By Nathalie Bonney @nathaliebonney
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Videographer / director: John Paul Steele
Producer: Nathalie Bonney, Ruby Coote
Editor: Beth Angus
Identical twins Angel and Fabian Griffin do everything together: they are both aspiring rappers, they train together at the gym, are each other’s wingman on a night out and both drive trucks for a living.
But most dramatically, in their early twenties, both made the decision to transition from female to male.
The 29-year-old brothers, from Atlanta have been able to support one another every step of their joint journey – from surgery and dating to the realities of what it means to be a young black man in America.
Angel told Barcroft TV: “Probably the hardest thing being trans male is the whole police situation. It was kind of a nerve-wrecking thing to be driving or going out walking, you don’t know if you are gonna get pulled over by the cops, which we have.
"We also got followed in a store and I was like: ‘This is what black men go through’.”
Born in Mississippi, the twins moved with their mum to Atlanta, where they still live today. As young girls, they were put in matching dresses and pigtails but from as young as 10-years-old the twins knew they were not typical ‘girls’ and would confide in one another.
Angel said: “We knew that we were somehow different but we didn’t know what it was.
“We didn’t question each other why we felt that way we just knew to talk to each other about it. It was almost natural.”
Mother Louise remembers the twins as young children: “When they were growing up they acted more like males instead of females, they didn’t like to wear girl clothes and they always like being tomboy types, they played football and stuff like that.”
Fabian added: “I think we were like 10 or 11-years-old when we knew that we wasn’t happy.
“We went to high school: I tried to force myself to dress girly - having my hair in a certain way, it was really uncomfortable. I felt like I was literally trapped and smiling to people knowing ‘hey I’m not happy with this tight shirt on.”
With posters of N-Sync, Backstreet Boys and Boyz II Men on their walls, the twins, didn’t fancy the male popstars - they wanted to be them.
Angel said: “When we were little we were into boy bands because we wanted to be them. It was like I wanna do that, we loved music but we wanted to be them.”
Both attracted to females, the twins also tried to keep their sexuality hidden during high school.
Angel said: “It was this feeling of ‘yeah I don’t feel like a girl. I know I like women and then you gotta keep all these crushes you have on these girls in school and stuff like that - I didn’t know who to tell. We didn’t know who to talk to this about.”
Angel even had a high school boyfriend: “We only dated for a short period of time. I knew I was not comfortable dating men after that. I was like okay this is not for me. And I broke up with him and then maybe about three months later I had sickness and I was pregnant. So that’s why I ended up with my son Carlos.”
When Carlos was aged five, he stayed with his grandmother Louise, while his then-mother went to Iraq with the military. It was only age 21 that Angel realised transitioning was a possibility.
Angel said: “I was in Iraq and I don’t even know how it happened or what made me do a search, I came across something on YouTube about female to male and then I saw this guy that looked exactly like a male and then next thing I know I’m seeing a whole bunch of videos pop up.
“I immediately called Fabian and I said: ‘I’m changing my gender’ he was like 'what do you mean you’re gonna change your gender?' I was like: ‘I’m changing my gender, you can change your gender' and he was like 'I’m doing it too'.”
Rabin added: “When we finally came to the decision to move forward with our transition the first person we talked to was mom, we told her what we were gonna do.
“I wasn’t nervous about it! I felt happy, I felt relieved! Actually telling her after I felt like I lost 10 pounds off my shoulder just by telling her, so yeah it felt good telling her.”
Louise said: “When they first came and told me about it kind of hurt but I had to accept it because it is their life and I can’t be judgmental because it is their life, they are still my kids and I love them regardless.”
Travelling together to Las Vegas, the twins had surgery a month apart from one another. For son Carlos, the switch between having a mother to a male trans parent - as well as a female to male uncle - has been easier than expected.
He said: “A few times people would be like ‘your mother is a he she’. I tried to ignore as much as I could because I didn’t care.
“I just see them as a regular parent but if I had to say one, most likely I’d say a father, if I had to see them as a label.”
Now trying to get into the music industry, the trans twins hope they can open up doors for other black trans artists and challenge the opposition they have come up against.
Fabian said: “Being transgender and being somebody of colour, I definitely want to knock down the stereotypes.
“It is good that transgenders finally have a voice: musically they are there talking about love but I don’t even want to be considered a transgender artist, I want to be considered an artist.
“People think that transgenders are here for the entertainment, we are not here because of the entertainment, you know we exist, we are here so now get to know us, understand us and be there for our choices.”