A transgender supermodel talked about the importance of coming out and how she’s never turning back.
“I stand here as a proud transgender of color”, Geena Rocero said.
Geena Rocero is a Filipino American supermodel and transgender advocate from New York City.
Rocero spoke at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, in Schofield Auditorium on Thursday, March 2, 2017. She spoke to a room full of 175 people. The title of her speech was, Why I Must Come Out.
Her speech began by explaining that she grew up in the Philippines. Part of their religious practices involved transgender beauty pageants. When she was 7 years old she went to these pageants with her friend and something happened inside of her. She felt connected to these women.
“I thought I could be just like them”, Rocero said.
Once the winner of the pageant was crowned, people started throwing chairs and bottles at her. A protest broke out. People called her an abomination. From that moment on, Rocero saw that as a metaphor of how she would live her life.
“Peoples ignorance could never be my internal reality”, Rocero said.
When Rocero was 15 years old, and still dressing as a boy, she was approached by a transgender beauty pageant manager. Her name was Tiger Lily. In her first pageant she won best in swimsuit, long gown, and was second runner up out of 40 contestants. She was living her dream.
In 2001, her mother called her, saying that her green card petition came through. At first Rocero was hesitant, but once she figured out that she could change her name and gender marker in the United States, she was all in.
In 2005, she moved to New York City to become a supermodel. At that time there wasn’t any out transgender models. So, she decided to keep her transgender journey to herself.
“I remember going to castings and looking at myself with pride, but going home and crying because I didn’t want anybody to find out”, Rocero said about her decision. She had a lot of fear and shame because she felt she wasn’t being fully seen.
When Rocero reached the age of 30, she decided she wanted to come out through a TED Talk. From that moment on her life was changed.
Once the speech was finished I interviewed an audience member, named Kessa Albright. She had only praise for Rocero’s speech. “I think Geena Rocero was beautiful. She said a lot of powerful things. My favorite part was when she was talking about transgender youth. She said that everybody needs to live their truth”, Albright said.
She is now an activist for Gender Proud and speaks around the world about her journey. Rocero has had a great support system throughout her journey. In the speech and while answering some of the questions at the end, she talked about her mom and how loved her mother made her feel, but she realizes that not everyone can be so lucky. She offers this advice to those who don’t have a great support system.
“Despite all of that pain and not knowing my self-worth, I am now a woman living with compassion”, Rocero said.