Stargazer Lily's Singer Formerly Known as Steph Hayes Shares Story of Becoming a Man

By Tara Murtha
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 7 | Posted Sep. 28, 2011

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Accidental Tourist: One of Hayes many gigs is playing bass with Chris Schutz and the Tourists.

Photo by jeff fusco

He felt perpetually embarrassed. Sometimes women screamed when they saw him in the bathroom. “This one time on tour this old lady freaked out, ‘There’s a man in the women’s room!’ I was standing there saying, ‘I’m a—I’m a’—I was trying to say, ‘But I’m a girl’ but I couldn’t say [it] … because I don’t feel like a girl.”

The artist who springs to life on stage became terrified of drawing attention to himself while off stage. Even though it’s more dangerous, he preferred to use the men’s room. He withdrew, and started avoiding going into public at all. He says he couldn’t get away from “the eyes.”

“I started to get really paranoid,” he says. “I couldn’t take being in public. It was hard. Everything was hard. Playing shows was hard. Going to work,” he says. “You’re constantly being identified as one gender or another.”

Even here at the Grape Room, he’d leave rather than use the bathroom. Rather than deal with the clerk at the corner store, he’d go without smokes. The gap between the public personality of Steph Hayes the musician and who Hayes was becoming in private was getting wider. But as social anxiety kept increasing, he was feeling more comfortable in his own skin.

Meanwhile, he met Majesta, a teacher. “We had a talk about it the very first night. He was sharing things and we ended up having a very long conversation about it,” says Majesta 34, who accepted Hayes as a man right from the beginning. “It just felt right, which is interesting for me because I was a lesbian.”

Majesta always referred to Hayes with male pronouns, except when talking about music. “I would use ‘she’ because from the music aspect, I knew Steph as a she.”

In early 2010, Hayes got the chance to escape the public scrutiny. Majesta had accepted a teaching position at a school in China. They stayed in touch on Skype and planned for Hayes to visit. Hayes decided to try to pass entirely as a man while in China. “It was really important to me … I wanted to try just being a guy in a place where no one knows me,” says Hayes. “So I got a binding shirt a few months before going to China and I tried out these peeing devices and things that could help you pass as a guy.”

It worked. For a short while, he got to live simply—anonymously—as Stephan, just another guy hanging out with his girlfriend. Hayes says the more masculine he got, the more he “couldn’t imagine ever going back in the other direction.”

But back home, where everyone knows Steph, “the eyes” returned, and on sacred ground, no less: while playing the Stargazer Lily reunion show this past May.

“People think I can’t hear from stage, but I can,” says Hayes. “A bunch of dudes were [saying things like], “She used to have really big tits.”

“I thought about making an announcement, saying ‘Hey you guys have noticed that I look different, well this is what I’m doing.’”

But he didn’t.

Now that he’s a man, he says the paranoia, the anxiety and fear are receding. Deciding to transition has given him back the confidence in public that he had lost for while.

“Before, I was being bounced around like a pinball. Now I feel like I’ve designed my own human,” says Hayes. Whatever anyone might think of him now, he says, he can take it as a man.

“This is a perfect example. I have to tell everyone downstairs that I’m having surgery to become male … I’ve had this conversation with 100 people in this room that I don’t really know, but I need them to know that, so I’ve told them all.”

On his way out the door, Hayes leans over the bar. Dee, the regular Monday night bartender, grabs his hand and gives it a squeeze. Hayes yells goodnight over the din. Then he lets go and spins out the door.

“Oh my God,” sighs Dee, pressing her palms into her cheeks. “That’s like, the last time I’m going to see her, you know?”

Anyone who knows Hayes primarily through his music will be surprised to know the artist suffered with the burden of such a big secret for so long. Honesty is such an integral part of his identity as an artist that he titled his 2008 album “Mostly True Stories” in admission of bending reality to fit the shape of a song here and there.

Sometimes, he thinks the songs and poems he wrote as a kid are even better than what he writes today, because they’re pure.

But for the longest time, Hayes confided only in one friend.

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Comments 1 - 7 of 7
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1. EmmKay said... on Sep 28, 2011 at 12:11PM

“Really well done profile of a wonderful person. I am an acquaintance who has been a fan of Stephan's songwriting for years. I was really moved by this piece and the courage it took to be true who he really is. I wish him all the best.”

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2. The Grape Room said... on Sep 29, 2011 at 03:58PM

“This is a wonderful article. Steph is a long-time friend of the club and its owner, Stargazer Lily drummer, Scooter. We wish him all the best in his new life. Don't forget to come visit us, Steph!”

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3. Patrick said... on Sep 29, 2011 at 06:41PM

“Without question, Stephan is one of the most beautiful and honest people I've ever known. Sometimes simply stepping up and being yourself can be a defining act of courage and bravery. Bravo, Steph. You will always be loved and admired for who you are, and I can't wait to see the things you have yet to experience and to achieve through your eyes, your words and your music. You are truly a gift to those of us whose lives you have touched.”

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4. Anonymous said... on Sep 30, 2011 at 04:00PM

“Same issues but M to F, in Phila. Gender's the last frontier: men hated you and were dangerous physically. Women dismissive. Androgyny frightens people like nothing else.

Go for it while you can!”

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5. Joseph said... on Oct 13, 2011 at 07:37AM

“Outstanding article! I've been privileged to know Stephan and his music, and what Patrick said so well echoes my thoughts, also. Stephan is an incredible artist, and this profile provided even more depth and understanding for me.

Hopefully this link containing images from Steph and The Good Probems' great recent Theatre of the Living Arts performance will come through.”

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6. Katie B said... on Oct 28, 2011 at 12:54PM

“WOW. To realize all of the ramifications of such a change, not just as a woman to a man, but as an artist, and as an artist who knows that their mode of expression will be changed. The complexities are overwhelming. Hayes is one very brave man.

This was a beautifully written story, thank you.”

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7. Anonymous said... on May 10, 2012 at 03:17PM

“Thanks for a great story, Tara. I've known and been inspired by Stephan since high school but haven't run into him since he transitioned. Hope to see & congratulate him in person soon!”


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