Institute, about 1.4 million adults in the U.S. identify as transgender, which is about 0.6 percent of the population.

However, urban areas often have a higher percentage of adults who identify as transgender, such as 2.7 percent of District of Columbia residents, which is the highest percentage in the U.S.

Even though it is becoming more socially acceptable in some areas, Dunn said the transgender community still faces discrimination.

Dunn said stress and fear among transgender people has contributed to a suicide rate that is higher than any other demographic group in the U.S.

For example, over 50 percent of people who identify as transgender will attempt suicide at least once in their life.

Dunn said that is why she chooses to share her story and work as an advocate for the transgender community.

“Somebody has to do it and I’ll step out of my private life and into it and be ridiculed, whatever its going to be, but this has to stop,” said Dunn.

Dunn has spoken at Winthrop several times over the years, but this may be the last, because she is planning to move to Arizona to continue her work there.

Shelby Anderson, who organized the event, said she is passionate about LGBTQ issues and she hopes the event provided an opportunity to learn.

“I thought the event went really well and I think that the people took the information and they learned something and I think that at the end we had a lot of questions and it was really good,” said Anderson.