Augsut 2019 Playboy Playmate Geena Rocero

Geena Rocero

I’m in the Costa Rican jungle. I’m nude, playing in the sand, climbing trees, and at one with nature. I’m in my element. It’s a perfect metaphor for the dream of trans people and the way our bodies should always be seen: as natural as can be.

I come from a strict Catholic upbringing in the Philippines—the only place in the world besides Vatican City where divorce is illegal, but also a place where transgender beauty pageants are broadcast on national television. As a kid I would see the women in these pageants and recognize myself through them. They expanded my vision of who I could be and gave me a pathway to reach for my bigger dreams. Little did I know that at the age of 15 I myself would become a transgender beauty queen.
This is our lived experience. It’s not up for debate.
I moved to the United States when I was 17. Just imagine: an immigrant, a young trans girl trying to grapple with her identity and then with a new culture and a language barrier. It was a complete shock. When I started modeling I began to realize the power in loving my body. I was doing a lot of lingerie and swimsuit editorials, projecting an image of a powerful woman in touch with her sexuality. But after eight years I started to feel a sense of shame, and the pressure of withholding the truth became insurmountable. The bigger the job, the bigger the paranoia that I would be outed. The stress of living this double life actually caused me to break out with eczema. I needed to listen to my body. I knew that if I was going to tell my story, it had to be on the biggest platform I could think of: the TED conference. So that was my first public speaking engagement!
My TED talk went viral. It was 2014, the beginning of a big shift in the cultural conversation about transgender people. I wanted to further that conversation, so I launched an advocacy platform called Gender Proud. This allowed me to travel the world for transgender rights—specifically gender recognition laws, which would allow trans and nonconforming people to change their names and gender markers on legal documents. After a year and a half of policy work, I started a production company. Working with VH1, MTV, LogoTV, Fusion and Univision, I became, I guess, a transgender Tyra Banks, because I believe telling stories through the lens of the transgender experience speaks louder than statistics. For so long we trans people have not been in charge of our own stories, and our representation has been predicated on the idea that we’re not the people we are. Obviously, this is who we are. This is our lived experience. It’s not up for debate.



Manila, Philippines
New York, New York
Summer 2019
I remember looking at Caroline “Tula” Cossey—one of the first transgender supermodels, who was actually featured in PLAYBOY—and thinking, Wow, if she could do it, maybe I can as well. I wanted to be as sexy, beautiful and confident as she was.

We spoke English in the Philippines, but when I moved to the United States at 17 and started hanging out with other teenagers, it was a totally different culture. I remember my gay best friend telling me, “Girl, we’re going to listen to Destiny’s Child. You’re going to learn young slang.” Obviously we listened to a lot of Destiny’s Child, and we loved it.

In my process of self-development, I read Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. He writes, “The emotion of sex brings into being a state of mind.” The book taught me about the power of self-determined pleasure—and that completely revolutionized my relationship to power and sexuality.

Freddie Mercury is my jam. I became obsessed with him after seeing Bohemian Rhapsody. I’m just in love with his beautiful spirit. I also love listening to Filipina hip-hop artist Ruby Ibarra. Her song “Us” is an empowering feminist anthem.

I become really crafty when I’m on a remote island and have nothing to do. My favorite thing is to make swimsuits out of natural materials, whether it’s leaves or fruits. I’ll put together the heart of a banana leaf and turn it into a red two-piece bikini.

I once shared a speaking agent with the iconic goddess Maya Angelou, and he told me Maya believed the true definition of legacy is not about the future; it’s about the people you interact with day to day. The moment you become conscious of who you are and what your purpose is and the way you communicate that to people one at a time, that’s your legacy.

I love cooking. I mean, find me in the kitchen, girl. I like cooking Filipino and Italian food; it’s like meditation for me. Of course, I can make a mean chicken adobo with my eyes closed.

If feminism doesn’t include the journey and spectrum of trans womanhood, I don’t want to be part of it. I’m an advocate for transfeminism!
In 1991, Tula Became the First Transgender Woman to Pose Naked in Playboy

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