Unapologetic: Standing Up for Gender Equality

 A Filipina American Story as told by supermodel and transgender advocate, Geena Rocero.

“When I joined my first trans beauty pageant, I felt like I was dreaming. At 15 years old, I became a trans beauty queen, and my world changed. I found support in the Filipino LGBT community while I made a career out of joining pageant after pageant. Then, at 17, my life as a diva was interrupted when my family immigrated to San Francisco. Suddenly, I was a young trans person dealing with a drastic change in culture and options. I lost the security of the pageant scene in the Philippines. I decided to move to New York and become a model; I could use my pageant training this way.
At auditions, driven to succeed, I hid that I was transgender. I thought I had a better chance as a cisgender model. In a way, that was true. I landed big jobs, like a lip gloss commercial for Rimmel Cosmetics, the cover of Harper’s Bazaar, and working the runway at New York Fashion Week. I even starred in The Weeknd’s music video.

Just as I was about to turn 30, I felt I had to come out to the world. I revealed my inner truth on one of the biggest stages in the world, at an annual TED Conference. It was a big risk I was willing to take because I felt so ready to be real. By luck, the timing was right because the world was starting to engage in conversations about gender identity.

That talk changed my life. It has been translated into over 30 languages, telling me that while I don’t represent every trans person or trans identity in every part of the world, I have a very global story. I started a production company called Gender Proud. I began advocating for equal rights for trans people that led to working with the United Nations, the White House, and with people back in the Philippines.

I know I’m no savior. I can’t do it all. But I believe if you want to make an impact in this world, you must make personal success your biggest advocacy and empower people from where you are. Be proud of who you are.”

About: Filipino American Disruptors is a month-long storytelling initiative powered by NextDayBetter x AARP AAPI Community celebrating the stories of Filipino Americans in a range of disciplines from community activism to tech entrepreneurship. These forward-thinking individuals are trendsetters, trailblazers, and problem-solvers in their respective fields, helping to push America and the Filipino American community forward through their leadership, creativity, and innovation. #FAHM2017 #FAHM

NextDayBetter Storyteller: Candice Quimpo