Geena Rocero To Share Why “Innovation” And “Transgender” Go Together [PSFK 2016]
Gender Proud's Geena Rocero to speak at the PSFK conference about how including stories from the LGBTQ community can strengthen brands
On March 31, 2014, in honor of the International Transgender Day of Visibility, Geena Rocero, model-turned-advocate, came out as transgender at the annual TED Conference. Her talk has since been viewed almost 3 million times. In order to increase the number and complexity of the stories about the transgender community, Geena founded Gender Proud, an advocacy and media production company that aims to elevate justice and equality for the transgender community through storytelling.
We sat down with her before she takes over the PSFK stage at our conference on May 13, to ask a few questions about the changing landscape of traditional beauty standards.
In 2014, you gave a pointed TED talk about coming out as a transgender model. How has the conversation around beauty changed since then?
I think that as of late the conversation around beauty has been influenced by people demanding more depth and authenticity. Specifically, people are looking for something that is more focused on the deconstruction of experiences, inclusion, and validation of anything that defies “traditional.” Hopefully, as a society, we can continue to aspire to celebrate the freedom found in self-determination. I hope to see more people living a life free of labels and having more opportunities to define what is beautiful to them.
You have previously called breaking past the rigid concept of gender “innovative.” What do you mean by this?
For the longest time, especially in Western society, gender has been considered as a construct that only exists on the binary. Being LGBTQ is innovative in and of itself, because for so long, we had to be resourceful in our survival—and we still do. We had to learn how to rely on each other and how to come up with innovative ways to thrive in a society not suited for queer identities. Cisgender, heteronormative people have to realize that all along our experiences, our queer cultures have been the ones to continuously innovate and to do something different than the rest.
Mainstream society will soon understand that being on the gender spectrum brings a sense of freedom to people, liberating them from the long-held rigid beliefs around identity and expression. One day, my nieces and nephews will live in a society where the notions of culture are fluid, and our complicated, layered, intersecting identities are understood.
In the past year, we saw brands like H&M, Louis Vuitton, and Covergirl include transgender models in national campaigns. Why are brands now choosing representatives who defy traditional beauty standards?
I’m a proud transgender woman from the Philippines. For so long, there were no positive portrayals of trans people in the media. Brands that are featuring trans people are both innovative and representative of the current reality regarding our understanding of gender. Trans people, our stories and our journeys, reflect one of the most fundamental goals in life: to be yourself. And that’s worthy of representation.
However, last year was also the most violent for my community—more than 20 trans people, mostly trans people of color, were killed. Visibility is only one step toward acceptance, but we need to systematically change the intersecting root that causes transphobia, homophobia, racism and classism.
How do you think society’s views of the LGBTQ community will change in the next 10 years and what are you doing to work toward that?
For one thing, I hope we won’t be arguing about which bathroom trans people have to use anymore. Hopefully, by that time we will pass the Equality Act that will protect LGBTQ people. But more importantly, we will change the way we learn and understand gender as a spectrum. Hopefully, there will be more complicated and humanizing stories of trans people in all media, especially movies. I co-founded Gender Proud Productions to use and create media that tells empowering stories about the transgender community. We recently won a GLAAD Media Award for our series Beautiful As I Want To Be on LogoTV. I am proud of our team and the trans youth and mentors that we worked with. I’m also excited about the new projects that we have coming up.
What do we have to look forward to at this year’s conference?
For people to realize that “transgender” and “innovation” are two words that go along together.
To hear Geena and other thought leaders inspire Ideas That Transform, join us at the PSFK 2016 conference on May 13 in New York City. Check out our events page to see speakers, workshops, and more. Sign up for a PSFK membership at the checkout to save $300 on the total package. Get your tickets today!