I was constantly paranoid I'd be found out!' Transgender lingerie model
Geena Rocero reveals why she finally told the world she was born a boy
- Miss Rocero was born in the Philippines and moved to the U.S. when she was
17, where she underwent sexual re-assignment surgery
- She became a New York model when she was 21, and told almost no-one about her birth gender
- Miss Rocero broke the news in a TED talk in March
Annabel Fenwick Elliott for MailOnline
19:38 GMT, 18 August 2014
20:33 GMT, 18 August 2014
model Geena Rocero has opened up about her decision to finally come
clean with her birth gender during a powerful TED talk in March, 12
years into her career as a successful lingerie model.
'I carried the paranoia [of being found out] with me every day,' the 30-year-old New York-based model tells Glamour, explaining that in part, she wanted to beat the 'salacious
gossip pages' who could discover her secret at any time; a secret that even her own modeling agency didn't know.
was always that fear: What if people found out? They'd think I'd duped
them, and maybe I'd lose my regular clients. It could ruin my career.'
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Ending the fear: In part, Geena Rocero (pictured
May 3) wanted to beat the 'salacious gossip pages' who could discover
her secret at any time, one that even her own modeling agency didn't
minutes into her generic TED speech about being 'true' to oneself, Miss
Rocero broke the news: 'I was assigned a boy at birth based on the
appearance of my
Despite her fears that the truth could
ruin her career, Miss Rocero's TED talk earned her a standing ovation,
over two million online views, and widespread positive attention.
commitment to go public struck her while she was in Tulum, Mexico, on
her 30th birthday last year. 'I don't give a damn anymore. I'm ready to
share my full journey as a woman,' she told her boyfriend at the time.
Transformed: 'I was assigned a boy at birth
based on the appearance of my genitalia,' the model announced in March,
pictured as a child in the Philippines (left) and June 4 (right)
agent at Next Management, Rob Gerad, was 'stunned' when he heard the
news, having had 'no idea' his model had been born a boy, but gives her
'a lot of credit' for her brave public announcement.
Rocero was born to a working-class family in the Manila region of the
Philippines, and never once felt either like a boy or a 'gay' boy.
Fortunately - unlike so many others, she points out - she not only had
the unwavering support of both parents from a young age, but she lived
in a part of the world where the transgender community thrives.
'I don't give a damn anymore. I'm ready to share my full journey as a woman'
Rocero went to a Catholic school and was required to wear a boys
uniform - which she altered to at least fit her in a more feminine way -
and was still teased and insulted on occasion.
At the age
of 15, Miss Rocero was encouraged to compete in a prestigious
transgender pageant, and came second. She went on to win many more, and
used her earnings to buy hormones that helped her grow breasts and adopt
more womanly attributes; in spite of her fears for the drugs' safety.
was 17 when she moved to the U.S. to join her mother in San Francisco.
To her enormous delight, the move meant she could change her name and
identify as a 'female' on immigration records.
her female driver's license was a moment she will never forget.
'Getting that license, to me, was a license to live,' she recalls.
The big reveal: Just two minutes into her TED
talk (pictured) Miss Rocero spilled the news, triggering a standing
ovation, two million online views, and widespread acceptance
long afterwards, Miss Rocero had her sexual reassignment surgery, which
she says rendered her 'perfect down there', and moved to New York to
fulfill her dream of becoming a model.
I became a model I thought I had finally achieved the dream that I had
always wanted since I was little,' she said in her TED talk. 'My outside
self finally matched my inner self.'
'If someone had asked, I would have told them. It wasn't about passing as a woman'
slender, balanced proportions found her much work with lingerie brands -
an 'ultimate validation' of her femininity, she says - and she went on
to model for clients including Macy's.
moving to a new city as a new woman meant Miss Rocero could make new
friends without disclosing any details of her old self.
someone had asked, I would have told them,' she says. 'It wasn't about
passing as a woman, about "nobody can tell." It was about expressing my
She did make sure to inform men who she was in relationships with, which prompted mixed responses.
Moving on up: After the TED talk, Miss Rocero
(pictured last month) co-founded Gender Proud, a global awareness
campaign that fights for transgender rights
man, upon being told, drove Miss Rocero home in silence before simply
remarking that her 'big knees' should have given her away.
much more serious boyfriend, however, reacted by hugging her and
thanking her for her courage. That relationship later dissolved because
the pair were at 'different phases' in their lives.
was a different, more recent boyfriend, who prompted her to share her
story with the world as they sat on the beach in Mexico together.
After the TED talk, Miss Rocero co-founded Gender Proud;
a global awareness campaign that fights for transgender rights.
According to her, 89per cent of people in the U.S. currently believe
that transgender people deserve the same rights and legal protections as
this encouraging statistic, Miss Rocero feels there is 'still a long
way to go' - something that parents of transgender children especially
need to recognize.
the space to self-identify with a gender we weren't born with is a
conversation we should have with parents, with colleges, with friends.
is still a lot of work that needs to be done. Parents need to approach a
child [during gender self-identity] with curiosity and openness.'