7 talks on the transgender experience

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Alice Miller was born in a body that didn’t feel like hers. Every day, Yee Won Chong has to debate whether to use the men’s restroom or the women’s. Geena Rocero found success as a fashion model — but kept her birth gender a secret for nearly a decade, fearing what others would think.

All these people have transitioned into their true gender. And all of them made the decision to share their stories in a TED or TEDx talk. What these seven stories show: There is no one “right” way to live a life. And no one should have to spend a life hiding who they are.

Below, seven talks on living life expressing your true gender:

“I thought I should be a girl, but everybody treated me as a boy. So I concluded I must be wrong.”

For years, Alice Miller worked hard to be “just a normal guy,” doing everything she could to squelch her feelings that she actually ought to be a girl. But those feelings never went away. After twenty years in the CIA, two marriages, two kids, and in the middle of a distinguished academic career, Alice transitioned to live full-time as a woman. In a moving talk from TEDxStanford, she explains why.

“I want to do my best to help others live their truth without shame and terror.”

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Geena Rocero kept her assigned sex a secret from her model colleagues — and even her agent — for years, “not because I thought what I am is wrong,” she says, “but because of how the world treats those of us who wish to break free.” In a poignant talk from TED2014, she shares her battle to live as her true self — for all of those who feel like they don’t fit in the body they have.

“For me, gender always seemed like a big insider joke that everybody else but me seemed to get.”

Since childhood, Valentijn De Hingh struggled with fitting into a simply defined gender box. It wasn’t until she threw away the idea of the traditional gender binary that she started to feel comfortable with herself. At TEDxAmsterdam she shares how she was finally able to live beyond the limits of traditional gender.

“I found my resting place in the fluidity of gender. When I found self-acceptance, the rest of my world aligned with me.”

Fox Fisher is a filmmaker who documents the vitality and diversity of the trans community. At TEDxBrighton, he reveals how he came to the decision to medically transition from female-bodied to male-bodied, and how that kickstarted a mission to help tell the unique stories of gender-variant people. It’s a narrative, he says, made up of so much more than surgery stories and hyped-up caricatures.

“Do I come across ‘guy’ enough to use the men’s bathroom, or do I feel threatened enough by the men in this place that I would take the risk of being yelled at in the women’s?”

Living as a sex other than the one you were assigned at birth has huge implications on how you function in society, says Yee Won Chong at TEDxRainier, whether that’s choosing a bathroom to use or trying to get a government ID. In his talk, he shares his experience living as a transgender person, and shares advice on how everyone can be allies to the transgender community.

“I felt my soul was always female, but I was afraid people would laugh at me if I expressed it. So I always kept it bottled up and just showed my male side.”

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Martine Rothblatt is the founder of Sirius XM satellite radio. And she also identifies as transgender — she was Martin as a child. In an interview onstage at TED2015, Rothblatt discusses her work, her home life and her relationships, all which have been bolstered by her decision to live a life of gender fluidity.

“The greatest compliment I get from anyone is that they want me to meet their friends. They want to invite me in. And that is how you should treat a transgendered person.”

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Kate Stone’s talk from TED2013 isn’t at all about gender — it’s about her work using conductive inks to print circuit boards on posters and album covers. To Stone, her gender is the least interesting thing about her. But as she tells the TED Blog, she felt compelled to speak out after a shocking freak accident (she was attacked by an animal) landed her in the UK tabloids — where headline-hungry journalists focused on her gender. Once recovered, she realized she suddenly had a platform to speak out and help end the stigma. Because inviting people in isn’t just how you should treat a transgendered person. “That’s how you should treat anybody,” she says. “With respect.”

Do you have a story you’d like to add to this list? Share a link in the comments.