by Geena Rocero
The dazzling, heartfelt memoir of a trans pageant queen from the Philippines who went back into the closet to model in New York City—until she realized that living her truth was the only way to step into her full power.
As a young femme in 1990s Manila, Geena Rocero heard, “Bakla, bakla!,” a taunt aimed at her feminine sway, whenever she left the tiny universe of her eskinita. Eventually, she found her place in trans pageants, the Philippines’ informal national sport. When her competitors mocked her as a “horse Barbie” due to her statuesque physique, tumbling hair, long neck, and dark skin, she leaned into the epithet. By seventeen, she was the Philippines’ highest-earning trans pageant queen.
A year later, Geena moved to the United States where she could change her name and gender marker on her documents. But legal recognition didn’t mean safety. In order to survive, Geena went stealth and hid her trans identity, gaining one type of freedom at the expense of another. For a while, it worked. She became an in-demand model. But as her star rose, her sense of self eroded. She craved acceptance as her authentic self yet had to remain vigilant in order to protect her dream career. The high-stakes double life finally forced Geena to ask herself if she wanted to reclaim the power of Horse Barbie once and for all: radiant, head held high, and unabashedly herself.
A radiant testimony from an icon who sits at the center of transgender history and activism, Horse Barbie is a celebratory and universal story of survival, love, and pure joy.
Hardcover | 320 pages | Penguin Random House | 2023