I’m Just Your Typical Urban Hipster Femme Twentysomething Trans Lesbian

this is me

In many ways, I am your typical urban hipster femme twentysomething lesbian: I work for a greentech startup that has nothing to do with my liberal arts degree. I worry about our generation’s internet addiction (mine included). I spend a lot of money on vinyl and concert tickets. I moved to San Francisco last summer, but I’ll never start saying “hella.” I voted for Prop 19. I’m secretly mad that my love of British slang makes me cliché.

Oh, and I’m a transgender former-University-of-Southern-California-Frat-Boy.

I’ve been aware that I wasn’t “one of the boys” for as long as I can remember, and I knew I was different before ever learning words like “gender identity” and “binary.” In Kindergarten, I skipped football in favor of jumping rope with the other girls. In elementary school, my favorite book was Louis Sachar’s Marvin Redpost: Is He a Girl? (I can’t tell you how many times I tried in vain to kiss my elbow…) and made a habit of discreetly copying the handwriting of the prettiest girls in class.

But I had no idea what these feelings meant. I did know one thing, however — my family and society made it crystal clear that overtly feminine behavior was not appropriate for a boy like me.

I got the message.

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In order to blend in and avoid ridicule, I tried to learn how to act in the way that I thought was expected of me.

Then, at 13, I discovered the word ‘transgender.’ I was fascinated. I read everything I could find about hormones but didn’t ever imagine myself transitioning. I was trapped in this suffocating conservative suburb. I was terrified — would my friends and family reject me? How would I explain to them that the boy they thought they knew is actually a girl who is attracted to other girls?

No way.

age 19

Instead, I tried hard to suppress my true self, with the hope that maybe if I acted masculine enough, these feelings would eventually go away. I doubled down on my efforts in college. I made a vow to try to become the man that everyone expected me to be. It certainly seemed easier than the alternatives. I joined a frat and started lifting weights. But the more I butched up, the more miserable I felt inside. I was never comfortable in social situations. I couldn’t fully relax around others for fear of letting the girl below the façade show through. I hated the misogyny and machismo of “bro culture.” But I was paralyzed by fear. I was happiest with my headphones on, where I could safely/gradually give up all hope of ever feeling happiness or real fulfillment.

The story of how I became who I am right now, which is ‘about to finish my second month of hormone therapy and have been “full-time” (whatever that means) for just as long’, begins like all cheap romance novels do — in Paris.

In 2008, I was studying abroad when I met the girl who has now become my lovely brilliant feminist girlfriend-of-three years. On our first date we hunted for Jim Morrison’s grave in Pere Lachaise cemetery, got hopelessly lost, and have been inseparable ever since.

Over the impending months, she helped me to peel away the masculine exterior I’d created in fear and desperation. She introduced me to her intelligent, progressive friends.

Little by little, the unattainable fantasy of ‘becoming Annika’ was seeming increasingly possible — but I was still in the closet.

Last August we moved to San Francisco and it was here that I finally decided to take the plunge. There’s such a proud and visible trans community here and I felt like such a coward and hypocrite, claiming to support LGBTQ rights while not supporting my own gender identity.

I think I knew, though, on a subconscious level, that one day I’d have to acknowledge these feelings. I also knew, on a more conscious level, that the effectiveness of hormones starts to drop off dramatically for those who begin transitioning after age 25, and I wasn’t getting any younger. What if I woke up one day looking like the middle-aged men who sat around me on my morning commute?

Eventually the emotional wall I’d erected around myself was really hurting my relationship and I wasn’t going to lose her over my own gender issues. Last December, things reached a boiling point and I finally broke down and told her everything and then, over the following weeks, started coming out to our friends and family.

The coming out process has been liberating, exhausting, and sometimes heartbreaking. You’ve been there, so I’ll spare you the joy/relief/self-acceptance clichés and just say that looking back it seems unbelievable that I’ve only been out for a few months. So much has changed already. Maybe I’m just making up for lost time?

