Geena Rocero is a transgender model and advocate who founded the transgender awareness campaign Gender Proud. In this lesson excerpt, she introduces transgender identity and explores the need for sensitivity training in the workplace. The full lesson, available on Big Think+, offers strategies for including and supporting the transgender, gender nonconforming, and transitioning employees within your work community.
Geena Rocero: I believe I was born a girl, but when I was born, because we live in a society that sort of felt the need to assign gender at birth based on genitalia — and I think there should be a deeper conversation about — gender is really how the way you feel. So there’s two types that I could explain to you. One is, most people are cisgender, meaning you’re born; you’re assigned a certain — let’s say if you’re assigned a female at birth and then you really feel it matches who you are as a female. So you’re a cisgender. I’m a transgender because in my case I was assigned boy, but I really feel like a girl.
When I was five years old was when I first had this, you know, almost like five years old having this discussion with my mom when I first told her, when she first asked me how come I always wear the T-shirt on my head, and I told her, “Mom, this is my hair. I’m a girl.” At that age I knew. You know, it’s almost like I self-empowered myself at that very young age.
Sensitivity training is critical
There’s a lot of pain, you know, when you feel like you were dealt the wrong hand when you were born. And, you know, that’s the importance of the support system. You know, it’s something that’s at the core of our identity. I mean challenging the — your gender assignment when you were born is, at times, even a much deeper aspect because this is — our gender is determined even before the color of our skin, right? I mean, when mother’s pregnant, you know, when you look at the ultrasound and you figure out that it’s a boy or a girl, you already have a certain gender assignment within that. So to challenge that it’s much more difficult, and that’s when a lot of sensitivity that needs to happen. And it has to be a very open conversation, you know? I think ignorance happens when there’s a fear around asking the tough questions. And it’s tough questions for most people, but it’s a very important conversation that needs to happen.