Singer-songwriter Teddy Geiger came out as trans in October of 2017, but, outside of posting photos on social media, has been relatively quiet since her announcement. In a new interview with Joe Coscarelli of The New York Times, the teen heartthrob turned mega-songwriter opened up about coming out after her complicated romp with teenage fame.
“I was going through adolescence and having sex for the first time, but it was in this really weird context,” she told the Times. “I didn’t have a real support group.”
The 29-year-old revealed that she felt feminine since the age of 5, but didn’t know of any transgender people. “I can remember back to being five and looking in the mirror, feeling like a girl and wanting that,” she said. “But growing up in Rochester, there were limited resources. I’d never met a trans person before.” In fact, Geiger says she didn’t know transgender people really existed until she was in her twenties, when trans pop culture figures like Hari Nef and Teddy Quinlivan emerged.
Last week, the singer-songwriter released “I Was in a Cult,” her first song in more than 10 years, under the pseudonym “teddy<3.” Over the past decade, she’s kept busy writing hits for artists like Shawn Mendes (she co-wrote “Stitches,” “Mercy,” “Treat You Better,” and his most recent singles, “Lost in Japan” and “Youth”).
After writing with the now-19-year old singer for years, she showed up to write his latest album wearing women’s clothing. It wasn’t until three weeks in — without comments from anyone in the room — that she came out to Mendes and his team. She showed them a draft of her coming out Instagram post, and just like that, she was out to them — and to the world.
“She let it out, and she was just so happy — I can’t even describe it,” Mendes said of that moment. On recording her demo of “Stitches,” which reached #4 on the charts and accrued over 1 billion views on YouTube, he said, “She’s mesmerizing and just has a star quality to her. She was the person I was trying to sing like.”
“It was the first time I ever saw her sober,” Mendes continued, reminiscing about their writing session in October. “She was like Teddy, but on steroids. There was this electricity running through her.”
“I just feel more open,” Geiger said of coming out, “because I’m willing to talk about everything now, people are then more open with me.” Unfortunately, her fears and anxieties pre-transition didn’t just affect her psyche — she revealed that she was wrought with anxiety and depression — but it also tampered with her songwriting.
“There’s no longer this piece of me back there saying, ‘Don’t go there.’ I used to find that I’d sing songs and think, ooh, it sounds like I’m talking about that stuff, and I don’t want to talk about that stuff,” Geiger said, “but it was just coming out.”
Geiger moved from New York back to California while she was beset with anxieties, which manifested in an extreme reliance on cigarettes and marijuana. She also recalls developing obsessive-compulsive habits, especially in the upkeep of her nails, which she started keeping pristine. “It was the only femininity that I was expressing, so I wanted it to be so perfect,” she said. “It was the only thing I could control.”
It wasn’t until September of last year that she finally attended a month-long therapy program to tackle her anxiety head-on and “get to the bottom of the gender thing.” Once she came back, everything was different — she threw out all her “boys clothes,” started wearing makeup, and turned her cigarette and weed fund into a reserve for new beauty supplies and studio gear.
Mendes recalls the first time he “unconsciously referred to Teddy as ‘she’ for the first time in the flow of conversation.” He said she stopped dead in her tracks and “looked at me with an overwhelming amount of happiness and joy beaming out of her eyes.”
He explained, “It was right then that everything really made sense to me. For everybody that ever questions why people may choose to transition, if they had a best friend or somebody they loved dearly look at them the way Teddy looked at me in that moment, they would no longer question it.”
Justin Tranter, a fellow songwriter and friend of Geiger’s, said, “To see that this trans person is an instrumental queen — one of the most technically talented people in the pop world — is a really amazing thing not just for our industry but for the world.”
He added, “For young LGBTQ people to know that a trans woman has co-written and produced some of the biggest hits of the last couple years is beyond inspiring and beyond important.”