“I was choking back tears,” Hayes recalls. “I didn’t want anyone to see me cry because I couldn’t explain that that can’t happen to me.”
All he could think: “I don’t want that. No, this is a mistake. Someone is going to come and take me to the gym and tell me the other story.”
She had a “hysterical bout” afterward and told his parents, “I can’t become a girl.”
“I knew I was different but it wasn’t so invasive in my life until later years, because my parents didn’t make me wear dresses or make me fulfill the role of a girl,” says Hayes. “So it was kind of OK until puberty.”
He kept busy singing and learning guitar, becoming obsessed with the Beatles, then Guns N’ Roses.
Whereas most kids can’t wait to grow up, Hayes dreaded it. He didn’t want to go to middle school. “I felt [middle school] was the differentiating zone. Like, ‘Now I have to go and be a girl, and this sucks.’”
In high school, he dated a couple of guys. But they were more like buddies.
“I really loved them, they were great guys. They were my best friends,” says Hayes. “It was just never going to go beyond a certain point because it’s just not who I was.”
Ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends have been on Hayes’ mind lately. He’s concerned about how they’ll feel when they find out what he’s doing or, to put it more accurately, who he really is. He’s also worried about his mom worrying about him. It’s all been hard on her, but Hayes gets that. “I don’t blame her one bit,” he says. “This whole thing is difficult for a mother, you lose control of a person that you put into the world.”
It seems there’s an endless stream of worrying about other people: He’s thinking about women with breast cancer who would love to have healthy breasts, other trans men who can’t save the money for the surgery. “I’m not worried about myself at all,” says Hayes. “It’s the easiest thing I’ve ever done. I’ll be unconscious. Unlike everything else I do in my life, it’s out of my control.”
It’s a couple days before major surgery, but Hayes says physical pain is the last thing on his mind.
“It’s emotional things,” he says.
Majesta touches his shoulder and asks him, “Isn’t that enough?”
Doctors know that testosterone thickens a trans man’s vocal chords, but there’s no way to know how it will affect the voice. Rosemary Ostrowski, a local voice specialist who has worked with transgender clients, says that the testosterone taken as part of female-to-male transition is risky business for a singer. Trans men “will most likely lose range,” she says.
Even Hayes’ biggest supporter admits he was worried about what could happen to that beautiful voice.
“We talked about it a lot,” says Kneafsey. “I said, ‘I want you to record every song I’ve ever heard you sing because it’s not going to exist anymore, and that’s really sad. It’s sad for music.”
So in January, before beginning hormone replacement therapy, Hayes and the Good Problems hit the studio to record “You Are Your Home” and “Starts Like This” in his female voice.
Now, except for recordings, the old voice of the old Steph Hayes has vanished. “I can’t sing my songs for nothing anymore,” says Hayes. “I mean, I can sing them, but not in the same key. It’s different.”
For the last year, Hayes’ voice sporadically feels tight, cracks or, to his horror, disappears, like it did while on stage at the first of two Stargazer Lily reunion shows back in May.
“There were two really powerful songs where I needed to belt out powerful high notes,” says Hayes. “When I went to sing them nothing came out of my mouth.”
First Person Arts Podcast: Proud Mom