Appearing Saturday at the Human Rights Campaign's (HRC) 18th annual National Dinner in Washington, D.C., fashion model Geena Rocero, who came out transgender earlier this year on International Transgender Day of Visibility, discussed her coming out journey.

Rocero was born in Manila, Philippines and began competing in beauty pageants at age 15. She immigrated to the United States at 17 and was discovered at 21.

“I was lucky I made it [as a fashion model],” she told the crowd, estimated at 3,000. “But I had a secret. Earlier this year during speaking at TED Talk I shared my story with the world. My neighbors, friends, colleagues, even my agent did not know about my history. It's something I wasn't ready to share to many people in the first nine years in New York.”

“I am a transgender woman of color,” she said to enthusiastic applause. “I am an immigrant.”

Rocero said she came out because she could no longer “live her truth alone.”

“The transgender community allowed me to be who I am at such a young age. They accepted me. It's time that I give back that love,” she added.

Since coming out, Rocero has launched Gender Proud, which describes itself as “an advocacy and awareness campaign that aims to advance the rights of all transgender individuals.”