PUBLISHED: 18:00 EST, 22 July 2013 | UPDATED: 18:37 EST, 22 July 2013
Teenagers Arin Andrews and Katie Hill look like any normal young couple posing in their swimwear.
It is hard to believe that just two years ago Arin was a girl called Emerald, and Katie was a boy called Luke.
Arin, 17, and Katie, 19, from Tulsa, Oklahoma, have both undergone surgeries to change their gender and now are enjoying being in their bodies they always wished for.
- Arin, 17, was previously called Emerald and Katie was a boy called Luke
- The couple, from Tulsa in Oklahoma, met at a support group for transgender teens
Young and in love: Transgender teens Arin Andrews, 17, seen posing for a picture with sweetheart Katie Hill, 19, at the Oologah Lake in Tulsa, Oklahoma
Living life to the fullest: The teenage couple have been bullied and lost friends but have been able to support each other through their gender treatment
Transgender teens in love: He was a girl, she was a boy. Just over a year ago Katie, a university student, had gender reassignment surgery, thanks to an amazing $35,000 donation from an anonymous donor who read her story in a local newspaper.
Now, Arin, who is still at school, has undergone an operation to remove both of his breasts, and is proudly showing off his new male physique.
For the last year, Arin has been binding up his chest to try to hide his female body, but can now go topless for the first time after his surgery in Cleveland, Ohio, in June.
He said: ‘Now I can wear a tank top, which I couldn’t before, I can go swimming shirtless, I can walk outside, I can just be a regular guy now.
‘I hated my breasts, I always felt like they didn’t belong – now I can finally be comfortable in my own body.’
He added: ‘Now when I’m out in a public pool, or lifting weights, no-one raises an eyebrow, they just think I’m a guy – just a skinny dude in the gym trying to build some muscle.
Enjoying life: The teenagers say that they are now both comfortable in their own bodies
Defining themselves: Last year Katie had a $35,000 sex change surgery to turn her into a woman – and now Arin has followed his dream to have a flat, male chest following an operation
‘My family have really surprised me with how supportive they have been throughout the surgery. I’m so lucky to have them and Katie to rely on.’
Katie and Arin met nearly two years ago at a support group for transgender teenagers and bonded through their shared experiences.
Katie said: ‘To me, Arin’s just my Arin, he’s always looked manly to me. But now he’s had the surgery he’s much more confident and comfortable with himself.’
But now that the teens’ physical appearance matches their gender, both of them are excited to be able to go swimming, boating and sunbathe like other couples.
Katie added: ‘Being transgender myself, I understand Arin probably better than anybody else, how good he feels and how complete he feels.’
True love: The couple have been able to rely on each other through their transformation
Happy and healthy: Arin and Katie pose in their swimwear at the lake and later looking casual at home
Light at the end of the tunnel: The couple were both bullied and lost friends who could not cope with their changes
In the future, Arin might consider having genital surgery, but this can be complicated, and for now he’s delighted with his new body.
Both the couple’s families are supportive of their relationship and say the way the way the teenagers have supported each other has helped in their transition.
Arin’s mum Denise Andrews said: ‘Seeing Katie go through her surgery was helpful to Arin.
‘It was being around it and seeing her getting to transform. And being a couple at the time was I think just the cherry on the cake.
Changed lives: Emerald Andrews, before she became Arin, at the age of five in Tulsa, Oklahoma (left) and Luke Hill (right), before he became Katie, aged seven
‘Every transgender person would love to have the transformation physically because it just completes them as a person.’
The last two years have been very difficult for the teenagers.
Katie was bullied at school, and Arin had to change to a different high school when he revealed he was transgender, and has lost friends in the process.
‘I lost one of my best friends through the transition,’ said Arin. ‘We used to go on vacations together and were like sisters.
Making a splash: The couple met at a group that supports transgender teens
‘But I got the chance to open her eyes and show her I’m still a good person. I’m still the person I was, I just look different.
‘She was gone for a while but then she came back.
‘It taught me that the people who really love you need some time, but they’ll always come back around.’
Happy: Arin had an operation to remove his breasts and is proud of his new physique
After he began dressing as a boy, Arin also lost a new male friend who learned about his past as a girl.
‘He said: ”I pictured you as a girl, and I can’t do it anymore,”’ said Arin, adding: ‘You can’t just force people to be your friends.’
Katie started her degree course at an Oklahoma university last autumn but has struggled to make new friends because of prejudices against transgender people in the traditional Southern State.
She said: ‘I had quite a lot of friends in college that were really close to me and then all of a sudden they just stopped talking to me.
‘I think what happened is they found out I was trans through a story or word of mouth and they decided that was too much for them.’
The last two years have also been difficult for the teenager’s families as they’ve come to terms with losing their son and daughter, and also some of their own friends.
Arin’s mum Denise said: ‘There are still a group of people we don’t interact with any more. I know that they questioned me as a parent, they’re not comfortable with it.’
But she added: ‘A lot of people worry about losing the gender of their child. But as you look through albums and realise your babies are growing up, we also watched them grow up and turn into somebody different.
‘Whether they stay the same gender or not, they become independent.’
Now their outward transformation is complete, the teenagers hope people will accept them as their new genders, and their difficulties will become a thing of the past.
Young romance: The couple have been together for two years
Carefree teens: Katie and Arin have both had the loving support of their families while they made the life-altering decision