Ultimately it was meeting my girlfriend that changed everything and I’m grateful that she’s been there to hold my hand throughout the process, sometimes literally, like marching me into dressing rooms in women’s clothing stores.

me and my girlfriend

Most of my fears about transitioning proved themselves unfounded. All of my friends have been wonderful and supportive, regardless of their religious or political views. I’ve learned to never pass judgment on how someone will react to my being trans before actually telling them. My employer has been incredibly accomodating and my co-workers go out of their way to ensure I feel welcome. I’m so hopeful for the future of LGBTQ rights in this country- our generation seems to “get it” in a way previous ones maybe didn’t.

It hasn’t been so easy, however, with my parents. They reacted with shock, grief, disgust, and, eventually, rejection. In mid-February, my father sent me a letter formally disowning me, in which he wrote that my life as a trans woman would be “bleak with much unhappiness.” He questioned the sincerity of my feelings. Then he rejected the possibility that my friends could ever love or support me. He ended his screed by asking me to change my last name — he didn’t want to know me as female, which means he didn’t want to know me at all.

I haven’t heard anything from my parents since then. Their reaction was disappointing, but hardly unique. So many of us trans people are forced to accept that our pursuit of truth and self-fulfillment could lead to losing everything and everyone around us.

Despite being disowned by my family I still feel like one of the lucky ones: I have an incredible support network, a steady income, and a good education. My position of privilege comes acutely into focus as the legal and medical bills start piling up. More than half the patients at the trans youth clinic I go to are homeless. Trans people face a higher rate of job discrimination. I didn’t embark on this journey with grand aspirations of political activism, but witnessing these systematic injustices compels me to step up to do whatever I can in the push towards equality, even if it’s something simple like sharing my story online. Complacency will only hurt me in the end.

this is me

I’m still in the beginning stages of a long and rewarding process. I try to avoid looking at too many transition timelines that I find online. It makes me feel like a child counting down the days until her next birthday. I can’t fast-forward time — so blogging about my experiences is much healthier and more productive.

I hope to provide periodic updates on my transition here on Autostraddle, as well as reflections on how my girlfriend and I are losing the heteronormative privilege that we had taken for granted for most of our relationship. I have no idea about what’s to come in the months ahead, but I do know that I’m no longer filled with dread when imagining my future. One thing is certain– I won’t be invited to the annual frat alumni golf tournament this summer.

Annika blogs at Transgender Express. Follow her on tumblr!

I'm a 23 year old femme lesbian living in SF. Once upon a time, I was a USC frat boy ;) I ♥ music so please recommend your favorite artists to me!

annika has written 21 articles for us.

173 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing this, I’m very happy that you are able to become who you really are.

    Really sorry about that letter from your Dad. That had to be hard for you and I was glad to hear about the support from your friends.

    Welcome to San Francisco! Wishing you and your partner much happiness.

    • Not stupid at all! A lot of transgender people don’t know what it means yet either!

      Trans* is a pretty new way of talking about the greater gender-nonconforming community. Trans was often used as an umbrella term but this is a way to highlight that it is being used in an all-inclusive way.

      Ppl who are bigender or gender queer or gender neutral or who identify as a different gender but do not plan to transition in anyway or anyone who doesn’t fully identify with the gender they were assigned at birth falls under the category of trans*. It also is a way to include intersex people who have transitioned to some degree but whose identities and experiences are different from transgender people.

      I see it as mostly a respectful tip o the hat to all the gender diversity amongst humans

      • Thanks! I kept trying to search it but google wasn’t recognizing the little star.

        Now I’m just left to wonder how you say this. I’m imagine that you say trans and then make some kind of star-indicating gesture because that sounds fancy.

          • Ha, Lizz, that’s hilarious! I’ll probably do that from now on. Not that I ever have the opportunity to say “trans*” out loud but hopefully in the future.

