Transgender Ridicule: Models to 'Saturday Night Live' Sketches

PHOTO Kate Moss and Lea T. on the cover of Love Magazine.

It wasn't Owen Smith's short stature that got him in trouble with his 6-foot, 1-inch boss.

Smith, 28, was born a woman, but was in the process of transitioning to a man. He worked at a coffee shop in Maryland, where his boss, he said, was not sympathetic.

"He called me he-she and other inappropriate things in front of my co-workers and customers," said Smith. "He'd yell it across the coffee shop. It got so bad he got physically violent," he said. "He shoved me into a refrigerator."

A first-ever report that will be made public this week paints a bleak picture of life as a transgender person in the United States.

The survey, "Injustice at Every Turn," says discrimination is pervasive. Most respondents said they lived in extreme poverty, and many reported attempting suicide.

The National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force surveyed 6,450 -- those who were transgendered or non-gender conforming.

They revealed harassment in education, employment, housing and health care, as well as in the government and prison systems.

The report concluded that "nearly every system and institution" in the United States discriminated against the transgendered.

Transgender people are becoming a more visible segment of the population and have triggered a national conversation about fair and equal treatment.

Just this week LGBT groups have asked for an apology from NBC's "Saturday Night Live" for airing a mock ad for ad for "Estro-Maxx," ridiculing transgender women.

The fake commercial for estrogen replacement therapy showed men with facial hair wearing dresses.

"Dehumanizing, holding people up for ridicule simply on the basis of their identity, fuels a dangerous and hurtful climate and puts people in danger, especially given how infrequently the media shines a fair and accurate light on the lives of transgender people," responded the Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)."

Smith said he was also appalled, though not surprised.

"It's a really good example of how the mainstream views transgendered people as a joke they can make fun of," he said.

"It's hard to come out and to start being the public person you know you are," he said.

Owen Smith, 28, transitioned from a woman to a man and now fights for equal protections for transgender people for Equality Maryland

Transgender Models Lea T Kisses Kate Moss

But not all the imagery of transsexuals has been blatantly negative.

Brazilian model Lea T. -- a transgender woman who was born male -- was seen this week on the cover of Love magazine kissing supermodel Kate Moss .

Smith applauded the cover as an "open door for a transgender person to step forward."

"People know more transgender people than they think," he said. "These people may be a little different but they are still human."

Lea T was also in Riccardo Tisci's fall 2010 campaign for Givenchy and was profiled in Vogue Paris. She will reportedly make an appearance on "Oprah" in February, according to

Lea T is not the first. In 2008, the television show "America's Next Top Model" featured Isis, a transgender woman, which drew praise from GLAAD.

Another recent example was a Gaultier spring ad with male model Andrej Pejic kissing his female doppelganger, Karolina Kurkova.

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