ROCHESTER, Minn. - According to the University of California Los Angeles' law school, about 7,400 people identify as transgender in Iowa. About 24, 250 people identify as transgender in Minnesota.
One of those people is Jessi Wangen.
"Probably since I was about 8 or so, I for sure knew I wanted to be a girl," Jessi said.
Growing up in a conservative area, Jessi kept this a secret.
"One of the ways I could cope was I could grow my hair long," she said.
Jessi said not living her true self was is hard to explain but it is an extremely lonely way to live.
"To be completely invisible to people is an incredibly isolating thing," she said.
Jessi kept her secret and turned to religion. She eventually became a pastor, and was a pastor for six years. While she is now removed from her faith, Jessi said it was during this time she decided to come out.
She said most of her family was supportive but not all. Jessi underwent gender reassignment surgery a few weeks ago and is even a leader of a support group in Rochester for the transgender community. On this Transgender Day of Visibility, March 31st, she wants people to recognize and celebrate the transgender community.
She said talking about trans-issues is not taboo.
"Talk to your family and friend about them. If your friend says a trans-phobic joke or something like that say hey that's not okay," she said.
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