SANTIAGO, Chile -- SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — They call it a circus, although it's more like a vaudeville show. To these Chilean transgenders it's not only a way to earn a living, but a way to be part of a family.

They've toured the country for more than a decade performing in modest tents and they say their show remains a refuge from discrimination.

Chile has traditionally been a tough place for homosexuals. The South American country only decriminalized gay sex in 1999.

The brutal killing of a gay man last year set off a national debate about hate crimes that prompted Congress to pass a hate crimes law. But while one of his attackers was sentenced to life in prison last week, another young man is in a coma fighting for his life from a similar beating.

The transgender performers are often mocked and some of them have suffered violent attacks.

"The verbal aggressions and attacks continue, even after the passing of the anti-discrimination law," said Vero, 40, who is one of the founding members of the circus show called "Fama."

They earn between $125 and $240 a month, well below Chile's monthly minimum wage of $380. But they say they don't mind the pay because they enjoy their job and have few expenses.

"It's the only work I have. Elsewhere they don't give me work because I am a homosexual," said 34-year-old Sasha.

Eight of the 15 live at the circus, which they describe as their "mobile home."

"Here we give the girls food and a place to stay. A place to live and develop as artists," said Vero.

The group takes care of every detail. Members pack and carry the tents and the wooden planks that use as seating for their audience. Their tent, set up on the dirt, has a capacity for 400 people.

The only classic circus act is a flame thrower. There are plenty of musical acts and double-entendre jokes.

Here's a gallery of images from Chile's transgender circus:

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  • In this July 7, 2013 photo, audience members watch a "Fama" circus show performance, in Santiago, Chile. In the midst of the show's poverty and the modesty of the numbers, the performers maintain their professionalism and act as if the tent were full. (AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo)

  • In this July 13, 2013 photo, drag queen Francoise jokes with the audience while sitting on a man's lap during her performance at the "Fama" circus show in Santiago, Chile. The only classic circus act is a flamethrower. But there are plenty of musical acts and double-entendre jokes. (AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo)

  • In this July 15, 2013 photo, transgender Brithany Star, right, and her boyfriend eat dinner inside their trailer before preparing for her performance in the "Fama" circus show, in Santiago, Chile. Eight of the 15 performers live at the circus, which they describe as their "mobile home." The group takes care of every detail. Members pack and carry the tents and the wooden planks that are used as seating for their audience. (AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo)

  • In this July 12, 2013 photo, "Fama" circus show performer, Sasha Stuart, peers out from her trailer window, in Santiago, Chile. Eight of the 15 performers live at the circus, which they describe as their "mobile home." The group takes care of every detail. Members pack and carry the tents and the wooden planks that are used as seating for their audience. (AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo)

  • In this July 7, 2013 photo, drag queen Susan Brown spits fire during her performance in the "Fama" circus show in Santiago, Chile. The only classic circus act in Fama is Brown's fire eating performance. Fama has toured the country for more than a decade performing in modest tents and they say their show remains a refuge from discrimination. Chile has traditionally been a tough place for homosexuals. (AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo)

  • In this July 7, 2013 photo, drag queen Susan Brown spits fire during her performance in the "Fama" circus show in Santiago, Chile. The only classic circus act in Fama is Brown's fire eating performance. Fama has toured the country for more than a decade performing in modest tents and they say their show remains a refuge from discrimination. (AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo)

  • In this July 12, 2013 photo, Lupita, a drag queen, holds a false eyelash while preparing for the "Fama" circus show in Santiago, Chile. The circus is one of at least two nomadic performance groups made up almost exclusively of transgenders and drag queens in Chile. (AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo)

  • In this July 12, 2013 photo, transgender Warra Montano applies foundation as she prepares for her "Fama" circus show performance in Santiago, Chile. The shows goes on year round, even in the harsh winter with performers wearing small bikinis and worn out stockings. Chile has traditionally been a tough place for homosexuals. The South American country only decriminalized gay sex in 1999. (AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo)

  • In this July 12, 2013 photo, shadows of audience members are cast on a circus tent during a performance of the "Fama" circus show, in Santiago, Chile. They call it a circus, although it's more like a vaudeville show put on by transgenders and drag queens, who have taken their act across the country for over a decade. (AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo)

  • In this July 12, 2013 photo, transgender Sasha Star applies her makeup in preparation for her "Fama" circus show performance in Santiago, Chile. Eight of the 15 performers live at the circus, which they describe as their "mobile home." The group takes care of every detail. Members pack and carry the tents and the wooden planks that are used as seating for their audience. (AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo)

  • In this July 12, 2013 photo, Lupita, a drag queen, prepares for her "Fama" circus show performance in Santiago, Chile. The show is put on by transgenders and drag queens who prefer to create their own employment and avoid looking for work being men dressed as women. (AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo)

  • In this July 12, 2013 photo, transgender Dulce Lafferti performs before an empty house during the "Fama" circus show, in Santiago, Chile. In the midst of the show's poverty and the modesty of the numbers, the performers maintain their professionalism and act as if the tent were full. (AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo)

  • In this July 13, 2013 photo, performers acknowledge the audience at the end their "Fama," circus show performance, in Santiago, Chile. They call it a circus, although it’s more like a vaudeville show. To these Chilean transgenders and drag queens it’s not only a way to earn a living, but a way to be part of a family. (AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo)

  • In this July 12, 2013 photo, transgender Sasha Stuart takes the stage in the "Fama" circus show, in Santiago, Chile. For Stuart and other Chilean transgenders it’s not only a way to earn a living, but a way to be part of a family. According to Stuart, performers earn between $125 and $240 per month, well below Chile's monthly minimum wage of $380. (AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo)