How old are you?
Greta: I’m 46.
Where were you born and where do you live now?
Greta: I was born in Castro Valley, CA, which is a suburb of the San Francisco Bay Area. I am living in the Edgewater neighborhood in Chicago.
Nina: I was born in Mumbai. I currently live in Chicago.
How would you describe yourself?
Greta: Hard femme trans dyke goddess.
Nina: Tomboy femme alpha geek.
What do you do for a living / what are you studying in school?
Greta: Currently I make a very modest living as the Executive Director of the non-profit I started with my wife Nina, Trans Lifeline.
Nina: I currently work as Director of Operations for Trans Lifeline, which I co-founded with Greta and as CEO of my tech startup Cupcake Systems. Neither of which makes me a living, yet.
What do you do in your free time?
Greta: Hang out with Nina, play with my doggie Schmoodle, play burning solos on my pink guitar, and come up with random schemes to improve the world.
Nina: What is this “free time” you speak of?... When I do have some free time, I play bass, I make electronic stuff and come up with wacky ideas.
Do you have any hidden talents / random fun facts about yourself?
Greta: I used to be a metal worker. I welded stainless steel and aluminum. I built some signs for Tommorrowland.
Nina: I once performed a lightsaber battle in front of a large live audience.
If you could karaoke one song, what would it be and why?
Greta: It’s hard to pick one. Maybe Suffragette City by Bowie?
Nina: Mama Cass’ The Good Times are Coming.
When was a moment in your life that you felt really free to be yourself?
Greta: The moment I realized that Trans Lifeline would be my career, that I wouldn’t have to worry about what my employer thinks about me anymore. I’ve always felt very constrained by being professional and employable. I love that I can look however I want to look.
Nina: Summer of 2011. Paul McCartney was playing at Wrigley Field. It was my first time ever going out in public presenting as myself. I had years of hiding myself from the world and that day was the first time I was able to break free.
Tell us about how you identify yourself
Nina: I’m a trans woman. Although I knew I was trans from an early age, I wasn’t able to transition until recently due to various reasons. While I was privileged to keep my job through my transition - a lot of people in our community don’t have that experience - my transition strained my relationship with my family. I’m incredibly lucky to have Greta - my transition buddy, best friend and wife - to support me.
Greta: I was so unhappy before I transitioned. I was filled with social anxiety. I was always worried about what people were thinking about me even though I looked pretty average. Now I’m so comfortable being who I am. It’s a huge relief.
What is a challenge you’ve faced since transitioning?
Greta: I was an in demand software engineer before I transitioned. I didn’t have a college degree but I had no problem finding employment. As soon as I updated my resume with a woman’s name my career fell apart. A woman in software engineering needs a degree to be taken seriously I guess. Horrible double standard. If my career had continued I probably wouldn’t have had time to found Trans Lifeline, so in the long run I think it was for the best.
Nina: I’ve lost some people from my life due to their inability to wrap their heads around my gender.
What is a common misconception or question you encounter about your gender?
Greta: I’ve always dated women and I love women! Some people assumed that when I transitioned that it was because I wanted to date men. Nope. Not even a little.
Nina: People I’ve known since before my transition often think I’m a completely different person and they don’t know me anymore. I’m actually the same person, just way more at peace with myself.
What does support and acceptance mean to you? Can you share a time when someone was accepting / supportive when you weren’t expecting it?
Greta. Before I transitioned there were some people who I thought would be supportive and they just disappeared. There were others who I was worried about who hardly blinked when I told them. I don’t know if they will ever understand how much that meant to me.
Nina: To me, support and acceptance mean respecting me and having my back when I’m forced to deal with the bigoted assholes of the world.
What was your favorite part about the Happy Hippie shoot?
Greta: Getting to know Miley. She’s so insightful. I admired her before but I wasn’t sure what to expect. She was so warm and genuine and seemed to really enjoy being there with us.
Nina: Meeting Miley; meeting everyone else being photographed; the vibe in the studio - that sense of happiness floating all around us. I spend most of my day at my desk writing code. The shoot was most definitely not my typical Friday.
Who came with you to the shoot and what did it mean to you to have them there?
Greta: My wife and Trans Lifeline cofounder Nina came with me. She’s my best friend and it was exciting to share that experience.
Nina: What Greta said :)
What are you hopeful about in the next year—both personally and when it comes to transgender rights?
Greta: I really want to see Trans Lifeline grow up. So many people have come up to me and told me “Hey! I called Trans Lifeline when I was feeling bad and you really helped me!” We need to make sure it becomes a permanent resource. That’s going to take more money.
Nina: I’m hopeful we would be able to grow Trans Lifeline into an organization that can hire trans people since so many workplaces discriminate against us.
What is some advice you have for someone who exploring their gender identity or transitioning?
Greta: Make an effort to meet and spend time with as many trans people as you can. It takes a while to figure out who you really are once you stop pretending to be something else.
Nina: Definitely meet other trans people and have at least a few trans people you are close to. When you are working out your gender identity, it is super important to have some people you can confide in and get support from.