Stand for a world where transgender individuals are free to define themselves!
As a proud transgender woman, I'm standing up for the right of transgender individuals around the world to freely and legally define their identities -- and I need your help!
My story begins in the Philippines. I was assigned boy at birth based on the appearance of my genitalia. When I was 5 years old, I’d put a t-shirt over my head, and let it drape down my back. My mother asked me, ‘why do you always put the tshirt on your head?’ I’d tell her, ‘This is my hair. I’m a girl.’
When I was 15, a transwoman beauty pageant manager named TL convinced me to join pageants. For the next 2 years, being in trans beauty pageants was my full-time job. I met some of my best friends in that community.
In 2001, at age 17, my mom called, and told me that my green card petition came through, and that it was time for me to emigrate to the USA.
I was hesitant at first. I was having fun with pageants, with friends, traveling and I felt fully accepted as a transgender female. Then she told me that in United States there is a law that would allow me to change my name and gender marker. It was all I needed to hear.
In July 2001, I moved to San Francisco to be with my family. In 2003, my Mom and I went to Thailand for my gender reassignment surgery.
While travelling from NYC to Tokyo in 2005, I was stopped by immigration officials. My passport had not yet been changed, and I was detained for hours, intrusively questioned, and subjected to an invasive search. The experience ultimately inspired me to legally change my official documentation, but not before suffering what felt like deep humiliation and embarrassment.
The first time I looked at my new California driver’s license, and it said ‘Geena’ and ‘F’, it felt like my life had started anew. My fears were minimized. I felt like I could finally realize my dreams.
I took a chance, and bought a one way ticket to NYC. I was discovered by a photographer one night in the lower east side. For 12 years, I built a successful career as a fashion model, while holding my secret close. My clients, my manager and my agent didn’t know my true identity.
I recently told the world at TED that I’m a transgender woman. I got up on that stage for all those who came before me, and because I have a vision for my community. I want all transgender individuals to be able to self identify with the fewest possible barriers.
There are only a handful of countries where you can legally change your name and gender marker, without having to first undergo surgery. In other words, you have to give up rights, in order to get rights. This must change.
In the coming months, Gender Proud is going to start targeting countries where gender marker legislation is at a ‘tipping point’; we'll work closely with local transgender justice organizations on-the-ground, to advocate for more progressive gender marker policy. We'll let these organizations and activists lead; they've been at the frontlines of these battles for many years, and we're honored to be able to join them.
This is where you come in: once these local organizations identify how to best leverage support, we'll need the online community (that’s YOU!) to help us create seismic change. By signing the petition below, you agree to become part of our movement. We'll be calling on you soon, so be ready.
Our vision is for a world where all transgender individuals are able to define themselves without interference. The time is now. JOIN US.