My Own Personal Top Five Trans Roots

Autostraddle 5th B'day_Cats plus changes_Rory Midhani_640px (1)
We’re celebrating Autostraddle’s Fifth Birthday all month long by publishing a bunch of Top Fives. This is one of them!

I came out as trans much later in life than I wish I had, and finally getting here was a long and winding journey. I remember wanting to be a girl when I was just a little kid, not even in school yet, but that was before I really had any ideas about gender and what being a boy or girl really meant to me. When I started getting older and seeing that society had strict rules for who and what boys and girls were, I started to really latch on to things that let me challenge or escape those rules. Here are just five of the most important cultural milestones that helped me recognize the queer woman that I was and break free of the gender restrictions that I was living under in order from earliest to most recent.

Annie via The DCAU Wiki

Annie via The DCAU Wiki

1. 1998 Batman the Animated Series episode “Growing Pains”

I was just eleven years old when I saw this episode and it’s been stuck in my mind ever since. In this episode, the Batman villain Clayface loses some of his strength and so he creates a scout out of some of his own shapeshifting clay body to go exploring. This scout is in the form of a young girl. Robin befriends this girl, she starts going by the name Annie, and eventually Clayface reabsorbs her back into himself. It blew my mind that this girl was a part of Clayface. I thought to myself, whoa, Clayface must have a part of him that wants to be a girl, otherwise she wouldn’t have had such a strong personality and independent will and wouldn’t have wanted to run away from him. She actively wanted to stay a girl as opposed to being reabsorbed into his masculine self. I felt like she was representative of all the trans girls trying to run away from what we feel to be our “monstrous side,” our masculine side (obvs I’m not saying all trans people feel this way) and escape into a place where we can be the girls that we really are. I mean, come on, she even wore a choker, which is a classic accessory for many trans girls trying to hide their adam’s apples.

Ikra and Jack

Ikra and Jack

2. 2001 Samurai Jack episode “Samurai Jack and the Warrior Woman”

In this episode, the shapeshifting villain Aku (jeez, I really had a thing about shapeshifters) disguises himself as a female warrior named Ikra and battles alongside Jack until finally betraying him at the end of the episode. I was in the ninth grade and this episode solidified in my mind the idea that the only good answer to the question “if you could have one superpower what would it be?” was shapeshifting. Aku had no qualms looking or acting like a woman and I thought being a woman made Aku much cooler. I thought to myself, jeez, if I had Aku’s powers, I would just be Ikra all the time.

3. 2008 Laverne Cox on I Want to Work for Diddy

There’s a long break in between these because for a while there I genuinely thought that the only people who could be trans and happy were people who had “always looked like girls” or were “feminine” and “petite” before transitioning. I thought that the only way to be happy as a trans woman was to be “stealth” and I knew that I would never be able to do that. I mean, come on, if I only had shapeshifters to look up to, how could I possibly live up to that ideal? Then I saw Laverne Cox on this VH1 reality show and I was blown away. She was beautiful and talented and hardworking and stunning and not in the least bit ashamed to be trans. This was when I started thinking that being trans was something that was actually realistically possible for me.

Picture 1

4. 2009 Jaila Simms on Making His Band

Strangely enough, I have Diddy to thank for a lot of my realizing I was trans and could successfully transition. Another reality show the next year featured Jaila Simms, a singer trying out to be in Diddy’s backing band. She was also openly trans, and not only that, she had a similar body type to mine. I was so excited to see a trans woman who had my same body type being happy and successful. I realized that there were people who would accept me if I did decide to transition.

i couldn't pretend to be a boy again if you paid me!

5. 2011 Annika’s posts here on Autostraddle

This series of posts was a revelation to me. This is when I started not just questioning my gender, but actually transitioning and telling friends that I was trans. Annika was a queer woman who didn’t start transitioning until after college. As a lesbian who had just graduated, I saw her story and I saw my own story (or rather, what I wanted my story to be). Previously, the queer women’s spaces I had seen hadn’t exactly been trans woman friendly, so when I saw Autostraddle and Annika teaming up like this, I knew I had found who and where I was supposed to be.

I’ve come a long way from daydreaming about being able to shapeshift. I’m definitely thankful for all of the things that helped bring me here, and although sometimes I do find myself wishing I had come out when I was younger, I know that I wouldn’t be the person I am today or have the relationships I have if my roots had planted earlier.

