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.

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!

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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.


  1. Absolutely wonderful. A beautiful lady inside and out. She will probably never know how many people she will help by telling her story so eloquently, honestly and beautifully as she does, but it will make a difference.

    The story about her trip to Paris with her friend and peeling away the layers, I could see in my mind like a movie….I WANT TO SEE THAT MOVIE!

    The part about her family is sad and all too common from some of the counseling I do, but she has a wonderful, incredibly brave attitude and she’ll be able to get through anything.

    Thanks for this!

  2. Annika, thank you so much for sharing this. I am really excited and interested in your voice and story becoming a part of this community. I hella loved this ;)

    Dear AutoStraddle, thank you for giving this piece a space here! I really love the way you have responded to criticism with action in so many ways from trying to include more transgender authors and more writers of color. You guys rule.

    • hi!
      i’m so glad you liked annika’s piece! fyi though, we didn’t bring annika (or any other writer) on in an effort to fill a quota or because of criticism — we’ve always wanted a variety of voices and experiences, but it takes time to find everyone! it’s a little easier now that AS has a slightly larger audience, but good, compelling authors don’t come out of vending machines in the break room, you know?
      ok, i just didn’t want anyone to think we’re just filling slots here! carry on! xxo

      • There have always been good, compelling writers who were trans. The majority of the world just happens to ignore them.

        Making an active effort to bring such a writer on board isn’t “filling a quota”, it’s simply ceasing to ignore talent that’s existed from the start.

  3. Annika, you are a beautiful person. Thank you for sharing. My experience (with reference to disowning by parent(s)) is that you cannot cannot be upset by ignorance, only disappointed. We need writers like you to share your experiences with the world to educate people to eliminate that ignorance :)

  4. This story is the perfect balance of cute and brave. It’s awesome that you have a steady income and people that support you and so cool that, when you could easily curl up in comfort, you choose to talk about what you’re doing. I can’t wait to read more!

  5. Beautifully written. And if I could send you a hug through this series of tubes we call the interwebs, I would. Your situation with your parents is exactly my worst fear about coming out. So it’s a relief to see that even if my worst case scenario comes true, life can still be good. Look forward to your future posts!

  6. I love you for sharing your story and I love Autostraddle for giving you a medium to do it. Congratulations on coming out, there’s nothing like living as yourself! I realized I was bi a few years ago and had the exact same thought process: I couldn’t envision not living openly about it (for me and for others!)
    Great blog, and looking forward to reading your posts here! (also hai you and your girlfriend are gorgeous)


    You are beautiful (I apologize if you’re tired of hearing that already) and yr story is wonderful and so important. Another great voice to have in the trans sphere… a big thank you (again) to Autostraddle for continuing to represent an ever-expanding community of queers!

    • Also I just wanted to thank you for having the courage to tell yr story and share yr perspective publicly. Being out as trans (to any degree) is not without its risks and concerns and it takes a brave and wise soul to say “yeah I’m a woman AND I’m trans and this is what that means.” (I also have no delusions about the extra difficulties and transmisogyny that trans women in particular face – I admire you in every way.)

  8. I’m pretty sure everyone who visits Père Lachaise gets lost in it. I spent the better part of an hour traipsing about there once, on a dusty hot morning, trying to find Oscar Wilde’s and Gertrude Stein’s graves.

    Also, great post.

  9. What a beautiful story Annika. I hope you feel even more love and support from the wonderful editors and readers of this site. What you are doing, getting your story out there, being honest and not being afraid to live as you are is so immensely important to the world. I’m particularly moved by the story of how your girlfriend has helped you in your transition and her attitude towards your gender identity. I think so many of us, myself included at times in my life, get so wrapped up in labels when just below the surface, she knew Annika was already there and stepped up to support you. Bravo to you both!

  10. I really enjoyed reading this, and I’m so glad that AS continues to strive to find new voices and perspectives within the queer community.

    Look forward to seeing more from you Annika, and to indulge your penchant for British slang, I think you’re a right bobby-dazzler…

  11. I completely agree with the posters above who want to see a movie about you. This is a great article, thanks for sharing your story. Best of luck to you and your girlfriend. I hope life keeps giving you reasons to share your gorgeous smile!

  12. stories like these really lifts my spirits :)

    my cousin is in a very similar situation to you. She’s fully transitioned now (at 40) and couldn’t be happier. She’s had the support of her whole family (except her dad but he was always a bad seed), friends and co-workers. Which is exceptional considering we live in Glasgow.

    It just goes to show that even if coming out seems like the most terrifying thing to do, the acceptance and support that you could have is totally worth it.

  13. Thanks autostraddle for finding another great guest blogger!
    And thank you annika for sharing with us.
    I just read your whole blog, and i appreciated the frank honesty and truth of it while dealing with such an important life change.
    i look forward to seeing you around here more.

  14. Uh wow congrats to Autostraddle for finding such an intricate example… it took me like 5 minutes to actually understand the situation. Anyway, can I just say something cheeky? You look terribly hot both as a guy and as a girl… sorry about that, had to get it out my chest. :) Thanks for the article and sharing your experience!

    • “You look terribly hot both as a guy and as a girl”

      hmm you really shouldn’t say something like that without knowing her/knowing if a statement like that is OK

      cause if someone said something like that to me about before i transitioned i would not be ok with it..

      • why wouldn’t you? because you never felt like a guy/girl? so if i see a picture of a “before” then i’m supposed to ignore it? then why did autostraddle even post it? i’m really confused now. tell me please.

        • Hi Ryan! Thanks for looking out for me- but I’m not easily offended :) Even though I would have to disagree with Luisa’s opinion of me as a boy- I *hated* the way I looked! For example, I would avoid sitting opposite mirrored walls at restaurants because catching glimpses of myself would totally ruin the meal…

          But don’t worry, Luisa, you saying that I looked hot as a boy doesn’t do anything for me, positive or negative. It’s as if you’re talking about a completely different person.

