When the world doesn’t recognize you for who you truly are, change the world

Model and transgender rights activist Geena Rocero laughs with President Obama at the Democratic National Committee's LGBT Gala on June 17. (Courtesy of Geena Rocero)

When transgender model and advocate Geena Rocero went public with her personal story, she explained that birth gender doesn’t always match who you are inside.

November 20 marks the Transgender Day of Remembrance to memorialize transgender people who have been murdered in acts of hatred. The worldwide vigils underscore for Rocero the importance of advocacy work by groups such as Gender Proud, which she founded. The fight for transgender acceptance is part of the overall struggle for LGBT equality.

Reform Minded

Gender Proud and other organizations, some funded by the State Department’s Global Equality Fund, combat violence targeting transgender persons, lesbians, gays and bisexuals and advocate for the reform of gender-recognition laws. The problem? Even where nations legally protect transgender people, passports or driver’s licenses often list the wrong gender. That can subject one to prejudice in many situations, including a job interview or travel through customs at an airport or border crossing.

“We want the right for your legal documents to match who you truly are,” Rocero says. “It comes back to a very basic human component of being acknowledged.”

Support Systems

Compared to many, Rocero has been lucky. Prior to her move to the United States, her family and community largely supported her identity in her native Philippines.

Her advice to transgender and LGBT people is to find a support system that “wants you to be the best person that you are” even if, sadly, its members might not be one’s blood family.

“As long as you live your truth, you will never go wrong. Keep pursuing that truth because the world is changing. People are realizing that we’re just human beings pursuing a truth,” she says.