The TED conference has taken an unexpected but welcome liking to fashion models. Following Prada girl Cameron Russell’s talk to the tech-minded academic crowd a year ago comes Filipina-American model Geena Rocero. In a moving speech on Monday, she described what it felt to be born male but identify as female, get her start in beauty pageants at the age of 15, undergo gender-reassignment surgery in Thailand, and in 2001 move to the States, where she was given her first ID card with the gender box marked ‘F.’
In the talk, which so happened to fall on Transgender Visibility Day (March 31), Rocero wasn’t just telling her trans story. She used the platform to come out as transgender “to help others live without shame and terror.” She said until taking the stage, she herself withheld her trans status from several close friends and her agent at Next Models.
Rocero also announced the launch of Gender Proud, a global awareness campaign fighting for trans rights. It’s the latest rallying cry in what’s already been a good year for trans models, who appeared exclusively in Barneys’ spring catalog. The photographer, Bruce Weber, told Hint, “I was so lucky to be able to photograph these transgender men and women for Barneys. They have more courage than any football player, explorer or astronaut combined.”