Feature Story on Transwoman and Cause Article

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Geena Rocero is a model with a purpose. Rocero was born and raised in the Philippines, and recently returned to her homeland to help victims of Typhoon Haiyan. In the midst of a busy schedule, Rocero spends time in her first interview because she feels that sharing her life story is one of the first steps toward helping others. "We're all in this journey together," Rocero exclaims.

Coincidentally, the interview falls on Transgender Day of Remembrance, which commemorates all transmen and transwomen who lost their lives because of targeted attacks. "Transwomen of color are the most marginalized," Rocero reminds us. "70% of hate crime in the LGBT community is committed against transwomen of color. I want this to change. I need this to change. I get so emotional about this and I'm reminded how privileged I am," she says with tears in her eyes.

Rocero works as a model but recently, it seems the bulk of Rocero's work has not been in front of the camera. On November 21, Rocero spoke at a fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders at the Arena in New York City. This December, Rocero is scheduled to deliver a speech at the University of Philippines.
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After her trip to the Philippines, which will include time spent with her brother, Rocero is traveling to Thailand. In Thailand, she is meeting the country's first transwoman public official to discuss "how we can work together to achieve common goals." The common goals Rocero refers to are the common goals of full United Nations human rights recognition for the transgender population. According to Rocero, transgender issues are the last barrier to full human rights recognition. She states, "This is not about gay rights. There so much work to do. People need access to hormones, and for hormones to be accessible via insurance. Individuals need the power to change their identification documents."

Rocero knows first hand the problems that transgender people face when they travel. Japanese officials who were perplexed about her passport once detained her at an airport in Tokyo. If Rocero had been permitted to change the gender on her passport, she would have had no trouble entering Japan or any other country. As Rocero puts it, "When a woman gets married, she files it with no fee and changes her last name. We need also to be able to change the gender designation. This is…

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When she was a young girl, Rocero knew she was female. Her dream was to become a model. She borrowed her sister's clothes, wore her mom's lipstick, entered local beauty pageants, and eventually self-medicated with hormones. Her parents, especially her mom, supported Geena and helped her to enter beauty pageants. When she was 17, Rocero moved to the United States. She was able to work in the United States and save enough money for the gender reassignment surgery, which she had done at age 19. In fact, while on her upcoming trip to Thailand, Rocero is meeting her surgeon to "thank him for giving me a wonderful vagina."

After her sexual reassignment surgery, Geena pursued her dream of modeling. She moved to New York City in 2005 and while working as a bar hostess, met a photographer who helped her develop a portfolio. That same year, Rocero signed with her first modeling agency. Currently, Rocero is signed with NEXT Model Management. In addition to modeling, Geena has worked as a makeup artist with Benefit Cosmetics, a manager at Inc. Magazine, and a sales representative for First Go Green biodegradable products. Rocero has also worked with the Summit Series, an entrepreneurial organization, to learn how to collaborate with partners on achieving mutual goals. It was because of her broad working experience and her networking with Summit Series contacts that Rocero has been able to develop a plan for promoting her public policy initiatives around the world. Rocero's ultimate goal is to transform public policy at the trans-national level. Her vision is to serve as an ambassador for transgender issues with the United Nations.

Rocero knows she has led a privileged life because of supportive friends, supportive family members, and a supportive spiritual community in both her native Philippines and in the United States. Rocero wants to ensure that the underprivileged people of the world also have access to the support systems and resources needed to live a healthy life. Referring to brutal assaults on transwomen around the world, Geena states, "People are dying. I need to do something."

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