            Sebastian, thanks for the explanation, and Laura, thanks for asking! I’ve been wondering myself. I used to look for the explanation of the * down at the bottom of the article as if it were a highlight to a reference LOL

  2. Hi Annika! It takes a lot of courage to live as your true self in a society like our, so I really admire you! I really hope your parents come around eventually, but even if they don’t know that there are people out there who are pulling for you and wishing you all the best.

    To Autostraddle: I’m loving all the trans* writers you’ve been having recently. There’s such an amazing diversity of people out there, it’s great to see them get a place to be heard.

  3. You’re amazing. As part of my own coming out, I have faced up to a lot of self-denial and misconceptions about the LGBT spectrum. I am SO looking forward to my move back to the city, and the chance to meet and support more people in our community with my newfound perspective. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m looking forward to updates.

  4. Hey thanks so much for sharing. You rule– I can’t wait to read more from you.

    Also might I just add (based on three pictures) you dress adorably. Thus, might I propose as a takeaway from this (for everyone) the all important/useful time-line:

    Go to Paris; fall in love; find yourself; dress awesome

  5. Hi Annika, I know you said you’re not easily offended but I don’t want to be a dick so I’m phrasing this carefully. Does your girlfriend now identify as lesbian/queer? Given that she fell for you before you began transitioning, I imagine she must’ve gone through some difficulties regarding her own sexuality? Feel free not to answer as I’m just being nosy! Your story is inspiring xx

    • Hi Alexa! Good question! And no, not too nosy at all :) It’s something that my gf and I have discussed a lot. She’s always been involved in the queer community, but had only been with boys before dating me. My coming out hasn’t fundamentally changed her identity, and yet we are still together and very much in love. Is there a label for that? Annikasexual, maybe? ;) Here’s my her response to your question: “I’m a queer girl who prefers that my partners of whatever gender have a penis. This experience has made me understand my sexuality more, but it hasn’t changed it. ” So there you have it!

  6. aww yay hello :)
    good to hear SF’s been good to you. I’m going there myself for a residency but mostly it’s also to find a place to work out who i am in an area that probably has a lot more resources. <3<3

    • Growing up, my mother always told me that me that if she had had a daughter she would have named her Annika. So this was my way of reclaiming what is rightfully mine ♥

      My middle name (Penelope) was the winner of a contest among my friends.

      btw…my name is pronounced AH-nih-ka (rhymes with electronica); some people have had trouble with this- it’s Swedish!

      • Aww, that’s a beautiful back-story =) Annika is a really pretty name – one of my favourite high school teachers named his daughter Annika, so it’s a familiar name.

        I, too, have a difficult-to-pronounce-for-Anglophones name, so I can relate to the immediate phonic explanation =P It’s stupid because my name *is* spelled phonetically which throws people off.

      • I love your name, I used to have a Swedish tutor who was later sort of a friend who was amazing, and we nicknamed her ‘perfekt Annika’ her licence plate said Annika as well. and now whenever I meet Annikas I’m like, ‘you’re a perfect Annika!’

        sorry thats a bit inane but it makes me think of that =p

  7. I’m confused…I have to start saying that Annika is a talented writer and I am sure she is an amazing person…what confuses me (and I don’t want to sound offensive here) it’s the fact that her gf expresses her preference for a “penis” when I am assuming Annika will want to get rid of it some point. I see a conflict there? Is it only me?

    Best of luck Annika :)

    • “when I am assuming Annika will want to get rid of it some point.”

      that’s the problem, mate – you’re assuming. assuming anything about someone’s genitalia or relationship to their genitalia is a bad idea. some trans people accept and love their bits downstairs and some don’t and some are ambivalent and don’t particularly care. surgery isn’t a requirement for being trans.

  8. Annika –

    Thank you so much for your open, clear, honest, courageous and beautiful writing about your life experiences. You are a fantastic writer and I feel totally privileged to read your story. Please keep writing and sharing on Autostraddle!!