          Just wanted to clear that up ♥

          • great. thank you for replying. it’s very important that more people in your situation (transgender or whatever they might want to call themselves) speak out because most people don’t know of anyone in their lives that is in transition/transitioned, so they can’t understand many things, and secondly you are still the most discriminated letter of the LGBTQI family (probably as a consequence of the first).
            regarding my faux-pas, two are the possibilities: either i try to be super attentive about my words in order not to hurt anyone, and end up censuring myself and ultimately being false, or i say what i have in my head, conscious that i have no preconceived prejudice, so all the shit that will come out is due to ignorance and lack of education on the subject. which reaction do you prefer to face in your real life, really?

          • Thanks so much Annika for taking the time to write out your story. Your courage and your vulnerability is inspiring to me. I think about how we are the only ones who stop ourselves from true happiness. Thanks for sharing your story. I would LOVE to hear more if you are inclined to share. Lots of love and light to you on this pride weekend :) Cheers!

  15. i am so happy and impressed that you’re willing to make yourself so vulnerable in order for others to hear your story, and you’ve chosen this space to do it in. you are so brave! and your first date was so cute! thank you!

  16. Your story is truly insipiring and I admire you immensely for sharing it with us. You are a brave, wonderful person and I wish you the best of luck.
    Also, your girlfriend is amazing :)

  17. Annika, I have re-read your story about 4x since this morning to fully digest every detail and nuance and I keep coming back to the fact that it is very much a love story. You have an incredible romantic partner who has helped you from the beginning and been there through the whole process. Wow – simply beautiful. You both are incredibly lucky to have each other. I amend my earlier comment slightly “you both are beautiful ladies inside and out”.

  18. YOU ARE SO BEAUTIFUL!!! Inside and out.
    Your story really yanked at my heartstrings on a day where, frankly, I wasn’t banking on that kind of feeling being possible. I am so sorry to hear about your parents’ reaction, but am thrilled that it sounds like you’re creating your own unique, incredibly close family. I hope we fellow Straddlers can be part of that family.
    Four for you, Annika. You go Annika.

  19. Annika – I was just in SF for two weeks. I got home last night. I LOVE the people I met in the LBGTQ community there. I have never experienced anything like it nor have I felt so comfortable with my own sexuality in my entire life. It wasn’t questioned, second-glanced, or even stared at. I loved the freedom of the people and the vibrancy of the city. I am so incredibly proud of you and begin to wonder how many more males and females are out there who don’t feel right in their bodies. I will forever stand next to LGBTQ rights until the day I die.

  20. Your story is so inspiring! It makes me so glad to see that you’ve found what makes you happiest despite your struggles, and are able to live it! And I know everyone is saying this, but I couldn’t stop saying, “She’s so pretty!” the entire time, and not because I expected a transwoman to not be as pretty… You are just that gorgeous!

  21. annika, i found your blog through a usc friend and i’m also an alum. following your blog has been a pleasure– lots of strength, intelligence and good taste. i’m a straight female who supports LGBTQ rights and i think that you sharing your story in such an articulate and emotional way is incredibly powerful in helping to combat the ignorance out there. one thing i wanted to bring up was usc. strange, because my friends and i tend to be dismissive about our alma mater, but lately i’ve felt the need to defend it with all the recent bad press. because while the greek system tends to be the face of the school, it still only makes up 25% of the student population. all of the friends i made there have extremely progressive politics or are LGBTQ themselves. i think that by making it known that we too are a part of the student population will make people realize that there is acceptance in places that don’t necessarily project it. and of course, there isn’t always (as freshmen, we went to the row, and my boyfriend and one of my gay friends had their arms around each others’ shoulders and some frat guys yelled FAGS GO HOME). but who needs to go to one street, when you’ve got the whole of LA as a playground? anyway, looking forward to reading more of your posts and P.S. you look hot.

  22. Thanks so much for sharing your life with us, Annika. I can’t wait to read more of your pieces.
    Also, has anyone ever told you that you look like Anne Hathaway? Because I totally see it.

  23. Why is the whole Autostraddle team so damn attractive? Everyone who writes here is super hot. Can I cuddle all of you, please?

    Annika, your article is an eye-opener. I have a friend who is going through some of the problems you discussed, and I am so excited that I have a good resource to give her. I can help her with the lesbian part, but not necessarily the trans* issues people are throwing at her. Thank you so much.

  24. This is a super amazing fabulous article and I love it a lot. Annika and AS, y’all are all my favourites.

    Thank you so much for sharing your story, Annika. Though I’m not trans* myself I know many of my friends who are often talk about how hidden their lives and their stories are, so I really, really hope this helps them and all the others that I’m sure are trapped out there, not understanding how much their lives could change for the better, even if they are (like you were) stuck in some mega-conservative hellhole.

    Also, I don’t understand how your parents, or anyone’s parents, can just… Drop their kids like that. I just can’t wrap my heads around it. THEY’RE YOUR KIDS. END OF STORY. Short of your kid killing one of your other kids, or something, I just… They’re your KID. I feel like that should just override every other thought in your head, ever. Augh.

    • To your second point: YES. My mom says this is why she can’t join PFLAG, because she’d have to be able to say “I understand you’re going through a hard time right now”, and all she wants to do is bash them over the heads and say “This is your kid, dammit. Get over it and show them the love they deserve.”

  25. Me too~! What is the oppisite of a tomboy….no word. Dang, as a poetress I call us transvesbians! “The only hard on I’, into is my own” LOL or “any pokin goin on around me..I’ll be doin it lol

    THe Irony of life

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