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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Banded together: “It’s fits and starts. It’s a blessed and doomed kind of thing,” says Hayes.

Dolan Kneafsey and Steph have been friends for close to 15 years. Kneafsey says they bonded over the shared fantasy of becoming men almost from the beginning.

The friends’ transition stories are so intertwined that neither remembers who said it first.

“Very early on, some drunken [night], one of us said it to the other … And the other was like, ‘Oh me, too,’” recalls Kneafsey. “Neither of us thought we’d ever actually do it because who does that? It’s such a weird thing.”

“For years, for some reason, [Kneafsey] egged me on,” says Hayes. “Saying, ‘You should just change into a guy. Wouldn’t that be awesome?’”

 Hayes says at first, he didn’t realize switching gender was a real thing that people actually did. “I never heard trans,” shrugs Hayes. “I never heard the phrase.”

They challenged each other to “go first” for years, but it was a stalemate.

In a way, it was Hayes’ love for making music that held him back. “How will this affect my voice?” he wondered.

In the story of nearly every person who considers sex re-assignment, there is fear and loss on the road to resolving what Jennifer Finney Boylan, local author of She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders, succinctly titles “the being alive problem.”

Voices change and body parts are amputated. Sometimes marriages end, and family and friends disown. There’s no avoiding loss. But there comes a time when everything that can be gained is worth the risk, no matter how great.

Kneafsey says it was becoming a father that made him unable to stall transitioning anymore. He felt his beautiful baby deserved a happy parent instead of a depressed one. He already had a long-term committed relationship going for him, but he knew telling his family would be a “huge ordeal.”

“I said to Steph, ‘Look, I have been waiting for you [to transition] and you’re not doing it,’” recalls Kneafsey. “Steph had told his family and everything and had been talking about it for years.”

Kneafsey suggested they do it together. Hayes said no.

“I wasn’t ready,” says Hayes.

So Kneafsey did it without Steph. He told his family, took time off work and returned a new man.

It inspired Hayes. “I knew it was where I wanted to go,” he says. “To watch [Kneafsey] have the bravery to do it [made me wonder] what’s stopping me?”

Still, he agonized another two years. Finally, after getting a peek into what life could be like living as a man while in China visiting Majesta, he started taking hormones when he got back. “You get to a point where you can’t handle life the other way,” says Hayes. “The best way I can describe it is that I felt like I was on fire as a woman.”

“Steph almost seemed like he was like, ‘I don’t care anymore. I just need to do this,’” says Kneafsey. “That’s where you end up if you get to a place where you’re like, ‘If I don’t do this, I’m going to die. I need to do this to live.’”

Growing up in the working-class suburb of Glen Mills, Delaware County, Hayes remembers feeling different. He always had crushes on girls.

“When I was growing up there weren’t any lesbians. I didn’t know any lesbians. There weren’t any on TV. It meant the same thing as like, Icky Person,” he says. “In school, it was something you called somebody.”

In retrospect, the first red flag that Hayes was transgender appeared in fifth grade. It was the day the class split up to learn about the birds and the bees: boys to the gym, girls to the library. The other little girls giggled nervously while teachers explained breasts and periods. Hayes panicked.

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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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