Jennifer Finney Boylan, co-chair of American LGBT media advocacy group GLAAD, has spoken about the importance of transgender rights as the heart of the civil rights movement.

She told CBS News this week: “There are few groups in America at greater risk than its transgender citizens.”

She was speaking as part of CBS’s “Voices of the Civil Rights Movement” project, which asks key figures in the arts, business and politics about recent past or present civil rights activism.

She continued: “Seventy-eight percent of us report harassment as students at primary or secondary schools; a fifth of us report harassment by the police; and 41 percent of us have attempted to take our own lives.

“And yet instead of embracing these precious, endangered souls, some people, in speaking of us, focus on bathrooms and operations and sequins. They fight for their right to call us by names which we consider slurs. They think of us as marginal, as entertainers or aberrations, rather than as fellow citizens seeking dignity and respect.”

Other figures interviewed include: the widow of John Lennon, artist Yoko Ono; former NFL player and vocal supporter of same-sex marriage Chris Kluwe; and transgender surgery pioneer Dr Marci Bowers, who said that the transgender movement “is the last wave of the human rights campaign around the world”.

GLAAD was, until March 2013, known as the ‘Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’. It dropped that full name as a reflection of its equal commitment to bisexual and transgender issues.

Professor Boylan was appointed its first transgender co-chair in November last year.

In 2003, her memoir, ‘She’s Not There: a Life in Two Genders’, became the first bestseller written by a transgender American. She has authored two other memoirs and ten works of fiction.