Victories for transgender equality and the long road ahead

'President Barack Obama has done more in less time to advance the rights of the LBGT community than any administration in history'

This speech was delivered by New York-based fashion model and transgender rights activist Geena Rocero at the Democratic National Committee LGBT leadership council’s annual gala in the United States on June 16, 2014.

I never thought that this day would come. 

A baby born and raised in a little alley in the Philippines, is standing here tonight, just as I am: A proud transgender woman. I stand here with enormous gratitude for those who came before me, and most especially for our President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. (READ: Transgender people clamor for equal rights)

This President has done more in less time to advance the rights of the LBGT community than any administration in history, going as far back as 2009, when the Census Bureau ended a policy that kept LGBT relationships from being counted. (READ: LGBT activists: ‘Recognize transgender rights in the Philippines now)

We all appreciate the progress that had happened under this administration, but as one transgender woman, I take my greatest solace from his decision back in June 2010 that allowed transgender Americans to change name and gender marker on their passport without first being asked to have surgery

 SHARING LAUGHS. Transgender activist and fashion model Geena Rocero shares a light moment with US President Barack Obama. Photo courtesy of Allison O'Brien Photography

Something very important happened to me In 2005, I was traveling from New York to Tokyo with my Philippine passport with my male name and gender marker. In the Philippines, there’s no law permitting trans people to change their name and gender marker. The next thing I knew, I was escorted inside the Immigration Holding office where I was held for hours and hours, ruthlessly questioned about who I am, what I am, and almost why I am.  

For years I lived in fear, not because I think what I am is wrong, but because of sanctioned discriminatory practices. (READ: #SexTalk Google Hangout: Transgender 101

I kept quiet about my history. But I decided to come out  and give a speech at the TED conference a few months ago, so that all transgender and gender variant people can know that while they are unique, they are not alone. (WATCH: #GenderProud: Filipina model Geena Rocero LIVE on Rappler)

I am here – and others are here. 

The whole world is ready for us, and our President is here to support us.

Only weeks ago, the Obama administration ended the ban on Medicare coverage for transition related care. This is a huge victory for our community.

Thank you President Obama, for having the courage to stand with the LGBT community. And to everyone here, happy pride!



Geena Rocero is a fashion model and co-founder of Gender Proud, an organization that advocates for the rights of transgender persons. Follow her on Twitter: @geenarocero. Visit


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