Maryville transsexual woman trying to raise awareness

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MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- After the introduction of several controversial bills, Tennessee is getting a lot of national attention for its tolerance level for the LGBT community.

One part of that, the transgender community, is all around us, yet most of us know very little about.

"You'd be surprised at how many of us there are all over Maryville. And there's exponentially more in Knoxville," said Carla Lewis. "You'll see a transsexual person everyday, you just won't know it."

Lewis transitioned from a male to female gender expression in 1999, after moving to Knoxville for a job. For the most part, she says she and others keep the secret to live a normal, happy life.

"They don't want to be bothered. They don't want to be in your face," she said. "They want to go to work, pay their bills, have a decent home."

But the latest attack on the LGBT community in Tennessee has convinced Lewis to speak up.

Along with the much talked about 'Don't Say Gay' bill, another bill, HB 2279, sponsored by Chattanooga Republican Richard Floyd tried to limit the public restroom use by a transgender person.

"It is disconcerting here in Tennessee that we're constantly attacked in our state legislature. It's not enough that we don't have the rights that other citizens do. They want to go an extra step and take away even more that we don't have," said Lewis.

She wants to talk about transgender issues out in the open. That's why she's inviting anyone to join the discussion Saturday. She organized the "What You Should Know About Trans" through facebook.

Since she the event together, the bill has died after Rep. Floyd couldn't find a Senate sponsor. His office denied our request for comment.

"Because of the response that I got online, I just decided that I had to do it anyway," said Lewis.

Members of Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition and other support groups will answer questions for allies and trans people about their legal protections at any level.
It's Lewis' hope that other Tennesseans will step up to help improve equality.

"I wouldn't live anywhere else. I can look out my back window and see the mountains," she said. "They're just not informed, that's all."

The event begins at 10 a.m. Saturday at Fayerweather Hall on the Maryville College Campus. You can find more information by clicking the links above.