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GALLERY: Finding Justine


Justine Andersen’s name was once Dennis.  After surviving testicular cancer, she transformed her gender and way of life moving to Gainesville from her previous home in Ohio.

Justine Andersen’s name was once Dennis. After surviving testicular cancer, she changed her gender and her way of life. She doesn’t earn enough as a comic artist to undergo a sex change, but estrogen pills have permanently reshaped her body. As transgender rights begin to be recognized, Justine is beginning to appreciate her new self.

Faced with a dangerous decision, Justine Andersen, 47, said she was terrified of taking hormones; her doctor told her it put her at a 24 percent risk of developing cancer again.

When Andersen moved to Gainesville, Fla. a year and a half ago, she quickly found a job teaching comic art. She converted to Hinduism and only walks barefoot.

After being groped by drunk men at bars and robbed at gunpoint on the street, Andersen said she has extreme anxiety about walking around in public by herself.

Andersen left her friends and family in Ohio to reinvent herself in Florida as “Barefoot Justine.” She wrote in her unpublished works, “it boiled down to transition or die.”

Zot Lynn Szurgot, a 54-year-old transwoman, and Andersen meet for Sunday brunch. Szurgot says she understands the hurdles of a transgender person. “There’s about forty of them (hurdles),” she joked.

Andersen’s ex-wife in Ohio used to sit on the couch and eat junk food. “I thought to myself, ‘if I had that body I would take care of it,’” Andersen said.

Andersen said she and her boyfriend, Joe Courter, 63, co-founder of the Gainesville Civic Media Center, walk through the woods and kayak on Newnans Lake in their spare time. “She’s certainly enriched my life,” Courter said.

Her newfound journey hasn’t been easy, but for her, she’s just looking forward she said. “Cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me. It woke me up,” she said.

About Haley Stracher

Haley is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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  • Ashley Autumn

    Great storytelling Haley.