Header by Rory Midhani

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Mey Rude is a fat, trans, Latina lesbian living in LA. She's a writer, journalist, and a trans consultant and sensitivity reader. You can follow her on twitter, or go to her website if you want to hire her.

Mey has written 572 articles for us.


  1. You are the beautiful, magical shapeshifter you always imagined you could be. As someone who also took a long time to come out (32 years, to be exact) I find strength in knowing that the years of wishing, hurting, and fearing to bloom were worth it because now I can share my story with others who need to know they are not alone. <3 xxxo

  2. Damn. I thought the headline read “My own personal top five trans *ROBOTS*”

    This is nice too though.

  3. Thanks for posting this, Mey. It is inspiring hearing how you found your inspiration in shapeshifting cartoon characters such as Annie and Ikra, and then when you were older you found Real Women who had the fire to follow a similar dream and shed light in front and behind them, allowing others to pick up on their lit trail, and to allow a dream to begin to grow and ignite. I loved this. Thankyou.

    • To ensure I am not misunderstood, I was trying to contrast *unreal* cartoon female characters, with *real* living women that you found inspired you later on, Mey. I hope my clarification is ok.

  4. i’m always intrigued by how instrumental reality tv has been w/r/t LGBTQ people figuring themselves out — back in the early ’90s, “The Real World” was my first exposure to a femme lesbian.

    anyhow this is really cool mey, i liked reading it a lot

    • I wonder if people who don’t watch TV are more or less free to be themselves. They’re not exposed to as much patriarchal paradigm, but they also don’t get to see examples of identities that might not exist in their lives.
      And thanks, Mey! I like your writing, and the topic of roots or how we come to realize sexuality/gender stuff always fascinates me.

    • OMG The Real World. That show changed my life. I’m surprised my parents let me watch that while I was in the 3rd/4th grade.

    • Seeing people like you, especially when you don’t know yet that you’re like them, is so crucial to self-discovery. It’s only by being exposed to diverse people that we can learn where among the true range of human experiences we fit most happily and comfortably — if anywhere!

  5. I must admit I envy you. I wish I had seen any of these people and characters growing up, and being that we’re not even from different generations it’s really a shame that I didn’t. Instead, my only exposure to trans women up until just over a year ago, even in spite of having very close relatives who are trans men, was through comedy routines and movies that made them the butt of horrible jokes, and exploitative porn.

    The crucial need for representation is so stingingly clear to me, as the very moment that I finally met a trans woman who struck up a conversation with me I started on the path, and within a span of months I had not only realized my identity and how desperately I needed it but even begun to come out and transition.

    Thank you for sharing this with us. I truly, truly hope that generations to come won’t have to have the experience I did, living the better part of a decade believing that my feelings, the people and the identity I was drawn to, were a kink to be ashamed of.

  6. Ditto for Annika – something clicked when I started reading her blog, like “oh! If she’s trans and happy, I can probably transition and be happy too!” Plus being accepted by queer women, which her writing here on Autostraddle really underscored.

    • So seconding this. Transitioning, and having a body I could stand to live in, that was incredible. Having an identity I was proud of and felt comfortable in, and never felt the need to make apologies for? That was amazing.

      But having a community? Being accepted as, and among, queer women, as one of us? It is the most indescribable joy, such a profound sense of belonging.

  7. I didn’t even know that trans women could be lesbians until I read Annika’s articles. I wish I could thank her.

  8. I LOVED all of Annika’s posts and I have to tell you that your posts have totally filled that void. I love your voice on this website and I’m happy that you’re a part of this community.

  9. It warms my heart to see so many people saying Annika was so important to them. The internet is so damn amazing that way.

  10. Oh wow, I didn’t realize that was where Laverne Cox got her start! And that Clayface plot was DEEP. It’s interesting how intensely we analyze these tiny pop culture moments that reveal big chunks of our minds to us. (The first lesbian couple I saw was in Austin Powers, and they were all I wanted to talk about as a 6th grader, after watching the movie at a sleepover. My friends were like, The joke about the LPGA tour really wasn’t the point of the movie.)

    I also loved Annika’s posts. Phrases and ideas she shared still stick in my head.

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