    I think it’s rad that you take the time to individually answer people’s questions – helping everyone better understand your personal experiences and potentially better understanding the experiences of other trans* folks. Of course, each person is different and may have different feelings subject to subject – but it creates this really open and safe space for dialogue. Cool!

    As a shout out to my pal Gwen Haworth – I would strongly recommend the documentary film “She’s a boy i knew” to anyone wanting to know more about one person’s trans experience – through interviews with her family, friends, and wife. Gwen’s parents in particular certainly struggled with her transition, but the good news about this story is that her parents have really come around and now Gwen’s mom does presentations with her!! :) This is an exceptional film, and I feel it offers another open and honest look into one person’s experience, much like Annika is doing here.

    http://www.artflick.com/contact.html

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=39329004250&v=info

    p.s. Annika – when I saw the title of your article, I thought it might have been written by Gwen before I saw your name, because she is totally a “Typical Urban Hipster Femme Twentysomething Trans Lesbian” (**except she is a thirtysomething**) :)

  9. So excited and proud of you. I know it took a lot of courage. Finally you can be your true self and live the life YOU want.
    It’s very depressing about your parents, but you’re right – you have so much love and support from your friends and from the many of our generation. I applaud your efforts to tell others and hopefully provide someone else in your same position the courage to change their life too.

    God bless.
    Rachelle Palmer

  10. So excited and proud of you.
    I know I’m trans and I couldn’t resist
    My family was angry & cry at my face when i told them what’s going on with my body.

    I don’t even want this. But I couldn’t do anything. I tried to be normal, but I can’t

    I’m 22 years old right now. and want to prepare my career, Luckily, I have very good education and want to find a girl who can accept me.

    Who want to have this kind of feeling? I hope that i can be just a normal boy. But yes, God gave this feeling for me. Just want to be a girl, a normal girl.

    I’m really proud of you who already made a change, soon i will follow your path.

    May God Bless You Annika :)

  11. Love it, hunnie. It was hard for me to become me but once I made that decision and told my mom and my sister they supported me. My sister bought me my first dress and paid for me to see a doctor so I can be hormones. I never really looked like any of the boys but then I did start very early.
    TTYL Hunnie

  12. So, this is a really late comment, but just want to say, Annika, that reading this was one of the best things I’ve done all week. I’m just starting this process myself. Being able to read an honest story like this gives me the courage I really need right now to be true to my own life.

    Just, thanks.

  13. I love this article! It’s great to know that you’re doing so well and all. I have a lot of hope now that I’ll get along just fine once I’ve transitioned; in your 19 yr old pic, you looked much like I do now, and I’m only 18 and starting E soon! :D
    I shall be following along with your future articles! :)

  14. Pingback: 10 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started My Transition | One Dollar News

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  17. Annika, I miss you on Autostraddle. And hope you are happy and healthy and all the good things you want wherever and whenever you are in life. It was you who helped me understand and accept who I am after a lifetime of confusion and pain. I will forever be in your debt. Love you. Alyson.

  18. Pingback: TransSupport.Org | 10 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started My Transition – TransBliss.com – Transgender Awareness – Gender Identity Resources

  19. YAAAAAAAAAAYYYYY ANNIKA!!!!! :-) :-) :-)

    I am *so sorry* your parents have rejected you. Something similar, but not as final, has happened in my own family. My spouse and her family have actually been far more gracious with me then my mum and siblings.

    Like you, through the difficulties, I have been *blessed*, AND though I have started late on HRT, estrogen works *very well* for me, so I hope that can encourage older ones among us.

    Oh!! Keep writing please – you are a joy to read!!

    Blessings!!

  20. Thanks for sharing your stories and feelings. Im so sad to hear about your parents. Family is very important in my life. I want to transition, but my biggest fear is that my family will reject me. Even though that would be completely ignorant, I don’t know if I could deal with being ostracized by them. I see this article was written a few years ago know, I hope you provide us with an update soon that your family has come around and gotten in touch.
    XO
    Paul for now

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