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OPINION: Why Caitlyn Jenner is a hero

When my brother showed me the ' Call me Caitlyn' Vanity Fair cover last night, I gasped.

But the change from Olympian, husband, and man's man, to a woman at the age of 65 is not what's made her a hero to me.

Let me go back a bit.

In December last year, American transgender teenager Leelah Alcorn committed suicide and left an incredibly sad letter on Tumblr, asking for someone out there to do something about discrimination and non-acceptance of transgender teenagers.

She made a desperate plea for change and said the reason she'd taken her own life was because she felt it was too late for her.

At the end of her heart-breaking note, she said:

"My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say "that's f**ked up" and fix it. Fix society. Please"

She was just 17-years-old.

Intolerance for transgender people also crosses borders, and there are cases that get no attention, and that the media has not been made aware of.

Closer to home, in smaller communities, men who are gay or transgender are often referred to as 'moffies'.

Some of them are shunned from their homes, and forced to find other places to live where their status isn't as much accepted as it's tolerated.

At the beginning of this year I listened as a group of young individuals openly discussed how disgusted they were with the idea of two people of the same gender having sex, particularly men.

When I interjected, saying it's about a lot more than a man wanting to have sex with another man, the group in its entirety threw Bible verses and scriptures in my face, boasting about God's will and the like.

Some even compared the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and questioning (LGBTIQ) community to sex offenders and murderers, labelling the 'lifestyle' of being transgender a crime of sorts.

It's a sad reality that in 2015, some humans are still having to fight to be treated like humans.

And this is why Caitlyn is a hero.

In so many stories of transgender men and women, they say they felt trapped, as though they were unable to be themselves in the body they were born with, often begging for understanding that being transgender isn't a choice.

What made me understand that this was more than publicity or another Kardashian drama saga was what Caitlyn, then Bruce, said to ABC's 20/20 host Diane Sawyer in an interview about a month ago.

"People look at me differently, they can see you as this macho male, but my heart and my soul, and everything that I do in life, it is part of me, that female side is part of me. That's who I am."

Speaking to Vanity Fair, the former Olympic gold medallist and reality TV star said she never wanted to embody the image of the ideal man.

"If I was lying on my deathbed and I had kept this secret and never ever did anything about it, I would be lying there saying, 'You just blew your entire life. You never dealt with yourself', and I don't want that to happen."

She said Bruce always had to tell a lie.

"He was always living that lie. Every day he always had a secret, from morning till night."

To me Caitlyn isn't a hero because she came out as transgender, to me she's a hero because of what her coming out represents; freedom, self-acceptance and to raise awareness that humans are humans before they are men or women.

Tamsin Wort is an online producer for Eyewitness News , follow her on Twitter: @TamsinShawn.

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