Transgender activist Cecilia Chung describes life in San Francisco in 80s

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- If you've been following the groundbreaking series "When We Rise," you know there is a diverse cast of characters, all of them based on people who live right here in the Bay Area.

"Trans, unemployed, and positive, and hooked on crystal meth." That's how transgender activist Cecilia Chung describes her life in San Francisco in the 1980s.

"So it was really like I was the poster child of what it was like to be trans living in the Tenderloin at the time," she said.

Chung's life is the inspiration for one of the characters in "When We Rise." The series tells the story of four activists and how their lives were intertwined with the fight for LGBT equality.

RELATED: San Francisco creator of gay flag shares story of strength, pride

"Had there not been folks who actually supported us, be there when we needed them, some of us might not have been able to survive," Chung said.

In the miniseries, Chung is violently attacked. "The assault in my life actually was a lot more intense than what the TV series shown," she said.

And that wasn't the only time Chung was viciously beaten. "Actually that happened to me multiple times," she said.

Chung spent three years homeless on the streets of San Francisco's crime-ridden Tenderloin District. This is an area where many transgender teens find themselves, but not all of them survive.

RELATED: ABC7 News journalist remembered for fearless video diary on AIDS

Though lesbian and gays outnumber trans people six to one, transgender people are more likely to be the target of violence and 50 percent more likely to be murdered.

Research shows LGBT teens and young adults who do not have supportive parents are three times more likely than their straight counterparts to think about, or try, to commit suicide.

Chung said her family's acceptance saved her life. "Having my mother back in my life meant the whole world."

She's now a vocal advocate for transgender rights. "This is a fight that we can only win by fighting together," she said.

RELATED: 'When We Rise' features Dianne Feinstein, SF's dark history

Today, she serves on the San Francisco Human Rights Commission and works as a senior strategist at the Oakland-based Transgender Law Center.

Chung continues to fight for LGBT equality. To young transgender people, she says be patient, happiness is just around the corner.

She said, "It might take longer than you anticipate, but eventually love is going to transcend it all."

Written and produced by Ken Miguel

Click here for more stories on the ABC mini-series "When We Rise."
Copyright © 2021 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.