Years before she identified as trans, five-year-old Geena Rocero would wear a T-shirt on her head and ruffle it playfully. "Mom, it's my hair, I'm a girl," she'd say. Now, in what's being hailed as the first TED talk on trans rights, the Philippines-born model is coming out publicly and calling for better support for the transgender community.
In a talk entitled Why I Must Come Out, held on International Day of Transgender Visibility, Rocero explains that she's coming out as trans "to help others live without shame and terror", and discusses how gender is "fluid, complex and mysterious".
Competing in beauty pageants from the age of 15, Rocero signed to Next Model Management and forged a career as a successful model in America, earning a large fan base along the way. For nine years, some of her closest friends and even her agent had no idea that she was assigned a male gender at birth. But it's only recently that she's felt comfortable telling her story.
"Because of my success, I never had the courage to share what I went through, because of how the world treats those of us who wish to break free," she says. "Every day I am so grateful because I am a woman."
Rocero has just launched Gender Proud, a global awareness campaign that fights for trans rights. It's hopefully a mission statement that's already being advanced in the fashion world, too – earlier this year, Barney's cast 17 transgender models in their spring/summer campaign.